Alive and Kicking

Hi, I'm Shannon. Once upon a time I blogged here, and then I took an entirely unplanned break, and then I started getting e-mails asking me if I had died. So it seemed like I should pop in and put those concerns to rest: I have not died, run away, or otherwise gone crazy (despite Hubs' occasional testimonials to the contrary).

Here's the scoop:

We moved unexpectedly this summer, fulfilling a life-long dream to live in the country. I should explain that by "in the country" I mean "more than four minutes away from a Wal Mart." It's a whopping nine minutes to a Wal Mart, and I think this must be just exactly how Ma Ingalls felt. You city folk just wouldn't understand.

So: New (unexpected) house and new schools, which meant that late summer and early fall were flurries of unpacking and helping everyone ease into all the new-ness. As if that weren't enough, my little tiny baby started kindergarten, which meant that I had no preschooler at home for the first time in 13 years. It was the end of an era. A sticky, playdough-encrusted era.

I realized this meant it was time to get busy on all the stuff I'd been putting off forever. I thought about running for Congress (not really) or going back to medical school (not really on that one, either), but I decided instead to to tackle the mysterious chunk of petrified something-or-other I'd been needing to scrape off the bottom of the breakfast table for a decade (yes, really, on that one).

A funny thing happened, though, as I found myself so necessarily elbow-deep in the business of real life. The part of my life that was, for so long, filled up with Twitter and deadlines and comments and stats and advertising suddenly grew silent…and, to my staggering amazement, I liked it that way. This blog was an important part of my life for so long, and those of you who have read here so faithfully have encouraged me in ways I can't express. So why, I asked myself, was it so easy to step away? I had the sense that for this moment, anyway, I'd simply said all I wanted to say in this space.

And then I wondered if I should blog some big, official announcement, but blogging about not blogging seemed a little trippy, doesn't it? So I'd look at my computer and shrug and–whaddya know–six whole months had passed.

Really, that's the whole story. No big scandal or trauma, just the much-needed realization that my online life had become too consuming and–despite my best efforts–it was keeping me from giving the best part of myself to the people I love most. It was time to change that.  And it's been very, very good. Life is quieter now, or, at least, "quieter". There are, after all, four offspring in the house with a tendency to ride down wooden stairs in laundry baskets.

This all sounds like a "The End." It's not. I don't have any plans to close this blog down, though I can't guarantee any plans to fill it back up, either. Right now I'm content for it to sit here and let me dabble in it occasionally or often or never. (Clearly, I am all about the strategic planning.)

In the meantime, wherever you are, I hope you're well and happy and finding your own little slice of quiet. Or "quiet".

See you around, sweet friends. Thanks for stopping by.

Well, Hello There

I've gotten several kind e-mails from people who have wondered when I'm coming back to regular blogging (as opposed to blogging only about That Show Which Is Dead To Me And Shall Not Be Named). It never fails to astound me that anyone would notice I've been gone–thanks for your encouragement. (I include my dad, who called me to say, "When in the heck are you going to stop posting about that show because I'm sick to death of reading the headlines."  Thanks for beating around the bush, Dad.)

Actually, I never specifically set out to take a giant blogging break, it just kind of happened that way. Would you like to hear the very interesting and compelling reason I've been away?

*crickets chirping*

Yes, well, there isn't one.

But in the interest of seeing if these old blogging gears have any juice left, I'll give you an update on what I've been doing in my extended absence.

1. The plates, they are a-spinnin'.

Remember how I told you it gets easier when your kids get older? Yes, well,
it does, but it also ushers in a brand new version of chaos. All of
these people! With plans! But no car of their own
yet! And so I drive them! And not only drive them, but
occasionally provide Spur-Of-The-Moment Bits Of Eternal Motherly Wisdom
between the McDonald's drive-through window and the soccer field! And
still have enough mental energy when we get home to help with the
pre-algebra! (And by "help with the pre-algebra", I mean "lean over and
say, 'hey Babe, can you help him with his pre-algebra?'" Still, it's
effort.)

In short, life is busy.

Ann Kroeker kindly sent me a copy of her book Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions For Frenzied Families. It is brilliantly wise, and it has completely rocked my perspective. I would really like to figure out some ways to implement these principles in our family, just as soon as I slow down long enough to, um, slow down.

2. The bathroom. Oh, the BATHROOM.

Hubs and I started remodeling our bathroom in early February. It's now early June, and we're still at it. And that's all I have to say about that. (But I will post pictures, eventually, if they have internet access at the looney bin.)

3. Over thinking things. (It's what I do best.)

Quite honestly, for reasons I haven't yet fully pegged, I have grown a little ambivalent about blogging over the last year. Some of it is good old-fashioned burn-out from the flurry of book writing last year. Some of it is a growing awareness that as my kids' ages go up, so does their need for privacy, and it's tricky to write a parenting blog without talking too much about parenting, you know? And still more of it is a sense that maybe–just maybe--I've said most of what I wanted to say here. It's tempting to fill up this spot just because it's here, but I don't want to say something just to hear myself talk.

("You don't?" says Hubs. "STOP IT," says I.)

So to those of you who have stopped by and wondered where I am–first of all, thank you. I'm still here, laying low while I do too much driving and introspecting. I'll still be popping in here and there, if you can be patient with a creaky old blogger who may not write nearly as often as she used to.

So that's that.

How have you been?

All About the Book (Links Fixed Now–Sorry!)

SO. The book is here. (Stay tuned to the end for a chance to win a free copy.)

Bookimage If you’re new here, here’s the scoop: In early July I contracted with Wiley to write TypePad For Dummies. I have years of experience with TypePad (and, come to think of it, years of experience being a dummy), so it was a great fit. The absolute icing on the cake was getting to co-author the book with my dear friend (and mucho accomplished technical writer) Melanie.

Fast forward roughly seven months (and more nights of carryout than any family could possibly be expected to endure), and Melanie and I are standing in my kitchen, jaws on the floor, a real-live book with our real-live names in our real-live hands. It was a big day.

During the process, we didn’t blog many particulars about the book (mostly because we were so tied up in the crazy demands of meeting deadlines). If particulars are the type of thing that float your boat, here (finally!) is a more detailed run-down of what you can expect to find in TypePad For Dummies:

  • For true beginners, our first chapter explains some basic blogging concepts and technologies (including RSS feeds, SEO, and hosting), quickly getting you up to speed so you can follow along with the rest of the book.
  • An in-depth look at what TypePad is and where it came from, with a comprehensive list of features (pros and cons) that set TypePad apart from other blogging platforms. We explain the different pricing levels and tell you how you can decide which one works for you, and we walk you through the sign-up process.
  • We take you item-by-item through the TypePad dashboard (you TypePad users know that it’s changed significantly over the last few months, and we document the very latest changes at the time of publication). We explain how to manage your account and tell you where to go for help (hint: you don’t have to go far. TypePad is known for its stellar customer service, and we tell you how to get the most out of it.)
  • We tell you how to set up your blog and write a post, explaining the ins and outs of every element of your Compose Editor. We show you how to format text, insert files (video, photos, etc.), maximize your use of categories, use trackbacks, and more. We even discuss how to handle writers’ block–we’ve all been there.
  • All of Chapter 7 is devoted to the topic of comments–how to format them, how to get more, and how to not let them stress you out.
  • Two whole chapters in the book are devoted entirely to blog design,
    from the basics (how to use standard themes) to the much more advanced
    (how to tweak your own CSS for a custom look).

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! IT SLICES AND DICES!

(Not really.)

But the book does go on to address dozens of other TypePad-related issues, including TypeLists (one of my personal favorites of all of TypePad’s features), photo albums, social media, blog monetization, importing/exporting, domain mapping, stat counters, and blog etiquette. In one of my favorite chapters of the book, we highlight ten highly-accomplished TypePad bloggers, hearing directly from them about their best blogging strategies (seriously, don’t miss that chapter!)

This is all still just a sampling. Melanie and I worked so hard to give a thorough and detailed explanation of TypePad’s service, going step-by-step, and keeping the technical jargon to a minimum. The book is chock-full of clear, step-by-step tutorials, the kind Melanie’s famous for. We’re really proud of how it turned out.

How about a giveaway? Courtesy of the kind of folks at TypePad, I’m giving away a FREE YEAR OF TYPEPAD (roughly a $145 value) and several copies of the book. To enter (I promise, it’s easy) just click over here to my giveaway blog. 

For those of you who have already ordered copies, and for the countless readers who dropped notes of encouragement during the daunting writing process, thank you for your encouragement! A very special thanks to the bloggers we featured in the book–there’s some good stuff there:

Allsorts
Career Hub
Eat Local Challenge
Economist’s View
Finslippy
Hey There’s a Dead Guy In the Living Room (how much do you love that title?)
Money Saving Mom
Raisin Toast
Smart Dog
HELLO My Name Is Heather
Pensieve
Build a Better Blog

To the folks at Six Apart (TypePad’s parent company) who have offered support and encouragement–our hearty thanks to you as well.

Remember: comments left at this post cannot count as a contest entry–you must visit my giveaway blog to be counted (sorry for the extra click–advertising regulations, etc etc…)!

Mark Your Calendars For February 27th!

One month following the 7.1 earthquake that struck Haiti, an all-star cast of musicians is gathering for Help Haiti Live, a two-city ticketed concert event taking place on February 27th, 2010 to benefit Compassion International’s Haiti disaster relief fund.

Don't live in LA or Nashville? Watch the concerts for free (streaming live) on the 27th at Help Haiti Live website. Go ahead and bring your wallet, though–at the website you'll be given a chance to donate to Compassion's work in Haiti. If you've not already done so, this will be the perfect opportunity.

One hundred percent of on-line donations through HelpHaitiLive.com will go to Compassion International’s Haiti disaster relief fund. One hundred percent of net proceeds from ticket sales will go to the same place.

Some of the artists participating in this concert include Jars of Clay, Amy Grant, and two of my personal favorites: Dave Barnes (*squeal*), and Alison Krauss and Union Station (*double squeal*). This will be a spectacular night of music for a great cause–I'll be watching live. Join me!

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=9307574&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Help Haiti February 27th – HelpHaitiLive.com from Compassion International on Vimeo.

If I Don’t Write It Down I’ll Forget

I'm trying to grease up these rusty brain cells of mine and get back to writing the occasional blog post–not a bad thing to do when one has, you know, a blog. I've been working on a post documenting the vacation we took over the holidays, but as the story involves abject humiliation, I've been understandably reluctant. (More on that later. Maybe.) Instead, here's a few random questions, comments, and general wondering-ments.

1. My daughter got a Puff the Magic Dragon book for Christmas, including a sing-along CD. And never mind that I am 37 years old with a mortgage and four children and a PTA membership card–I am unable to listen to that song without blubbering over my lost childhood and bereft dragons. But what in the heck is sealing wax? (Also, please do not tell me that song is actually about drugs. I-have-my-fingers-in-my-ears-and-I-can't-hear-you-la-la-la.)

2. Thanks to my patient and crafty sister-in-law, I'm learning how to crochet. I can't get enough of it! I'm not exactly good at it yet, but I can stitch the heck out of a rectangle. If you know me in real life, congratulations–you're probably getting a scarf this year. Please act happy.

3. Over the holidays I've been plowing through my reading list. This and this were both outstanding, and this was really good, too. This was a fascinating concept, but I thought it came up short at the very end–it's so disappointing when that happens. I'm reading this now, and this is next on the list. What's on yours?

4. American Idol is back underway, and can I just tell you how much I love the "Pants On the Ground" guy from the Atlanta auditions? Here's a great post about him, including his history marching with Dr. King in the '60's. (On the occasion that A Particular Son Of Mine Who Shall Remain Unnamed thinks it might be funny to try the whole droopy-pants thing, I remind him that I have a staple gun in the garage and I'm not afraid to use it.)

5. Does anyone reading this know anything about chronic headaches (possibly migraines) in children? One of my kiddos is struggling with this, but I'm not finding a ton of resources online.

6. Please remember to consider Compassion when you plan your giving for the Haiti crisis. Follow their Twitter feed for helpful updates. While you're at it, see Ree's great giveaway to help raise some more Haiti funds. Another great effort to raise funds is underway here.  Whatever you do, please give.

Have a good weekend, and remember to keep praying for our friends in Haiti.

Goodlinkagepencil 

Obama Knows Not To Mess With Lost :: Lost Blog
(Sweet land of liberty, and that's all I have to say about that.)

In the Name Of Awareness :: Why Mommy
(An interesting take on the Facebook "bra meme", from a breast cancer survivor. Via Melanie.)

Mabel :: To Think
(A beautiful tribute, from a blogging-turned-real-life friend of mine.)

Celebration Camp :: Volkswagen
(Soccer moms, get your soccer players to the computer and laugh out loud at this!)

She's Always Standing There :: Shaun Groves