Category Archives: Blogging

Hello From The Other Side

blog

Hey there. If you are reading this, then I’d like to congratulate you on staying faithful to the same email address for at least the last three years. That’s committment.

And it outlasted my relationship with this little corner of the Internet. I have a new corner, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

This summer I took an online writing course, my most formal attempt at cultivating my writing. One of the assignments was to write the chapters of our lives, past and future. After some eye-rolling, I ended up really enjoying this exercise and the self-reflection it inspired.

Most chapters were about major life transitions, but I titled one “Balance Overload” to mark the couple of years I was blogging regularly. It’s not because this blog changed my life radically or anything like that. But it reconnected me with my love of writing and expression, and that is a pretty huge thing in my world.

And then life — in its beautiful, ephemeral and distracting way — popped up, as it is wont to do. JB and I had just married when I wrote my last post at Balance Overload. And now, almost three years later, I sit here typing in between going in to snuggle a sick 18-month-old little boy, while his twin brother sleeps in the adjacent crib, miraculously undisturbed by his sibling’s cries.

As parenting ushered in my most significant transition yet, I felt my head once again full of ideas and thoughts that I wanted to express externally. But I believed it needed a brand new cyber home. I have often said that parenting is kind of like starting your life over, learning everything from scratch and with a completely new perspective. And while I didn’t want to necessarily write a parenting or “mommy” blog, I felt I needed a new space for these thoughts that are still from Caryn of Balance Overload, but seen through different lenses.

So after a lot of procrastination and stall tactics, I started a new blog called Journey to Napa. As I explain, the name represents my road to retirement (from work, in-the-trenches parenting, etc.). Obviously my retirement of any kind is a long time away (*knock on wood* everyone is healthy and all of those prayers up to the universe). But I wanted to have a broad palette to write about life. I have a few posts up and it’s a little all over the place (a lot seems to be about writing), but I hope to narrow in on topics as I go.

Even if you no longer have any clue who I am or why you ever entered your email address at this site, I want to thank you for following this little blog that fueled me in big ways to nurture my creative side. I have re-read many of my posts these last couple of weeks and I’ve especially enjoyed revisiting the conversations we had in the comments. I would be so honored to continue this dialogue (and learning about any new perspectives you have gained) at my new home.

Finding Your Inner Font

It’s a Saturday afternoon and I have nothing to do.

As with most people, I don’t experience this total lack of time commitment often. I have already gone to the gym, watched the Olympic gold medal trampoline competition (bouncy!), and written my daily goal of wedding thank-you notes (two, because I need an instant feeling of accomplishment). Although it’s beckoning to me, if I watch our recording of Bachelor Pad before JB gets home from golf, our brief marriage might be in jeopardy. And running errands just doesn’t sound appealing since it’s 212 degrees outside.

So I sit, with no excuses left to avoid confronting my writer’s block of the past months. Since getting married, I had hoped that I could re-focus all of the time and energy that went into wedding planning back to my blog. I have felt so inspired to write, with ideas running through my head at all times and the unfinished drafts of posts to prove it. I kept starting, but quickly lost the motivation to finish, unimpressed with anything I had written and all of it sounding like I was trying too hard to be witty or deep or both.

But after much soul-searching and reflection, in this afternoon of idleness, I think I finally identified what has been holding me back: FONT. SELECTION.

The idea of writing yet another post in Times New Roman was how I imagine an Olympic swimmer feels when they get out of the pool and see reporter Andrea Kremer waiting for them. Please, not you again! And while I can’t upgrade broadcasters, I can upgrade WordPress themes.

You noticed, right? Look again. Yeah, baby! I think we can all agree that the Balance Overload experience has been revolutionized for blogger and reader alike. (I also updated my “About Me” page, which has been another source of discontent for a while.)

You might be thinking that all of this focusing on the aesthetic aspect of my blog is really yet another distraction to evade the deeper question of what do I really want to accomplish with this site? What is my voice and what do I want to say?

And to that, I respond…. look at this new photo collage site I learned about from Leah’s Thoughts! It’s a great distraction enhancement for blogging! And it’s a great to excuse to showcase wedding pictures. I thought it only fair since all of you have followed me on this wedding journey. (Yeah, I know, who am I fooling, it’s totally for my own amusement.)

Wedding photos courtesy of Tim Hord Photography and printed with permission from JB

while he’s napping.

Look, I know I just wrote a whole blog post about changing my font and then gratuitously threw in wedding pictures. And if you read it and thought to yourself “WTH is she doing wasting my time with this crap, some of us actually have things to do this afternoon”, then please know, I appreciate it. It is said when you have writer’s block that you just have to write. About anything. Get the juices flowing again. So this is my attempt. I’m hoping my font change is just a signal of a new start in blogging.

PS: My new upgrade also allows me to change the color scheme of my blog. If my writer’s block continues, things could get all-out crazy.

How do you handle a lack of motivation, whether in writing or anything else?

Search Stories

Often times, when I’m really busy and have important deadlines to meet and to-do lists that are four pages long, I stumble upon the biggest time wasters ever.

This week was no exception. I’m putting the finishing touches on a 7-day itinerary for a Spring Break trip I am leading for 14 students to Washington D.C. and New York City. And what do I find… Google Search Stories Video Creator.

I haven’t done a lot of research on it as I went immediately to playing, so I don’t know if it’s new or if I am the last person to find out about it. But either way, I couldn’t step away from it.

These 35-second clips are nothing more than a promotion for Google and a method for forcing users to set up YouTube accounts. Creating a YouTube channel is a little out of my comfort zone. I feel I should start making covers of music like this video I am currently obsessed with. And don’t even get me started on the data “they” are collecting on me.

But when I find something like this, my distraction from immediate priorities knows no bounds and my will must be done. You just input your searches, what Google method you want to use (Images, Blogs, News, etc.) and choose your music.

While I definitely plan to make 1,054 more of these for absolutely no reason other than my own enjoyment, I do actually think they would be great for quick marketing purposes for those with no budget and with no technical skills. This could be useful for us higher education professionals and student organizations to promote events and programming. You could get very funny and creative with these. And they are already online and easy to share. Again, no technical ability needed.

I created two “search stories” about the areas I’m most engulfed in right now.

Perhaps it’s just the need for procrastination, but I am hooked. At least until the next distraction comes along.

What are your favorite time wasters?

How Words With Friends Stole Christmas

I have read so many posts these last few days about favorite books of 2011. Every time, it reminds me of two things: 1) I clearly follow bloggers aligned with my interests if they all love to read as much as I do, and 2) I kind of forgot to read this year.

When I left for our trip to Ohio to spend Christmas with JB’s family last week, I was so excited for the new books I had downloaded onto my Kindle. I even promised a review of them when we returned in my last post.

Well, we’re back. And unless you want to hear about the first third of The Art of Fielding, I got nothing for you.

There are many parties to blame for this, none of which are me, of course. First, there is Martha Stewart. The winter edition of her Weddings magazine had hit the stands and it basically jumped out of the airport bookstore into my bag. So most of the flight to Cleveland was spent reading about crafty wedding DIY projects that I will never DIY.

The next excuse is fuel for the fire of the e-Reader vs. traditional book debate. Halfway through our trip, I knocked my Kindle off the couch (consuming a mixture of wine, chocolate, nuts and cookies between meals will make you kind of clumsy). It fell onto carpet, but for whatever reason, it damaged the screen. I tried to read on the Kindle app on my iPhone, but it’s not very practical for long-term use.

So I was left with no option. After a couple  of days of watching JB and other family members of his stare down at their phones instead of each other as they searched for two-letter words that no one has ever heard of but somehow add up to 54 points, I wanted in on the Words with Friends action.Scrabble Points Throw Pillow

I had defiantly denied requests to join this mobile game. My main reason being that I didn’t want my friends to see what a limited vocabulary I possessed. Many people assume because I like to read and write or because I have a journalism degree, that I must have a generous grasp of the English language.

But I don’t. I’m frequently using a thesarus to sound smarter. And it actually wasn’t in my journalism studies when I noticed this, but rather in graduate school for my counseling degree. You do a lot of reflecting of emotions in counseling sessions, saying back to the client what they were emoting, but using a different word for that emotion (so it’s not parroting) and ideally, a word with deeper meaning that maybe the client was having a hard time expressing or realizing on his/her own. And while I role-played with classmates, I always struggled to find another word for “happy” or “sad” or “surprised” or “disappointed.” Or the word I often defaulted to — “frustrated.”

All this to say that since then, I have been very cognizant of my not-so-way with words. And I didn’t want to play with Words with Friends and expose myself to the three friends who had asked me whole world.

But as it turns out, Words with Friends has NOTHING to do with vocabulary! Or being smart. Or knowing what words are at all. It is all about trying every combination you can with the letters you have to find a word that includes a triple letter or double word tile. I probably recognize only 60 percent of the words I play, but man it feels good when the “sending move” screen comes on and you know your word has been accepted. Fifty points for “Xi” — awesome! Just don’t ask me to use it in a sentence.

JB’s father kept saying we all looked like 19-year-olds with our heads buried in our phones playing the game against each other. I think he was being generous by giving us 19 instead of 12, but it did take over the week. I’m still cutting my teeth on the game so I’m only playing JB (and another player whose screen name is one-off from JB and I accidentally started a game with him). JB had to go back to work today and his moves became very infrequent. It was so annoying.

Yep, I’m hooked.

Are there any mobile games that you are addicted to? Anything “take over” your holidays? Did you know “neif” was a word? (For the record, WordPress did not).

Get Smashed

With cake of course.

Balance Overload is celebrating its first birthday!

While I have been a pretty neglectful mother over the past couple of months, I couldn’t let this milestone go unnoticed. On November 17, 2010, I wrote my first post and told five people. It would be another month before I would reveal to the masses (Facebook) that I had started a blog.

It took awhile to get comfortable with the fact that I was writing about myself, my life, my thoughts and reflections, and it was out there for the world to see. But mostly I was worried. Worried that friends and “friends” (Facebook) would think I was vain. “Why does she think anyone cares that much about her mundane life that we would want to take a break from writing status updates about our mundane life to read it?,” they thought in my imagination.

I still worry about that. I still wonder sometimes what am I actually writing about and why do I think anyone cares? Moving forward, I plan to really evaluate little Balance Overload and try to determine the direction I want to take it. I thought this would happen naturally as I started writing, but honestly, I am still not sure. I feel I want more focus. I feel I want to give more to those who read it, so it’s not just a story about my life, but that I offer something readers can take away. Food and recipes are out — but surely there is something else, right? It might be a whole new blog. Who knows?

There is a quote I snagged from a blog awhile ago that said: “Think of something valuable and share it with the world.” I wrote it down on a Post-it note and it’s in my office. I’m still trying to think of my something valuable.

But let us not forget that this is a party! Blogging this last year has been such a wonderful experience. I reunited with my first love of writing and I feel I connected with some of my friends in a different way. I even made new blogger friends for who I am so grateful for every time I read one of their posts or they comment on one of mine. I can’t thank you enough. There are some amazing writers and creatives out there who have so many valuable things to share — I’m blown away.

Thanks to everyone for all of your support and encouragement of my little hobby! And you are such gracious guests, I know you won’t even mention that I clearly messed up and thought the anniversary was today and didn’t realize it was actually yesterday until I linked to my first post. I hope this is not an indication of what I will be like as a real mother one day.

Have a great weekend and a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Life In Bullets

You might recall I have a blog. She’s been a little silent through October and up until now, which is ironic because the month itself was anything but (not to mention that I am usually anything but). Professionally and personally, October always seems like the busiest month of the year. Am I alone in feeling that way?

But we soldier on. So, in soundbite format, here’s what’s been occupying my time in the last month:

  • One strike away. Twice. Heartbreak.
  • Siri.
  • The new television season.
  • American Horror Story on FX.
  • Reading online obsessively about American Horror Story.
  • Having nightmares because of American Horror Story.
  • Attending weddings.
  • Planning a wedding (I have a dress!).
  • Alternating between sweaters and flip-flops because Dallas is ridiculous.
  • Trying to find the right energy bar or post-workout food/beverage to stave the blurry visions and headaches off I’m getting after my personal training.
  • Drinking more water.
  • Forgetting to drink more water.
  • Turning 34. Will it be as busy as 33?
  • Trying to figure our where in the world is Matt Lauer — otherwise known as the annual reminder that no matter how great it actually is, your job totally sucks in comparison.
  • Counting the minutes until Thanksgiving.

What’s missing from this list? Books. Blogging. Google Reader. The part of me who loves to read and write has been absent lately. While I have my theories as to why (most of them surrounding horrific scenarios derived from American Horror Story), I think it’s just a simple matter of focusing on other things.

I miss reading and blogging and I think my life is fuller and more balanced with these hobbies around, but I also don’t feel the need to force them. They then move from hobbies to obligations. It’s kind of how I feel about our “passions.”

Hopefully my inner hipster-sitting-in-a-coffee-shop-with-a-composition book-and-an-e-reader will resurface soon. In the meantime, please share some book recommendations below and/or what you are enjoying this new TV season!

Thanks for reading!

It’s Complicated… With Facebook

When I was a novice social media user way back in 2007, I had a MySpace account.  I set it up under the guise of planning my 10th high school reunion and needing to find classmates, but of course I knew I was never turning away from this delightfully voyeuristic world.

During this time, I was in a relationship. Being the dutiful social networker that I was, I wanted to ensure people knew everything about me. So I changed my relationship status to the “In a relationship” option. Simple enough.

Until the break-up.

There were tears. There was anger. And then there was the awful task of having to change my status back to single and tell the whole world (yes, EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the world) that I was dumped. At least that’s what it felt like. All of a sudden, I didn’t like sharing everything with the online community. In my heartbreak, changing the relationship status on my profile was too much to bear. So instead…

I deleted my entire account.

In hindsight — and even about three days after I did it — I could admit it was probably a little dramatic. But at the time, it was just easier.

In late spring 2008, I was re-born online with the help of Facebook. I vowed to never change my relationship status on a social media profile again. I have always left that area blank. But as I am now engaged to a wonderful man who makes me forget about any heartbreak except when I need to recount it for a blog post, I feel pretty confident my relationship status isn’t changing again, except to “married” next summer.

Source: Pinterest

But yet I still don’t know if I want to add the relationship status to my profile. Clearly, this quandary falls pretty low in comparison to just about anything else you could possibly ponder. It’s just interesting because I had no problem telling everyone via status update that I was engaged. And the well-wishes we received online were so amazing and meaningful. I tear up reading some of the kind words people left as a comment.

I recognize the paradox of writing about online privacy on a personal BLOG! While I have my limits (politics, for example), I’m not terribly guarded on Facebook and I’m trying to push myself to dig deeper on this blog.

So why not simply change my relationship status? Or post a picture of my ring? Or the adorable picture we took at dinner the night we got engaged?

There is definitely the element of JB not being on Facebook. I don’t post too many status updates about us or pictures out of respect for his privacy. He chooses not to be on Facebook. It’s not really my place to put him on it anyway.

When people asked me to post my ring, I just couldn’t do it. Don’t get me wrong, more power to those who do, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. And I was quick to text and email out a picture of the ring to those who asked to see it. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever owned — it deserves a Facebook fan page if you ask me! But just a post of my hand somehow seemed to trivialize the emotion I was feeling.

I’ll continue to search for the balance between social media, blog and real-life sharing. But just for the record, I love my relationship and I would shout it from the rooftops. As long as that rooftop doesn’t have wi-fi.

How do you balance what you post on social media and what you keep more private?