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Southern Hospitality is Alive and Well in 2011

This past week my husband and I went on a brief vacation/work trip to Florida. It was our first trip to Florida. My goal for our trip was not to come home weighing more than when I left Minnesota and his was not to get sunburned the first day we arrived and spoil the rest of his trip.  Mission accomplished on both fronts.

Before we left for Florida I let a few of my blogging friends know that we would be in their area last week.  As quick as I let the cat out of the bag I had three emails from bloggers suggesting times and places we could get together if it worked in our schedule.  I thought how fun it would be to meet some of the people I had blogged with over the past year.

Last Monday we spent a delightful day with blogger Nancy &  BFF from http://nrhatch.wordpress.com. When we arrived at their home she had a cooler packed with homemade sweet tea and some snacks for our outing. We spent the an hour checking out the local sites and seeing things I’ve never seen before like the Gumbo Limbo tree.  If I could plant one of them in my Minnesota backyard with hopes of it surviving our cold winters it would be on the top of my list.    

Then we headed off to Anna Maria Island where we feasted on lunch al fresco at Rotten Ralph’s restaurant. It was wonderful eating outdoors with the breezes blowing. The waitress warned us that the winds might blow our chips off our plates.  That never happened. We ate with the sun shining and the conversations flowing. After lunch we headed to the other end of the island and out on one of the piers and watched the pelicans taking off and landing. Entertained by live music on the deck, we watched and listened to our surroundings. It felt wonderful to absorb the warm sunshine.

How many times did I just mention sunshine? I think I have a theme going on…

After visiting the island we headed back to Nancy’s for more conversation on their deck overlooking a waterway that surrounds their home. We observed the local birds coming and going, Spoonbills, Pelicans and many others that I have since forgotten the names.  The one thing I will never forget is the hospitality shown to complete strangers from Minnesota by our new Florida friends and how they made time in their schedules to show us the paradise that surrounds them.

Monday afternoon after we arrived back at our hotel my husband received a call from another car dealer who has a home in Inverness who heard that we were in Florida and he and his wife invited us to their home in Inverness and out to lunch the next day. When we are home in Minnesota there is very little time outside of work for socializing with other car dealers so this was the first time we had been out to eat with this couple. We work within an hour of each other back in Minnesota. The guys had a great time discussing the changes in the used car business and I had fun getting to know his wife and more about their family.

Before we left Minnesota we had dinner plans for Wednesday evening made with two other couples that I have blogged with over the past year.  Joe of http://joeclarksblog.wordpress.com and Tyler of http://sidebarreview.wordpress.com made arrangements for us to meet for dinner in Sanford, FL.  Joe’s wife and Tyler’s husband joined us for dinner. Joe and Tyler picked out Two Blondes and a Shrimp restaurant in Historic Sanford, FL as the place we would meet for dinner. We met around the dinner table and the conversation flowed for hours but ended way too soon. We talked of writing, flying, social networks, taxes, history, friends and family. The food was excellent and the conversation even better.  As I sat listening to each tell their stories in person it was if I had known each of them for a longer time.

As I reflect on the busyness of the past few years, I realize the one thing that we’ve missed in our lives is the time that we used to spend visiting with friends,neighbors and family. We have been in the habit of leaving for work in the morning and then retreating into our homes at the end of the day without much interaction with others except at work. We need to work on the art of hospitality and welcome others into our home. We are missing one of the most important riches in this life if we exclude it and miss the friendships that develop over time in face to face conversations.

We’re back home now in cold Minnesota with 15 inches of new snow in the ground but the inside of our home is warm and welcomes visitors who maypass our way. We’d love to share some of our northern hospitality with those daring enough to venture north.

 

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Blogging: Where Seduction Meets Obsession

It started innocently enough a little more than a year ago.  While I was learning to fly I began reading flying blogs, anything that someone wrote about their learning to fly experiences.  I started off with reading author, pilot and flight instructor Greg Brown’s blog, The Flying Carpet.  He guided me through learning to fly with his posts on flying.  He connected me with other older pilots who I could relate to in my learning to fly experiences.  Up to that time I had heard about blogging but didn’t really know what it was.

For months I continued to read Greg’s blog and student pilot blogs.  I found myself searching for more life experiences from other student pilots and spending more and more time on-line.  I can’t seem to pin point the exact moment I decided to start a blog but sometime not long before my first post on January 8, 2010 I happened on to the WordPress.com site and it talked about how easy it was to start a blog. 

I’m not that tech savvy so I took it slow and played with the blog idea and themes.  I choose the name FlyingGma for two reasons: both are because of defining moments in my life.  The first part was my pursuit of learning to fly at age 48 and the second part was for my new role as grandma in August of 2009.  I really didn’t know where I was going with the blog when I started other than to learn something new.

I started to read other blogs on WordPress.com by way of  “Freshly Pressed”.  The seduction began when I started seeing the featured blogs on the front page of WordPress.com.  Seeing my blog featured on Freshly Pressed became my goal.

 I read many of the Freshly Pressed blogs to see what they were doing that made them unique and ultimately chosen for the Freshly Pressed feature.  I started subscribing to various blogs that I found interesting on Freshly Pressed.  Up until this point no one had ever commented on anything I had written except for two dear friends that I shared the fact that I have a blog.

Just as Satan seduced Eve with an apple the statistics seduced me.  WordPress definitely knows what they are doing when they say they have stats to obsess over.  It’s true.  When my blog started to be read regularly by others and they left a comment those numbers became more important.  I began to check the stats more than once each day.  I definitely liked to see the numbers improve or special comments left about what I had written.

Next I read a blog about someone who worried about the subscriber that they had lost and wondered why.  I didn’t realize up to this point that I could subscribe to a blog or have subscribers.  I was still learning about WordPress and blogging.  I began subscribing to other blogs that I enjoyed reading and adding links from my blog to their blogs.  The statistics just kept getting better.  Somehow in my mind I equated better statistics with better writing, which was far from the truth.  My writing has improved by practicing daily but it still has a long way to go.

I have observed bloggers remove posts from their sites because no one commented on their post or perhaps didn’t even visit a blog on a day.  At first it bothered me that what I wrote wasn’t read or people didn’t visit my blog because of the topic I chose to write about that day.  Then I thought just maybe the reason they didn’t read could have been they have a life outside of blogging and were spending time doing something else that day.  Maybe they were doing something special with their family, which would be a better thing than reading my blog.  Good for them! 

I haven’t blogged for almost a week thinking about the seduction/obsession that blogging has become in my life.  What was I giving up in the amount of time I spent preparing my blog and photos?  Time with my husband, family and other things that I enjoy like reading, quilting, baking and of course sleep. 

There will be more balance in my life from here on out.  I will continue to blog but probably not as often.  Time is a commodity, which means there is not an endless supply of it. Using time wisely is my new obsession not wanting to squander even a minute of the precious gift it is.

 

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An Anniversary of sorts..a New Habit

This past week marked one year of blogging for me.  I can’t believe that the time has gone that fast but then of course I’m getting older and that  is what old people do, they talk about the time going fast.  WordPress provides many statistics for their bloggers, the one I find hard to believe is that I have 161 posts in my archives. 

When I started the blog it was just to challenge myself to do something new and that meant learning the WordPress software for blogging.  As I started writing my posts it was a place I could write about my flying experiences.  I’ve wandered far and wide from my original post ideas for my blog. 

 I live in a small town and know only two pilots, one is only here seasonally.  I love to talk about learning to fly so the blog gave me a place to do that since the closest local airport is 20 miles away and I couldn’t hang out there regularly.  I have met many pilots through blogging that I can share my love of flight through their blogs.

One of the most interesting side benefits of the blog is that I am excited to get out of bed in the morning to write.  This is a new habit for me.  I am more of a late night person.  I love to stay up late reading for hours which makes it difficult to get up in the morning. 

My work schedule keeps pushing more into my evening hours, often not getting home until after 8pm which doesn’t leave much time for reading and definitely not much time for writing.  My habits have shifted from less reading to more writing.

My desire to write drives me to get out of bed earlier and earlier so I can have time I crave to write before I had to leave for work.  While I am at work I’m thinking about what I want to write about and thinking about what photo I could include and what research I might need to do before I post.  It makes my workday go faster with my thoughts racing in different directions about writing.

Some days I wonder where the words will come from but approaching  life as an observer provides plenty of writing material.  Learning new things also provides writing material if you are willing to share the good and the not so great experiences, allowing others to learn from your mistakes. 

I don’t know where this next year of blogging will lead me but the benefits of this past year and new habits will keep me coming back for more and pursuing new avenues in the new year, trying to do it better than the day before.

 

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Coffee

For my regular readers you know that I love my coffee:  morning, noon and night.  Wednesday evening I attended a school board conference with my husband.  While I was waiting for him to finish talking to the presenters I took some photos.  My favorite was this one:

One of the things I’ve played around with the past couple of months is photography.  Last month I started another blog, MineEyesHaveSeen.  You will find the link in my blogroll to the right or at  http://mineeyeshaveseen.wordpress.com/.  My photos are not professional,  just beginning photos that I have taken.  I have posted one photo a day with a brief description about the photo or the place it was taken.  If you want a quick view of the photos I’ve taken click on the word Archive at the top of the photography blog.

I started MineEyesHaveSeen blog because I was finding it hard to include my photos my regular blog.  I recently purchased Adobe Photo Shop for my new laptop.  I hope to post different effects to my photos that I learn in the software.  

I’m researching a new camera to buy.  I presently use a Nikon Cool Pix camera that my kids bought for me a couple of years ago.  I plan on purchasing a SLR camera with a couple of different lens so I can do more close-up photography, especially birds and flowers.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2011 in Blogging, Photography, Wordpress Blogging

 

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My New Morning Coffee Klatsch

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Picnik fun

 My daughter introduced me to my new best friend.  She showed me how to edit pictures in Picnik.  This is a picture I took recently of Jack Pine in our yard.  The photo hasn’t been altered.  It is exactly as I took the picture. 

I love it…But then I played with the photo in Picnik and this is what I did to it.

 I added the pink color around the edges.  There were a lot of different colors to choose from each changing the mood of the photo.

Next I added the darker edge around the photo so it has more of a shadow box effect.  I like the darker border around the picture.  It gives it more of a shadow box look.

Then I tried this with the same photo and here is the result.  It is called Holga-ish in the Picnik effect area.  I love the black and white of the photo.  When I first became interested in photography I took mostly all black and white, very little color photos and did my own processing.

Another effect in Picnik was this one they call Lomo-ish.  It added the different blues to the picture.

The last part I played with was the text part.  I just added the words Jack Pine Beauty to the photo.  After adding the text then I rotated it and moved it to the side of the picture.  There were many fonts to choose from and they even have a holiday theme font area.

This is only one area of Picnik that I played with last evening.  I’m looking forward to further investigation.  I know  a lot of photo enhancing sites are available.  I’d love to hear about your favorites.  My sister-in-law loves to use PhotoShop.  If she doesn’t like how a family photo turns out she has no problem moving heads around.  I’m not there yet and never will be.

 

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Let It Simmer

I love to put words to paper.  Even more I love to know that there are people out there would find my writing worthy of reading.  Is that vain?  Maybe.  I suppose so at some level. 

Blogging has provided an outlet for my thoughts this past year.  I’ve shared a lot of my thoughts.  Some thoughts shared through my writing were better than others because I took more time on the content and structure of what I wrote.  Other thoughts not so much.

One thing that has been difficult for me has been to let my ideas and words simmer.  I’m excited to write-up my posts, edit and push that publish button, instant gratification, my words in print for others to read.  I want my words to be worthy of those taking the time to read them. 

As I think of writing I can easily relate it to cooking,  something I have done a lot of in the almost 51 years of my life.  When I want to cook or bake something new, I do some research.  I check out different recipes and find one that with ingredients I like or one that looks good in a picture that entices me to read the ingredient list.  The same is true with writing.  Research into the topic you write about and life experiences can make your writing more interesting to the reader.

When writing I gather the important ingredients I want to include, usually three or four ideas.  After I have decided what I want to include I begin blending them together just as in a recipe.  Sometimes just like Mom used to do in the kitchen, ask for a second opinion.  Give someone the opportunity to taste your writing and help season it.

When I am cooking, especially soups, the best thing to do is to put the pot of soup on simmer and walk away.  It gives the ingredients in the soup and opportunity to blend their individual flavors.  Some things that I make actually taste better the second day or at least several hours later. 

The same can be true for writing.  After the words are put to paper I think it is better to let them simmer.  It provides the opportunity for the words to blend and the thoughts to be mulled over,  rearranged in my mind and sometimes on paper. 

This process goes beyond just editing for spelling and grammatical errors.  It looks at the finished product, the presentation.  This is by far the hardest part for me. 

I want to publish my words now and not wait until later.  If I do, I run the risk of a soup without much flavor when I could have a soup that greets you from the very first spoonful until the last spoonful is gone with flavors blended to perfection, wanting for more. 

 

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