Friday, September 23, 2016

The Glamorous World of Blogging

Blogging looks like a great way to make a living, doesn't it? You get to work when you want, where you want, wearing your jammies if you want, drinking martinis or coffee or whatever, and eating great snacks from your own kitchen. You get to take the dog out for a walk, meet friends in the middle of the day, take a vacation whenever you want to... Oh, and get paid buttloads of money for it. Right? Yeah? Really? Hmmm...

When the economy tanked and my bead business sputtered out like a 4th of July sparkler, I decided to reinvent myself as a food blogger. Positively Vegan was, and still is, my little vegan online home, while Long Way Home remains in the background as a not so secret hideout where I can talk about anything that interests me in the moment. I love PV, but there's more to life than food.

I started this blog in 2009, and Positively Vegan in 2011. I've written hundreds of posts, shared enough recipes to fill a cookbook, written an online cookbook and most recently, self published a printed sauce book. I created and self published a coloring book, and have done all the other things that tie it all together.

I work at home, when I want, usually in real clothes because that makes me feel more valid, and drinking lots of Earl Grey tea all day. I get good feedback, and those who like me are very encouraging. I'm often contacted by companies and authors, asking me to review their products and books. I've been approached by a book publisher. I get invited to cover fun events. I'm kind of well known. I'm doing the work, and I love it. And I know I'm good at it. But still, I'm nowhere near making a living at this.

I read all the stuff from the successful bloggers who want to tell the rest of the world how to do it. I read the free stuff that is. When it gets to the stuff I have to pay for, I'm done, because I already know that's how they're making their money. They're selling something. Yay! Brilliant! I've paid more than a few of them to share the secrets of the blogging universe, and not one has been at all helpful. As with most other things, I think I have to figure this shit out for myself.

Know what keeps me going most? Well two things, I guess. One is the feeling that I'm so close to getting it all worked out and making it a financial success that it would be stupid to stop now, after all this time and all this work. Yeah, maybe I should bag it and go get a real job. But know what? I'm too old and capable and entrepreneurial to work for someone else. They know it, and so do I.

As an experiment recently, I applied for a job as a cashier at the Good Will Store. I walked in and handed my resume to the manager, who took one look at it, then at me, and dismissed me instantly. He didn't say it, but I could see in his face that I was way too good for that stupid job. Maybe I just wanted to know how low I was willing to go. Thank God they wouldn't have me.

The other thing that keeps me writing is comments from my readers. I can look at stats all I want (which is very little), but knowing that a real live human reads my words and feels inspired or entertained or assisted in some way is like a lifeline connecting me to the rest of the world. I spend a lot of time alone. It's good - really good - to know someone is out there. And it doesn't happen often enough. Don't be shy please. Talk to me. I talk to myself quite enough already.

Here's my day today:

After Rick went to work, I drank tea, checked email, and poked around on Pinterest for small space decorating ideas. (We live in 571 square feet.) I washed my hair, got dried and dressed, and took Heidi out for a walk at around 11:00. She's an amazing little dog who almost never has to pee. Lucky me. After feeding Heidi (homemade dog food that I make for her every week), I revived an old pedicure with a quick soak, scrub, and trim, and dabbed-on gold glitter polish in the grown-out space between the old pink polish and my cuticle. (A lot of time saved on a home pedi, and $30 saved on a real one!)

I made a list of all the things I want to get done today. Writing for at least 30 minutes is at the top, so I made more tea, sat down to write, and an hour later, I'm still at it. (I love writing, and I still have to trick myself into getting started.) Later I'll work on a freebie project to add to the PV mailing list signup. (I see that all the cool kids offer something free in hopes of luring readers in to sign up for email updates. I've tried it both ways, freebie and no freebie, and honestly, I get about the same number of new subscribers either way. I'll try again anyway, because it's "how it's done.")

After writing this post, I'll work on my next book for a while. (I don't want to say what it is yet.) Then I'll go pick up my coat from the cleaners. Then I'll take Heidi out again, and maybe go over to Starbucks to see if the rumors of almond milk are true. Later, I'll soak and chop some kale, heat up some of the monster batch of pinto beans I made the other day, and pull it all together for a nice dinner with Rick.

I'll fold the load of whites I threw in the washer this morning. I'll look at real estate online. (We want to move.) I'll knit a little bit, while I wait for Rick to come home. I'll tell him all the things I did today, in a long and stupid list like this one, so I'll feel like I'm not a lazy waste of space. I'll have some wine, clean up the kitchen, watch a movie and knit some more.

I'll chat with my sweetie. He likes me even when I'm not making money. And behind the chitchat, my brain will be going a hundred miles an hour, trying to figure out what else I can do to make this thing work. I love my job. I want to get paid. And at the end of the day, I'll go to bed, with a new list in my head for tomorrow.

It's just too soon to give up.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Wedding Week and Mother Bear

My daughter, the Beautiful Miss Lauren many of you know, or know of through past blog posts, is getting married next weekend. Her fiancé, Jamie, is a wonderful young man who clearly loves my daughter deeply. I'm a happy mom, and so, so happy for the two of them.

I keep having this whacko dream that I'm in my underwear, wading through a crowd of wedding guests, unable to get past the endless stream of people who want to stop me, ask questions, distract me, delay me. It's ten minutes till wedding o'clock, and I just... can't... seem... to... find... my... dress...

Of course I'm not that much of a mess in real life. I know exactly where my dress is. And my shoes, even! Today is mani-pedi day, and I have all of this afternoon and evening and tomorrow to pack. I could pack our whole apartment in that amount of time, so I'm not worried about running out of time. It's just time to get to it.

The dream is not about the wedding so much as it is about the behind the scenes family stuff that's diverting my attention. My sisters and I are not really far enough along in processing the loss of our father in June to be dealing efficiently with the sale of his house. I specifically asked for enough time to get through the wedding before we put it on the market. We signed on with a realtor, who agreed to my timeline...

And then... a few days ago, smack in the middle of wedding week preparations, he brought us an off-market offer. He just happened to know somebody who just happened to have clients who just happened to be looking for a house in our neighborhood. Hmmm... really? He didn't know this was in the pipes before we agreed to give him a big fat percentage, regardless of the amount of work he actually put into finding a buyer? Giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, the timing sucks and I'm really annoyed at being mentally dragged away from my main focus of the moment - my daughter.

The offer was low and shouldn't even have beed handed to us. I considered ignoring it completely, but decided to play along and sign a counter offer that's exactly what we want. I don't expect to get it this time, but I do expect to get it. And now I expect to be left the hell alone until after Labor Day Weekend. In fact, I insist on that part.

As MOTB, my most important job is to protect the magic bubble of happiness that surrounds the bride now. I feel more like a fierce Mother Bear than I ever did when my kids were little. Somehow, I feel even more protective of my adult daughter than I ever needed to when she was young. She's always been completely capable of handling her life, and she is now too.

Still, there's some ancient juju wrapped up in making the transition from daughter to wife. Still a daughter, but now a wife first. It's mostly unspoken, but it's felt. And it's important to me to do my best to send her off with open arms and a full and happy heart. Even though she'll still be geographically close by, energetically, a shift is happening.

I'm reared up and determined not to let any of the family haggling come anywhere near my girl. That means no talk of house selling, at least not in earshot of me or Lauren, all wedding weekend long. My personal happy bubble has to remain intact if I'm going to keep watch over Lauren's. Mother Bear is a little cranky right now, and willing to take a swipe at anyone who tries to divert my attention. I don't care about selling a house right now. Not today. Not for the whole damn next week. Grrr. Got it?

And now, I'm off to the business of being happy.

I'm coming out of the fog of that weird dream as I write this, and writing my own ending to it... I'm striding through the crowd, still in my underwear, elegant arm now outstretched and gently but firmly waving away all questions, and anyone who's trying to detain me. My beautiful dress waits for me behind a secret door to a quiet, pretty room, filled with flowers. I slip it on, step into my shoes, fluff my hair, glance at my perfect manicure, touch up my lipstick, and smiling, I drift out to take my place in the front row. I turn to watch my daughter walking down the aisle, and yes, there it is, she's smiling too, and seems to be floating, as if in a bubble, just an inch or so off the ground.

This is where my focus is. This is where I'm staying.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Time for a Revival

I miss this blog. I miss writing it, and pondering things that seem worthy of being written. I've tried to find a way to shift it over to my other blog, but it's not quite right. They're two different, too different things. So I'm bringing Long Way Home back to life, and merging it with Positively Vegan and my website, It's all me. Pick out the parts that interest you.

I posted the following, with a few edits, on PV today too, so if you follow anything I do, you have a good shot at being all up to date with me now.


Notice anything different around here? (No, not my new dress.) It was time to change things up, in order to make way for other changes that I'm not quite yet clear about. You know how that is? Making anything different has the potential to make everything different. And I'm ready for some differentness.

The old PV logo was fine and lovely, but it was never what I really wanted. I just kept it because I had it, and because a friend designed it for me, but those are both really lame reasons. So poof! Gone are the cute vegetables and the colors I never got comfortable with. If you loved it, well, sorry. I'll send you a picture.

Part of the shift I'm instigating here is a merging of my blogs and my website. I have one site now, which offers links to all the stuff I do. I do a lot and the fragmentation was making me feel all energetically scattered and queasy.

If I can figure out a way of merging this blog in with PV I'll do it.  For now, it feels like they still need to each be their own thing. Go ahead and subscribe to both. There might be some cross-blogging now and then, but mostly, PV is food related, while LWH is more personal. Having said that, I might even post the very same thing on both of them when it applies.

Like this.
It's going on both, with only minor changes.

You know, it's really like one blog in two different rooms. It's all me and my stuff. Hang out in which ever room you feel the most comfortable, or in both, if you like. I'd like that.

So here are the links. If you get lost or confused, and you remember my name, just go to It's the hub, with links to everything else, including blogs, books, beads, and handmade finery from my very own fingers.

See you out there. Somewhere.
Here's to changes!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

100 Peace For Paris Buttons

Peace For Paris original art by Jean Jullien
When I saw Jean Jullien's eloquent, artistic response to what happened in Paris on November 13, I immediately wanted to share the image with everyone I knew. I put it on Facebook and Instagram, but that wasn't enough of a reach for me. Then I remembered the old button maker I had stashed in storage.

As I've pared away possessions that I have little use or space for, I've considered getting rid of it countless times. It's silly. It's a toy. I rarely use it for anything. It's never made me a dime. And frankly, it's a little embarrassing to own such a thing. On the other hand, it doesn't take up much space, every so often it's really quite useful, and honestly, at this point, embarrassment is not something I shy away from.

I ordered a box of button parts and waited a few days for them to arrive. My master plan was/is to make 100 buttons with this beautiful bit of art, and give them away. That's it. I've seen them online already, being sold by various opportunistic sellers, and that makes me sad. This is not my art, so it's wrong to sell it, especially without permission, as I'm sure the folks on CafePress and Zazzle are doing. And besides, there's something so much more hopeful, joyful, and humanly connecting about just plain giving them away to anyone who wants one.

To be clear, I am not a Rich Lady who can afford to do this endlessly. I have no income at the moment. I'm between gigs, so to speak, with no real clue as to what the next one will be. I thought if people asked to pay for the buttons, I'd accept $1 a piece, to cover the cost of the parts so I could order more. So far, only 2 people have offered to pay, so clearly this has to be a mission of Love on my part. And so it is.

I don't mail them. I don't sell them. I don't even offer them to anyone who doesn't first make a comment on the one I'm wearing. And then, the real pleasure and perfection of this project is to pass this simple gesture of peace from my hand to that of another human being. It makes me feel incredibly, unreasonably happy.

I was at the Portland Art Museum the other night, and a pretty young woman looked at my button, and quietly said, "Thank you for that," in her lovely French accent. As I pulled a button out of my pocket and handed it to her, I had no words. I only smiled, and turned away with tears in my eyes as she pinned it on her own coat, over her heart.

Another day, on an impromptu excursion to the little town of Hood River, Rick and I wandered in to a little pop-up art and craft sale. One of the artists greeted us, and immediately asked where I'd gotten my button. This one had glitter and little gold stars in it, so I took it off and gave it to her. In return, I got a big warm hug.

And the Peace goes on.

I've made almost half of the hundred now, and really don't know how many Rick and I have given away between us. I love making them. It's a simple, repetitive, meditative process that goes quickly and takes minimal effort. My hand hurts from leaning down on the lever of the press, so I've started padding it with a pot holder. I make a dozen or so, and then I go out in the world and wait to see who they want to go to. If I go through this first hundred too quickly, I'll probably buy more. How long will people want these? I can't know that. How will I pay for them? Oh... somehow.

I guess I'll know, one way or another, when it's time to stop. For now though, if you see me on the street, and you notice the simple Peace For Paris button on my coat, please ask me for one. I really would love to give it to you.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Where Women Really Create

I was wandering through one of the Very Large Corporate Bookstores the other day, because I needed something to do for an hour, and because they happen to have a really wonderful magazine section. I hardly ever get to the actual books when I go there. There are too many. I get confused. I went in for a new notebook (I bought four), and I spent some time with the fancy magazines too. I like to flip through the expensive $15 "collectible" Somerset publications from Stampington and Company, like Artful Blogger, Willow and Sage, and Where Women Cook. They're more like books than magazines, and I usually find them beautiful and inspiring, and worth a visit to that particular store.

Are you sensing a But here? Yes. But, when I picked up a copy of Where Women Create, instead of feeling inspired and happy, I felt... really pissed off. Page after glowing page showed happy, prolifically creative women, with perfect hair and makeup, in their perfectly chaotic sanctuaries of art, as if they are separate and different and somehow more valid than the most-of-us who create all manner of things in regular, everyday, mundane spaces. I'm still annoyed.

Get this. Every single one of us is creative by nature. (Not just women. Men too, of course, but I'm focused on the women today.) We don't all make "art" of some kind, but simply living requires huge amounts of creativity, and living happily takes even more.

Don't believe me? Make a list of all the creative things you do. Most of the mundane little things we do, from getting dressed, choosing the right shoes and jewelry, and making breakfast, to plotting a course to work, school, shopping, whatever, and just generally getting through another day as an inhabitant of this planet, is a creative effort. We have to keep figuring things out, over and over again. That's creativity. There doesn't have to be a shiny handcrafted bauble at the end of the day. There only has to be you.

For those who do create actual "things," like art or writing or cooking or sewing or whatever, most of us know that having the perfect creative space is not a requirement, and often not even an option. If you think it is, and not having that space is stopping you from Making Stuff, drop that silly notion right this minute and get yourself to the art supply store of your choice.

My first beadmaking "studio" was a small round table in the corner of my kitchen. The next one was a cold, damp laundry room attached to the carport. I eventually upgraded to another cold/damp, or hot/sweaty, depending on the season, space that connected to the back door of our house in Taos, and was basically a passthrough for my family when they needed tools from the half of the room I wasn't using, or had a clean load of laundry to take out to the clothesline, or a dirty load of firewood to squeeze past me in a wobbly wheelbarrow and dump on the floor behind me.

Sure, we all referred to it as "my" studio, but it was far from being any kind of sanctuary. I used to long for a space that was really my own, that was orderly and colorful and as beautiful as the ones in the magazine. It never happened, and I made stuff anyway. I still do.

These days, here in Portland, the studio apartment I share with Rick is also my "studio." More specifically, a counter-height table we bought at Ikea, that we use for cooking, eating, and game nights, is also my humble, and perfectly functional, studio. I can leave it in my kitchen area, or slide it over a few feet to the window when I want better/different light.

In this studio, I write, draw, create blogs and websites, make jewelry, teach jewelry making, photograph, knit, crochet, create coloring books, and sometimes, I even cook. And the best part is, I no longer wish for a bigger or "better" space.

Much as some people will tell you that every space is sacred space, all land is holy land, and all water is holy water, I'm telling you that all space, any space you can utilize, even temporarily, can be creative space. If you want to make something, and you've been waiting for the perfect little studio to inspire your dreams and spark your creativity into a bonfire, forget about it. That perfect space might never happen.

I once worked with glass and fire in a tent. Yep. Outside, in winter, with snow and wind blowing all around the flaps, and in summer when it was so hot I could barely breathe. I made it work, because it was what I had.

Do it now. Make it now, wherever you are, with whatever you've got. As creative beings, we can also create the time and space to make the things that want to be made. And stop buying magazines that only make you feel inadequate and underprivileged. Where do women really create? First in our hearts and heads, and then in any old place we please.