A Blog that Blossoms…plus an exciting giveaway! {Preserve Your Story ~ Day 24}

{The giveaway is now closed. Thank you for your enthusiastic response. Results announced midday on Friday, November 30 here.}

After blogging quietly for myself and my family for five years, I started Message in a Mason Jar last November with the intention of interacting more in blogging world (where I was already an avid reader) and to grow a readership in order to give myself incentive to write more consistently. The more I do this, the less shy I get about hitting the publish button or sharing my links on social media.

When I share, I partake in this big interconnected community. And sometimes I’m blessed to see those connections materialize in real life. I’d followed Hayley Morgan at The Tiny Twig for several months by the time I found myself sitting next to her at the (in)RL meet-up last spring. In person, Hayley showed up as the same cheerful “more passion, less fuss” lady I’d come to know from her blog. She’s an idea person and a make things happen person…a rare, refreshing mix.

Since re-launching her blog two years ago, she has grown her readership to reach tens of thousands of women each month, dreamed up and rolled out the Influence Conference and the Influence Network, and is even slated as one of Tsh Oxenreider’s regular hosts on the popular Simple Mom podcast. As Hayley releases her second eBook, The No Brainer Blog, I’ve asked her to share in our Preserve Your Story series about how her blog led her to do an eBook and how the eBook in turn affects the success of her blog. Meet Hayley….

 

Writing The No Brainer Wardrobe was a turning point for my online life. It took Tiny Twig from a fun hobby to a very viable business. It was the best strategic decision I’ve made so far. Prior to writing for 31 days about having a No Brainer Wardrobe, I hadn’t ever thought about directly monetizing any written content. But, when I saw the immense growth and incredible traffic Tiny Twig experienced during the month of writing about the No Brainer Wardrobe–I knew it could be a highly sellable product.

I had two things that were important to me when writing the eBook. First, I didn’t want to pull content down from my blog–the comments were invaluable and I felt kind of sleazy removing the content people had already engaged with to repackage it for profit. Second, I wanted to explore the subject more thoroughly than I could in scattered and fragmented 300-600 word posts. So, instead of just repackaging content, I used the posts I had written as jumping off points and more deeply explored the information.

When speaking to my writerly/author friends, we’ve discussed the books that do better in the digital format and what books are great as traditionally published projects. After a lot of these conversations and my other observations, I’ve come to the conclusion that an eBook would do best to solve a tangible problem the reader might have. I’m saving my “manifesto” type words for a possible-someday-maybe traditionally published book. If I pour my heart out, I want to smell the pages and see the book on the shelf. If a book I’m consuming wrecks my heart, I want to dog ear the pages and slide it onto my bedside table as my eyes sag shut.

Here are some great reasons I see to write an eBook:

  • To make passive income. You write the book once, do a lot of marketing on the front end, and then hopefully the book continues to perform well with little effort.
  • To give away as a perk for joining your mailing list. Your email list is highly valuable and an eBook is a great incentive to get people to give your newsletter a try.
  • To explore an idea further than the blogging format allows.

I’m still experimenting a lot with what works and what doesn’t work so well as far as eBooks are concerned. I’m not sure anyone has a definite handle on how to make it work perfectly just yet, but the digital format is certainly changing the face of publishing. I’d love to speak with you further about eBooks, either through a class on the upcoming Influence Network or through a personal consulting session (email me through my site to set something up…or enter to win the giveaway below!).

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Hayley Morgan wrote newly released eBook The No Brainer Blog. The eBook helps women cast a vision, define their voice, and refine their blog space to ultimately propel their blog to be successful on their terms.

Hayley also writes at The Tiny Twig, a lifestyle blog inspiring women to create lives of more passion and less fuss. She recently hosted The Influence Conference and is launching The Influence Network in January 2013. You can follow her on Twitter, “like” her Facebook page, or follow her days on Instagram for the latest updates, resources she loves, and a peek into her life with 3 (almost 4!) boys.

The Giveaway:

Here’s the exciting part! In celebration of Hayley’s ebook release and my 1-year blog anniversary, Hayley and I are teaming up with an exclusive opportunity for Message in a Mason Jar readers….

~Our FIRST WINNER will receive a copy of the brand new No Brainer Blog ebook.

~As if that weren’t enough, our SECOND WINNER will receive:

  1. a copy of the eBook
  2. a personalized 45-minute strategy session on Google Chat with Hayley and me
  3. follow-up contact in which I’ll collaborate with you based on the strategy session to either workshop the writing in one of your posts (or even brainstorm your own ebook outline) OR design a blog header to get you going with a fresh look that communicates who you are as a blogger.

I hope you’re as excited as I am about the one-of-a-kind opportunity to connect and collaborate through this giveaway. Happy Black Friday to you!

Five Ways to Win (enter by 12 midnight on Thursday, November 29, using separate comments for each entry):

  1. Required Entry: Follow Message in a Mason Jar via email or RSS feed (see homepage sidebar) and say so in a comment below.
  2. Extra Entry: Follow both Message in a Mason Jar and The Tiny Twig on Facebook and re-comment here.
  3. Extra Entry: Tweet about this post using my Twitter handle, @darcywileywords, then re-comment here.
  4. Extra Entry: Pin this post on Pinterest and re-comment here.
  5. Extra Entry: Share this post on Facebook and re-comment here.

Or buy the The No Brainer Blog eBook now and get started on helping your blog to blossom!

This is Day 24 of my series 31 Days ~ Preserve Your Story, linking up with The Nester’s annual 31 Days of Change. (This post contains affiliate links.)

Souvenirs from the Sea {A Giveaway!}

Gift from the Sea Giveaway {$200 Value}:
1. Pottery Barn Golden Shells and Shell Chart Greeting Card
2. $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card
3. Neutral Striped Tote from Restoration Hardware
4. SoulCare Journal Set: Fair-Trade Mulberry Paper Journal/Sketchbook, Write for Your Soul Booklet, Twig Pencil
5. French Orange Marmalade, Gingham Spoon and Natural Fiber Placemats from Anthropologie
6. Cooperative Mesh Scarf from Urban Outfitters
7. “Samba with Me to the Sea” Embroidered Dishtowel from Anthropologie
8. Dipped Coral Necklace from Anthropologie

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It has been a joy to be on island time with you this summer as we’ve bent back the pages of Gift from the Sea and discovered so many treasures hiding within. As we reminisce about our time at the edge of the water with Anne Morrow Lindbergh and with each other, I’ve gathered a few souvenirs as reminders of simplicity, solitude, stages of womanhood and relationship, and our responsibilities to our community and the world. As we leave this carefree time of contemplation and head into the more industrious days of fall, I wish these things for you….

1. May you remember that under the surface, “even those whose lives had appeared to be ticking imperturbably under their smiling clock-faces were often trying…to evolve another rhythm with more creative pauses in it, more adjustment to their individual needs, and new and more alive relationships to themselves as well as others.” When you look at these Golden Shells that may find a place in your home decor, remember that underneath the shine, they are real and natural and fragile, and so are the women around you, “searching for a new pattern of living…a contemplative corner of their own.”

2. May you be open to new things, “chance treasures these easy unconscious rollers may toss up on the smooth white sand of the conscious mind….” And maybe use the $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card to surprise yourself with a new book?

3. As you open up the Striped Tote or another at home and decide what to carry with you, may you learn “the art of shedding; how little one can get along with, not how much” and remember that “one cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few…. For it is only framed in space that beauty blooms.”

4. May you find time for a mini getaway each day, each week and maybe even each year as “certain springs are only tapped when we are alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray. But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves: that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of a whole web of human relationships.” I hope the SoulCare Journal Set with fair-trade mulberry paper sketchbook/journal, Write for Your Soul booklet, and twig pencil will help you tap those creative springs and be refilled.

5. In the simple joy of opening up French Orange Marmalade over Natural Fiber Placemats, may you “find the miracle of the sunrise repeated” in your marriage, “the sudden pleasure of having breakfast alone with the man one fell in love with…two people facing each other…. Nothing but a coffee pot, corn muffins and marmalade” between you.

6. May the Mesh Scarf remind you that “marriage which is always spoken of as a bond, becomes actually, in this stage, many bonds, many strands of different texture and strength, making up a web that is taut and firm.” And may you remember to swim strong together to strengthen those bonds in the midst of the demands of family life.

7. May you revel in the differentiation of interests and strengths and areas of gifting in your relationship and “move confidently in the same pattern.” May you work together in the same direction, dancing, “completely in time with the music, not leaning back to the last step or pressing forward to the next one, but poised directly on the present step as it comes.” I hope the fun “Samba with Me to the Sea” towel will remind you to enjoy the dance in your everyday, even when you’re teaming up to do the dishes.

8. Finally, when you are feeling that “modern communication loads us with more problems than the human frame can carry,” may the Coral Necklace remind you of our fragile habitats and societies and how when we all do our part, catastrophe shrinks.

We will close out next Monday with a look back at Gift from the Sea with Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s afterword, written in 1975, twenty years after initial publication. I’ll announce our giveaway winner in that post. All are invited to enter, even those who haven’t yet read Gift from the Sea. The $25 B&N Gift Card would be a great way to get yourself a copy and start reading. Be sure to get your comments in before midnight on Saturday, August 11 when the contest closes. Until then, have fun entering the giveaway…and be sure to let your friends in on it!

How to enter the Gift from the Sea Giveaway:
1. Follow this blog via Email Subscription or RSS Feed (see sidebar), then comment on this post or any other post in the series.
2. Extra Entry: Tweet this, then re-comment on this post sharing your Twitter handle.
3. Extra Entry: Pin on Pinterest, then re-comment on this post.
4. Extra Entry: Share with friends on Facebook, then re-comment on this post.

Road Tripping Mama

My husband may as well have been driving us through the construction lane, dodging orange barrels and steamrollers, quaking the tires over unfinished asphalt, and slamming the brakes every 30 seconds, because that’s what my brain felt like it was doing with the barrage of demands from the backseat.

I’d reach into the toy barrel and grasp for anything to calm the kids, to buy myself just a few minutes of that open road feeling…and then they’d drop the toy. I’d either have to pull a neck muscle trying to fetch it, or grit my teeth and listen to them gripe. Finally, I’d muster up the energy to go for the toy and two minutes later they were yelling for something else. And, you know, yelling can be contagious.

I’ve heard it said that an introvert needs up to seven seconds of pause before responding to a request. So, by the time I’d strained myself to address one of the passengers’ complaints, we were on to a whole new bump in the road. The mental brakes would slam again and there I was with whiplash.

In her lovely little memoir, Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, “Woman instinctively wants to give, yet resents giving herself in small pieces….giving herself purposelessly.”

And that is how I tend to give when my mind is spinning. With over-stimulation we are at the mercy of centrifugal force. Sensory overload flings us to the outer reaches and leaves us stuck in another object’s motion, unable to respond, unable to rest.

Parent and child both need a way to find peace and purpose in the whirl of look-at-me color coming at tired eyes, rough textures chafing the skin, raucous noise overwhelming sensitive ears. Overload comes when we are in a passive position, receiving input without an active outflow of energy.

I had thrown together a barrel of toys with no particular plan on how to use them best. I was flinging myself out in small purposeless pieces, like the road debris that clinked against our wheels.

I knew it was against all southern sensibility, but I had to do it. I opened the window and stuck my head out into the wind on our detour through the back roads of Alabama. My hair plastered itself across my eyes, a blindfold to the scenery. Rushing air rattled over my ears, washing out the sound of whimpers, whines and wails from inside the car. Mile markers and magnolias zoomed past me, but I myself felt still for a minute.

Lindbergh suggested that we women need solitude to pull ourselves together and to find our center, seeing as we serve as the center of a “whole web of human relationships.” She went on to quote writer Charles Morgan whose words encourage us to be still “as the axis of a revolving wheel is still.”

On this year’s drive, I was determined to be still like the middle of that wheel, calm in the middle of commotion. And so, I spent weeks mulling it over, brainstorming with friends and relatives, borrowing from neighbors and even taking notes while watching Mary Poppins. I gathered the tools for fun activities. I spun the wheels of creativity. I revved up ideas for meaningful interaction. I prayed for stamina and reminded myself of the importance of finding some sort of solitude on the trip, even if it was just with earplugs. This drive wouldn’t drive me crazy. I was road ready….

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TEN WAYS TO KEEP A ROAD TRIPPING MAMA OUT OF THE LOONEY BIN

1. TURN YOUR ROAD TRIP INTO A PARTY: Grab a couple of balloons (I filled ours with helium we had leftover from a party). With a Sharpie in hand, chat with the kids about your destination and draw silly faces on the balloons. We used sunshine eyes, a fishy nose and an orange slice mouth to coordinate with our Florida fun in the sun destination. To add even more to the festivities, we decorated the van with window clings for daytime driving and glow in the dark stars for the night.

2. KEEP THE EXCITEMENT CONTAINED: Get a metal lunch box and call it a looney binit may just help keep you out of one. Use the bin for every toy, every activity, every snack. Every half hour or so, have the kids hand in the bin with the previous toy or activity. Clean out the bins and put in the next item. The element of surprise really worked for my kiddos. They couldn’t wait to see what new thing waited inside the bin. To make things easier, I packed groups of activities in separate zippered envelopes so that I didn’t have to have the whole barrel of toys at my feet. And when the kids got a little too demanding, I set the timer and let them know they could ask me to help out with two things during a 30-minute time-frame. Boundaries like that helped bring a bit more sanity to our road trip.

3. KEEP THEM MOVING: To keep the circulation flowing, lead the kids in nursery rhymes or songs with motions like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”. We also did other activities like pretending to swim by moving our arms and legs in different strokes. Simple squeeze toys (and even baby teethers) have also helped my kids get through stressful moments on the road. And from the looks of that bumble bee, it seems one of my kids was a little more stressed than the other!

4. KEEP THEM FOCUSED: One of our favorite little toys is a row of tiny wooden blocks you can turn and twist it into different shapes and then undo to try it again. It’s called a fidget and it can keep my kids happy for more than half an hour. The kids also loved the rubber band board we borrowed from our neighbor, the heirloom fabric activity book that my mom made, and the transportation lacing cards. Then there were the robot bugs that my little boy had his eye on for months. He almost flipped out of his booster seat when he opened the bin to find the little critter. Finally, to get the most out of our metal bins, I brought magnetic blocks, magnetic numbers, a magnetic car and a magnetic dress up kit…all big hits.

5. FEED THEM WELL: Pack healthy snacks to keep your roadies feeling good. Clementines were easy to peel and were a fun way to celebrate our drive to Florida. I soaked and roasted raw pecans (Nourishing Traditions method) and mixed them with preservative-free organic raisins for our drive through Georgia. I brought along applesauce squeezers and cheese sticks (kept in a cooler with ice packs), which are regular favorites around our house. One of my kids’ favorites came from a neighbor’s idea for a wearable snack. On long trips, she has her kids string their Cheerios into necklaces before they can eat them. With my young children, I opted to use pipe cleaners with one end curled under to make Cheerios bracelets. At the end of snack time, they would hand over the bins so I could wipe them clean before the next activity.

6. PROMOTE INTERACTION: When kids’ eyes are glued to a little screen, they miss out on the the fun around them. While movies at first seem to have a tranquilizing effect, the more we watch, the more irritable the kids seem to get. To help them interact with their environment, we gave the kids old digital cameras and encouraged them to take pictures of each other or the scenery. A set of binoculars and a prism helped them to look around and take in the sights big and small. With finger puppets, the kids can put on a mini puppet show with their bin as the stage, or their characters can interact with their siblings’ finger puppets. You just have to watch that it doesn’t turn into a heated game of thumb war. ;) I also did a read-aloud with a book we had multiple copies of. The kids enjoyed following along, looking at the pictures as I read.

7. PLAY UP YOUR DESTINATION: For the Florida stretch of highway, I put sea creature sand molds and Play-doh in the bin. Then there were the beach and coral reef sticker book scenes. I also made color copies of a sea turtle page from a coloring book and then another one of sea shells, folded each page up and, for an extra element of surprise, hid the ocean-themed coloring page in an envelope and put it in the bin alongside some colored pencils. For craft time, I brought along some construction paper cut into shapes, scrapbooking scissors (won’t cut fabric!), tape, and toilet paper tubes (with slits cut for positioning the construction paper) to use in designing a toilet paper tube fish.

8. MAKE SOME NOISE: To balance out the times we found ourselves shushing the kids, we set aside some time for purposeful noise by bringing along percussion instruments and some fun kids’ songs for them to play along with. And when the noise was too much for my sensitive ears, I put on our trusty drummer’s noise-cancellation headphones or slipped in a pair of earplugs! Somehow having the sound muffled made things a little more manageable for this noise-sensitive mama.

9. MAKE THE MOST OF STOPS: While you want to make stops as efficient as possible in order to get to your final destination in a timely manner, doing something active and fun at your stops can make all the difference in your travelers’ moods on the next stretch of the drive. One friend of mine takes a soccer ball for the kids to kick around at rest stops. I brought along bubbles to give the kids something to chase. And we used some of our stops to decorate the van with window clings and glow in the dark stars. And sometimes stops will lend themselves to an impromptu activity, like hunting pine cones or socializing with fellow travelers and their puppy dogs.

10. MAKE THE NIGHTTIME SHINE: I don’t know any other kids who are like this, but mine didn’t sleep one.single.minute of our 19 hour drive back from Florida this year. Luckily, when dark came and they still refused to shut their eyes, I had plenty to keep them happy until we got to our hotel. They loved the glow bracelets and had fun linking them together to make a circle the size of a hula hoop. We put on calm music to promote an atmosphere of rest and used book lights, something completely new to them, for some reading time. Another option is to use kids’ hand-squeeze flashlights. And then there were the glow in the dark stars that we’d used to decorate the car earlier.

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WIN YOUR OWN ROAD TRIP LOONEY BIN

Alright, Message in a Mason Jar readers, here is your chance to win your own Road Trip Looney Bin ($55 value)! I’ve put together a fun collection of some of my favorite items for keeping the kids happy in the car. This metal lunchbox includes your own aromatherapy play clay, hand-squeeze cow flashlight, Indestructibles book, fidget, flying pig finger puppet with magnetic snout, prism, shaker, glow bracelets and Cheerios bracelet kit.

Just subscribe to Message in a Mason Jar by entering your email in the box on the sidebar (or let me know if you’re an RSS subscriber) and comment on this post by 11:59 pm on Monday, May 28, 2012 for your chance to win. For extra entries, share this post on Facebook, tweet this post tagging me (@darcywileywords), and/or pin this post on Pinterest. Be sure to re-comment here for each extra entry and let me know where you shared the post. Ready, set, go!

Thanks to all who participated in Message in a Mason Jar’s first-ever giveaway! The giveaway is now closed, but feel free to keep sharing your road trip sanity ideas in the comments section as others may continue to stop by. The winner was chosen at random from this post’s eligible comments listed in the order received. And, without further ado, the winner is…Tristi! Congratulations and thanks again to all who’ve chimed in.