To Be Beautiful

dogwood flower[Written by Lauren Caswell, one of my awesome daughters, a gifted architecture student at LaTech. Bottom photo is one of her paintings.]

To define what it means to be beautiful, you first have to study what it is that wants to be beautiful, because not everything will have to same definition for beautiful, even when coming from the same person.

For instance, to me, a beautiful flower is one that stands out in rich colors, draws your eye to the center in a pleasing way, and has a soft sweet smell. But, one cannot smell a cloud. So the definition of a beautiful cloud would be one that stretches across the sky linking other clouds together, using the sun or the moon’s light to create an array of colors on this normally opaque substance.

For buildings and physical structures, to be beautiful you have to have a purpose. Every good painting and sculpture has a purpose. Some are made to express feelings or to try and take the viewer’s mind to places they haven’t been to yet. Just making something pretty and pleasing to the eye is not the same as being beautiful.

Pretty is pleasing, but beauty is meaning.

To be beautiful, it has to answer a question and then ask more, it is never fun or progressive when all the answers are given to you.

Lauren's paintingIt doesn’t have to be unique and something completely different from what people have done before, because the world has been going on for a long time, and lots of thoughts have already been thought.

It is exciting to see new experiments and creations come together though. It just has to be new to you, to be beautiful.

To be beautiful, architecture should be structurally sound as well, something that can defy the moods of the weather and stand spite the gravity all around it. A building should be determined to stand for ages. To be beautiful, it should take the area around it into account. Not just a building on the land, but a building that links the land, sky, and everything in between together.

To be beautiful, it must take your breath away when you finally complete it. To be beautiful, the architect must be excited and joyful to design this piece, rather than take it as a job. To be beautiful, it must be complete.
To be beautiful, it must be a piece of your soul shining out in real life. To be beautiful, it shall be alive, whispering thoughts into your mind.

For that is what beauty is, a feeling. We may all define different things as beautiful, but beauty is still the same feeling for everyone. You know the feeling.


How to Get More Blogs to Review Your Book

Facebook likes I ran across a cute post yesterday, How to Get More Facebook Likes, and it reminded me of a post I was going to write. Go ahead and head over to the Oatmeal blog and check it out.

A few weeks ago, I was asked if I’d do a review of a book. Legitimate request. I’ve done book reviews before. But I barely knew the guy, and I hadn’t heard of his book. I was in the middle of finishing a website for a client, still had taxes to file, bills to pay, hungry hoards to feed.

I said I couldn’t right now, and I’d have to ask a few questions first. His answer was take your time, but if you run over to Amazon and buy my book, you’ll know all about me and my book. Here the link. It’ll help your readers.

  • I barely knew the author
  • My time was very limited
  • I’m not promoting a book I don’t know and like. Without seeing the book that is hard to determine.
  • I’m not purchasing a book from a stranger so I can give him what amounts to a free advertisement.

If he visited my site, he’d realize that this blog isn’t that active, while I’m working on my WordPress Tutorial site. I don’t think it’d make him rich in book sales, although I do have some very loyal readers. It would not be fair to them to promote a book which could be great, horrible or somewhere in between. I value my visitors’ time, only fair I do some presorting.

It bugged me, I went to a Facebook group where many of my author friends hang out. I went to a business forum of which I’m a member. It seems I’m not the only one with this issue. Remember the Facebook Like article at the beginning, don’t be greedy, all about you. I’m also annoyed by “friends” who want something from me, favors, but never offer or give something in return. Even if you ask.

“Totally tacky!!! He obviously doesn’t have a publicist or have any type of real marketing and promotions plan for his book. Now, on the other hand, he could really appreciate your contributions on Twitter and see you a valuable resource. Nonetheless, it’s still not the way to go about it. You never ask someone you don’t know because how do you know they are who they claim to be.” Beverly Mahone

“Completely!” He needs some guidance.” Pat Montgomery

“I’m with Bev – very tacky!! When I was approached by a New York Times best seller (Andrew Blechman, Leisureville) for my New Urban Mom blog he most certainly didn’t ask me to buy the book! The book was sent to me within a couple days of his call to me and on top of that he allowed me to interview him for my podcast. After that I did a very thorough review that included our podcast chat. I think that’s the way it normally done.” Sharon McMillian

“As a frequent receiver of books via WE Magazine for women, it would never occur to me to purchase a book from a total stranger (someone I don’t know, have not met, or even heard of). If someone wants a book review from ANYONE and they are soliciting the review, the least he or she can do is send a copy! Obviously that guy does not have a publicist or anyone who could guide him If he did, that would never have happened. Heidi you might want to write about what it takes to get a book review on your site and then when anyone does solicit you, send them to the link. I did that and it became a huge time-saver. I simply send them the link which outlines our “rules” and then if someone wants to send a book to me, they know what to expect.” Heidi Richards Mooney

And I’m happy to say, the author I was venting about sent me a link to a free downloadable ebook a few days later. I’m thinking it is as Debra says:

“l can see him asking you to review his book if he knows your reputation and respects what you do, but ask you to buy it was pure wrong! I have asked people to review “Cedar Woman” because I know that I’ll get a true opinion, but I ALWAYS supply the book!. . .But sometimes, you know, we loose our heads. LOL” Debra Welsh

OK, enough bashing. In the excitement to get out and share your book, authors need to step back and see the blogger’s side. Time is very precious, it takes time to read a book and write up a review. What if the blogger hates your book, and you annoyed them with your request, nothing prevents them from writing a negative review. And how would a blogger handle a couple dozen free books sent to them for a review from various authors. Bloggers have spent time developing a relationship with their readers, and to be good to their audience, they will not review your book or product in a positive way unless it is to those readers benefit.

5 Top Tips for Requesting Book Review’s

  • Visit their blog, subscribe, get to know the community to see if your book or product is a good fit.
  • Look for their review policy, if they have one, follow their guidelines.
  • Ask politely, offer a free book, possibly throw in a couple books to be given to their readers, show specific reasons why your book/product would interest their audience, offer a favor in return.
  • Respect their time, have images ready with often asked questions and answers, offer to do an interview or answer any additional questions. Make your review an easy one to write.
  • Say thank you, follow the comments on your review post. Interact and reply.

Two Great Review Examples

Book ReviewWhen I did a book review for Donna Cutting, it was handled by Teresa Morrow, a classy friend of mine. I was asked if I wanted to participate, sent a copy of the book, emailed a choice of images to use, several questions and answers and that I could write my own questions for Donna to answer. I did both. Easy post to write, I enjoyed her book. I took a picture of me and her book and created a thank you card and mailed it to her.

Donna runs a first class business. She sent me a gift card, asked permission and posted the image from the greeting card on her blog (send her a copy so she didn’t have to scan) and encouraged others to check out my greeting card system, ran a contest where other readers could send her pictures and and reviews of her site.

Homemade soap review
I was happy to get a note from one of my twitter friends, asking if he could send me some of the homemade soap his wife makes. Very cool. I was so surprised when a few days later I opened my mailbox and it smelled so good. I have a wonderful package with not just one, but one of each of the different varieties of soap, they add essential oils. I was in a hurry to run errands, not wanting to leave the package behind, I placed it in the car.

Weather was beautiful, I left my windows down, and enjoyed the smell of my handmade soaps. Couldn’t wait to try them out, brightened my day. He get a homemade soap review even though he didn’t ask for it. And when I run out, I’ll buy more from them.

Now to follow Heidi Richard Mooney’s Advice and write my review policy page.

Adding Photos to Your Blog

Creative Commons License photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani
Three years back I wrote a post about why you shouldn’t grab images from google images and post to your blog.

I love photos, both taking my own, and viewing the work of others. I’m amazed at the talent out there. Love that through flickr we have images we have permission to use through creative commons. (Not all Flickr images, just ones which give permission.)

Yet, it is extra time to find the images, upload them to my post, add proper credits and I’ve been wishing for a plugin to do such, just hadn’t taken the time to search for such before now.

Enter Photo Dropper. You can search for it under add new plugins in your admin panel, install, activate. With you mouse wherever you want to add an image, scroll down, way below where you type in your post and you’ll find photo dropper browse photos. Better yet, click on the photo dropper icon by your other add media buttons.

Type in your keyword, photos pop up, pick one, click on what size you want and it is inserted into your post. Viola! Couldn’t be easier!

Do go to settings after you install your plugin, then photo dropper. Make sure the for commercial use button in checked.

Thank you photo dropper, now if only the photo was uploaded to my media library instead of linking through flickr, so the thumbnails would show up in certain themes which do such.

A Warm Heart

A while back I ran into the inspiring story of Napoleon Dzombe. I loved it. Last night I couldn’t remember the guy’s name, nor the whole story, took me a while to find it. I wanted to share with others and have an easy way to refer back to his story.

Napoleon showed the how one person, is limited in how much they can do to help others by their time and resources, until they take a leadership role, teaching and inspiring others. No more limits!

Something to think about. What would you do if your neighbors were starving? And as you fed them, more starving people showed up on your doorstep looking for food? The more you feed, the more show up. Soon all your time and resources go to feeding the hungry, but then your business suffers and you’ll no longer have resources to feed yourself.

A pdf of Dzombe’s untold story

Flashback February Challenge

Connect with your past. Write it down. Share with others. Remember who you were way back then.

Someone reminded me of the time we got stranded on a dark, frigid, deserted road. Some many memories came back of other road trips, no wonder my dad has gray hair. I even went back to old photo albums to find pictures of way back then, found pictures of old friends and good times.

Turn on the Juke Box (click on picture of various artists) and it’ll take you back in time, sit a spell. Read about my road trips starting with Road Trip Flashback Part 1. Yep, that means more to came, adding a road trip story each week throughout Flashback February.

The Challenge is this, read my post. What memories does it bring? Comment and/or add your story to the comments or write on your own blog and come back and post a link to your message. Invite your friends to do the same on their blogs. Become a part of Flashback February. I look forward to reading your stories.

Road Trip Flashback 1

College was miles away, at least 24 hours driving time. So we always shared rides for Christmas and summer break. We usually left right after finals. I pulled an all nighter, packing, cleaning, studying for that last final. My brother was driving and I crashed in the back seat, another friend riding with us. Couldn’t wait to be back home for Christmas.

Car stopped, I wake up. Where are we at? Middle of nowhere, New Mexico. Dark icy deserted road, bone chillin’ cold. We’d run out of gas! Yeah sure we could just call for help on our cell phones, but keep in mind, this was before such things. My backup plan was always find a payphone and call dad collect. How long will our battery last without gas? No flares in the car, emergency blinkers on. Maybe someone will notice and give us a hand. Open hood. Wait. . .

Wait. . .

Shiver. . . brrrrrrrrrrrr. . .

Wait. . .

Were we the only ones crazy enough to be out driving all night?

Lights! Finally a car. Surely they will stop. . . No such luck.

OK. maybe we aren’t obvious enough. Wait some more. Brrrrrrrrrr!

Next car that comes by we all get out and flag them down. Help! Can you help us?

Nice car stops, young couple driving through on way to Arizona. Relief. Can you help?

“Sorry, we are in a hurry and don’t have a spare gas can. Gas station is a few miles up the road. Tell you what we’ll do, when we stop at the next state we’ll call the state troopers and have them call New Mexico state troopers and maybe they can help. Bye.”

Dang! and here I thought they’d help us out. Could be hours before help arrives. And so we wait. . .

Car ride is long enough, but waiting in the car for who knows how long gets long quick. Never knew time could stretch so long.

What to do? My brother decides to walk to the gas station, after all, that car said it was only a couple miles up the road. Not comfortable with him on the road alone. Want company? No. Someone should stay with the car. Maybe a state trooper will show up. Nor did he want just one of us girls alone with the car.

As he walks out of sight, I get to thinking that wasn’t too smart an idea. Wind is picking up, getting colder out. Who knows where the gas station is at. I want to call him back, but too late. I hope and pray that he’ll be alright. Didn’t want him found as a frozen popsicle on the roadside come morning. And so we wait. . .

Lights! Really? Lights slow down. Is it the promised state troopers? Nope, that is an old pickup. Guy gets out, other girl takes one look and double checks the car locks. Help or someone out to do harm? I roll my window down. Even in the frigid air, I can smell alcohol on his breath.

“Can I help?” he asks.

I explain the situation.

“I can give you girls a ride to the gas station, pick up your brother along the way.” Discussion with other girl. Do we trust him? What if state troopers come by right after we leave? What if just one of us went? That seemed even less safe. Finally, no thanks, we’ll stay with the car in case promised help arrives. But if you could pick up my brother and give him a lift to the gas station, we’d be very grateful.

He agrees. We wait. . .

Still no troopers, but the pickup comes back with my brother, and gas! Happy days! Not only does he bring my brother back, with gas, but he hangs around and makes sure it starts. We offer him money but he refuses. Just happy to help us on our way. “Have a safe trip!” and so we do. 🙂

So many things could have gone wrong. I learned a couple of things:

It is especially important to keep an eye on your fuel gage, especially when the towns are few and far between.

Don’t judge people by their appearance. You never know where your true friends will come from.


Click on the JukeBox below and listen to the tunes. Guess when the road trip took place. If you’d like to take part in the flashback challenge, go to

“Making a Difference through Music and Song”

“Someday I will live again”

“someday I will love again”

Words to the song “Someday” by May Ling. Not easy words for women who have dealt with domestic violence to follow. I have several friends who have dealt with abuse, some in their childhood, some as adults, some both. Their self-esteem takes a major hit, and trusting others after being abused by one you love is no small thing.

One friend told her ex’s family for years “He needs help” “He has anger issues” “Get him help!” Her pleas fell on deaf ears. His family couldn’t understand why the women in his live made up such horrible tales, and would bail him out of jail, spend much on attorney fees, etc. They refused to believe there was a problem. One day he kidnapped a woman he’d dated once or twice. She’d moved on with her life, married someone else. He had her by gunpoint, driving out of town. Police barricade stopped him. After negotiation with police by cell phone, he turned the gun on himself committing suicide.

Most cases don’t go to this extreme, although some do. It is very hard on the families. Even harder on the victims. Another friend has blank memories of much of her childhood. News of a rape on campus triggered memories of abuse she suffered from a step-brother. Her parents didn’t believe the things she was telling them. Abuse continued for some time and thus the blank memories.

Time heals. I watched one friend who at one point was lucky is she could get herself dressed and feed herself in a day. She is doing great things now. Sometimes she’ll have a relapse, depression sets in. But she is a survivor. “Someday she will love again.” It takes time.

Through song, May Ling and Songs with a Voice are helping others deal with domestic violence, find the help and resources needed.

“Music has the special ability to communicate issues that people normally do not want to discuss,” said singer/songwriter May Ling. “In the 70’s, many popular songs were about changing the world for the better. In the last three decades, popular musicians seem to be increasingly sticking to lighter topics. My hope is that ‘Someday’ will inspire social dialogue and positive change. ”

Thanks May Ling!

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Remembering Those Who’ve Served

US flag being folded

Today I was able to walk in the sunshine.

To hug my kids.

To take a drive.

To work at home.

To fix dinner for my family.

To help a friend.

To freely choose, plan, dream what I want to do with my life.

I am blessed to live in this country, to have these freedoms we so take for granted. Others have paid that price for me. They’ve paid that price for others, throughout the years.

My dad served in the Vietnam war, now retired Air Force. We didn’t have internet, cell phones and such. My mom and dad wrote a lot of letters back and forth. I remember most the tapes. We had these reel to reel tapes which we’d record for dad. I could never think
of much to say, Mom insisted that we each leave a message for Dad. I was in about the 3rd and 4th grade. Dad would
send back tapes, he always seemed happy, but often you could hear things blowing up in the background.

At that age war seemed far away. Mom kept us busy, went hiking in the mountains, played capture the flag in the backyard with neighborhood kids, cooked cookies, rode bikes, went swimming, played board games in the basement. Sure we missed Dad, but were making new friends, enjoying life, nothing like riding a bike down to the malt shop, seeing a movie. I had an elderly great aunt who lived nearby, and I enjoyed visiting her too. No worries.

Mom was able to meet Dad in Hawaii for a little R & R. My baby brother went with her, rest of us were watched by cousins. Rest of us were jealous. It was nice when Dad came back safely, we never believed it’d be otherwise. With his return cameanother transfer, another move. The innocence of youth.

Couple years later, one of my teachers was recently married to a young pilot. I remember the heartache when we’d heard he’d been
shot down. How could that be so? He’d not been out very long and his wife was expecting their first child.

As we got older, Dad shared more of his experience in Vietnam, lots of scary stuff going on. You’d never know who was your
enemy or friend. His heart went out the the children on the streets, how little they had, the things they had to deal with
at such a young age. How thankful he was knowing we were safe and well cared for in his absence.

I’m thankful for my Dad and others who have served in our military, along with civilian support.

Photo by Vince Alongi

Feel Teal Friday – Support Ovarian Cancer

Thanks to Debbie Stevens and the love she has for her Mom, whom she lost to ovarian cancer. By the time you have the symptoms, it is often too late to do anything for a cure.

If you would like to contribute to the campaign, click on the link in the video. When you purchase Rick Finch’s CD of the new artists for $15.00, 50% of the proceeds will go to the Go Research Fund. It’s a win-win. Rick is the founder of K.C. & the Sunshine Band. To download the CD, go to Rick Finch scroll down to the bottom right of the page.

Hot Water Blues

Hot water is one of those things we take for granted. Hot water heaters don’t last forever. Need replacing from time to time. We use it for so many things, showers, washing clothes, dishes. Things we do everyday. And with me, my husband and my youngest 3 home all summer, hot water is part of our daily life.

About 5 years back we replaced our water heater, bought a new Whirlpool water heater from Lowe’s, but it may have been Home Depot. The heater came with a 6 year warranty. Little did we realize how little that warranty meant.

Woke up one morning, everyone getting up for the start of a new day, scrambling for the showers, and NO HOT WATER! UGH!!!!!!!!!

Frosty morning — cold showers all around, our whirlpool water heater is still under warranty. Let me find their number so they can get someone right out to fix it. 🙁 We discovered that the warranty only covered parts, that they believed we needed a new gas valve. They would send us one right out, would take a week or so. Meanwhile we made do with no hot water or relighting the pilot light on a regular basis. Soon it won’t stay lite at all. Finally the part comes in, my husband spends hours replacing the part while the family looks forward to hot water. Pilot light on and we have hot water! Yeah! Next morning we get up and no hot water. 🙁 Turns out the problem was a faulty thermocoupler, we replace it, Voila! Hot water!

Couple years later, same story, wake up, no hot water. Call whirlpool. Yes, they can ship us another thermocoupler, but if we want the part to arrive quickly, we must pay an extra $20+ shipping. Not wanting to go two weeks without hot water, and knowing that the part is less than $10 we head to Lowe’s for a replacement. Bad news. It is a left-hand thread thermacoupler. No one carries them anymore. Have to get one from the company. Determined to get me back in hot water, my husband checks many places in town and finds me one. Replaces it and we are back in hot water. A good thing in this case.

Summer now, thank goodness. Still, we all look forward to warm showers. No hot water again! Ok, the pilot light is out again. Relight it and warm water for a short time. Call whirlpool again. Not it isn’t the thermocoupler we are told, it is the gas valve. We will ship a new part, it will be there Monday. (Reasonable shipping, I’d called on a Friday). Problem is it is doing the same thing it has done the past 2 times, each time it was the thermocoupler and there are no left-hand threaded ones available locally. I call back. We think it is the thermocoupler. We were told they believe it is the gas valve and have already shipped me one. Ok I said, but if it is the thermocoupler we will need a new one, can’t buy one locally, don’t want to wait for 2nd part to ship. No worry I was told, there’d be some kind of adaptor and we could go to Lowes and pick up a new right handed one locally. I call to double check on the adaptor for my husband and can’t get through to Whirlpool’s customer service.

Monday comes, and I’m looking forward to hot water on demand. Part comes in as promised. No promised adapter. If we replace the part and it is the thermocoupler as we believe, then it will be no hot water again. May not even be able to relight the pilot for short-term warm water. Who knows what it will take to get a new thermocoupler. My husband wants either an adaptor in hand or a new thermocoupler before doing the repair job.

Calling Whirlpool again, they should know me by now. Open to suggestions.

Easier to just buy another water heater? Yes, but if we do it will be the last thing we buy from Whirlpool. My Whirlpool washer has done a great job, over a dozen years washing clothes for all 7 kids. Still working. But my water water has had major issues, a design flaw of some sort in my opinion. Tired of waking up to no hot water. Send suggestions my way and I’ll keep you posted on how all this works out with Whirlpool customer service.

Whirlpool says Lowes now stocks the conversion kits, to pick one up and they’ll pay me back. Lowe’s says they have it. No wait on either customer service line. May have hot water yet.