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5 04, 2013

I live in a zoo

By |2013-04-05T06:51:51-05:00April 5th, 2013|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|2 Comments

A Guest Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Matt Damon bought his zoo on purpose, but I live in a Zoo where I never know what will arrive next.

Guinea pigs in the girls’ room.

Dachshunds everywhere.

Chickens way out there in the backyard.

Bearded dragon in the front living room behind glass.

Quail in the garage, growing up fast.

Goose eggs, hatching.

Big dogs in the back yard, where they belong.

It’s fun to live in zoo. Most of the time.

This morning Matt yelled on his way to the kitchen, “Mom, there’s a snake on my floor!”

Word must have gotten out that we have our own farm aka zoo, and all animals are welcome. Well, that’s not entirely true and someone forgot to tell the snake.

It was only a small rough earth snake and Beekeeper Brian came to the rescue.

I do wonder where it went when Brian let it loose outside.

I don’t want to hear, while fixing coffee in the morning, that there’s a snake in the kitchen.

That’s where I draw the line for living in a zoo!

3 04, 2013

WORD CLOUDS

By |2013-04-03T06:19:09-05:00April 3rd, 2013|one word Wednesday|0 Comments

Today I’m sharing word cloud generators. Word cloud programs make it easy to create your personal word clouds.  

A Google search will list many. Tech&Learning offers a review of ten sites here.

I’ve selected three sites that I’ve had fun with and all three are easy to use.

Word clouds are great for promotional materials and presentations. I also create clouds to help me visualize characters and settings.

Wordle The Pendant's Promise-1

I used Wordle to create word cloud above. Wordle is the king of word cloud generators and produces awesome results with full editing capabilities. No log-in or email are required. Program allows printing, in order to save right click on Wordle picture and save as a jpeg and or make a screen print.

MyCloud

ABC Ya created this cloud. Final results that allow for font change, color change, and a randomized layout.  Save options are in jpeg format and there are print options. It’s an easy application that kids will enjoy using.

word fun

I created the word cloud on the right with Tagxedo, a beta-released word cloud application that offers various cloud shapes. The only way I could get it to print was using Print Screen then pasting into Paint. Not a big problem because the shapes are fun.

Have fun creating your own personal word clouds. Click on the program names to link to the sites.

YOUR TURN: Can you think of ways to use word clouds?

1 04, 2013

Six steps to tame an email dragon

By |2013-04-01T06:07:44-05:00April 1st, 2013|Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

As I promised last week, I’ve studied my email dragon and I’m suggesting six steps to tame an email dragon. dragonI understand how he grew to be such consuming demon.

I’ve always had a decent volume of email. Once I published The Pendant’s Promise that decent volume increased dramatically. After all, I had a book to promote.

I started a blog, signed up for FB and Twitter, and reader sites like Shelfari and Goodreads. As my visibility online grew, it compounded incoming mail.

Type A that I am, I felt obliged to stay “on top” of these emails and be responsive to my readers and community members.

Things quickly grew out of control. Then I discovered 900 emails in my inbox, I knew, clearly, it was time to tame the dragon.

But how?

Here are the six steps I’m taking.

1. Analyze

How much incoming email am I receiving daily? What types of messages? How urgent are these emails, really?

As I studied my avalanche of email, I concluded:

  • Total messages per day was close to 200.
  • Few emails contain truly urgent information.

Armed with these insights, I began to take action. My first course of action was to stop email at its source.

2. Unsubscribe

Over time, interests and needs change. Yet I continue to subscribe to dozens of newsletters and blogs that aren’t pertain to my current activities.

Systematically, I evaluated those newsletters and blogs I receive and unsubscribed to those that no longer provided information I need or want.

The result: my volume of email shrank.

Besides news and blog emails, I also receive a ton of social-media notices. LinkedIn sends an email each day. Facebook notifies me every time someone replies to a comment I’ve left or a friend updates his or her status. Each tweet also means an email.

Each notification brings the temptation to waste time on social media sites. I’m rethinking those daily notifications. I generally visit the social sites at least once a day anyway.

3. Read the subject-line

Instead of opening every email and reading a bit before deciding whether to delete, I now read the subject line, and if I suspect it’s something I don’t need to read, I delete it right then.

We all have favorite blogs. I’ve come to realize I don’t necessarily need to read every post the bloggers put up.

4. Delete

I used to save emails automatically because they were from X blog or newsletter. No more.

For the majority of the 900 emails I had accumulated in my inbox I sorted by sender, read the subject lines, and simply deleted whole clumps of emails. Bye-bye — zap! — gone.

Immediately, I felt a 100-pound weight lift from my shoulders.

5. Set Rules

Most email programs offer an option where the user can set up rules to automatically route email to an appropriate folder. This saves time because only important emails show up in your main inbox.

  • Caveat: This doesn’t work for me. I have a basic distrust of letting computers think for me. What if some time-sensitive email went to the wrong folder?

I have all emails come initially into my main inbox. I employ #3 above and, if there is something I want to save in a folder for future reading, I move the email into folders I’ve created, same as I used to do when I was a Department of Army Civilian secretary.

6. Use a Timer

FlyLady says, “A kitchen timer is our friend.” She’s correct!

I used to set my kitchen timer and limit my email time to fifteen minutes a.m., afternoon, and p.m. Mary Buckham’s comment suggestion on last week’s blog reminded me I needed to apply the timer again.

My goal is to spend no more than an hour a day checking email. I want to delete, file, or respond to each message and move on to writing.

Will these six steps completely de-flame my email dragon? I don’t know, but I do know applying them seems to be bringing him under my submission.

YOUR TURN: How about you? What ways do you keep email under control?

29 03, 2013

Substitute Chickens

By |2013-03-29T17:18:50-05:00March 29th, 2013|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|1 Comment

A guest blogger by Chicken Wrangler Sara

 I spent one week in south Texas away from home, without my chickens.

After only a couple of days, I spent another week away from home.

This time heading north to Colorado to help my parents make a permanent move there. With snow still on the ground, I didn’t expect to see any chickens.

However, the wild turkeys paid a visit.

turkeys and deer

Turkeys aren’t the same as chickens, but they are fowl and, in a pinch, provided my chicken fix.

The mule deer looking for food also provided a delightful diversion. We threw bird seed to supplement the slim pickings on the frozen landscape. The turkeys didn’t seem to mind sharing.

But I think I’ve solved my problem of missing my chickens when I’m away from home.

At school this week, the younger classes celebrated Easter. Of course, no elementary school party is complete without decorated cupcakes. A top each cupcake was a different Easter trinket.

I chose one with a chicken ring.

chicken ring cropped

Now I can have a chicken with me wherever I go. Fortunately, I don’t plan to go anywhere for a while.

Back to adventures on the Miller Farm next week.

25 03, 2013

I’m drowning in email. Are you?

By |2013-03-25T06:26:08-05:00March 25th, 2013|Make Me Think Monday|5 Comments

For two weeks we’ve packed, hauled away unwanted stuff, shared last-time-living-in-the-same-city meals with family and friends, packed our household, loaded a trailer and a U-Haul, and drove one thousand miles to our new home.

There was no time to spend on the computer checking email. Conversations were via text or cell phone.

I did skim email for personal correspondence, but didn’t stop to read or delete all the other email that came in. Every day I watched the total grow.

You've got mailNewsletters, blogs, group digests, notifications from social media… an email tsunami.

When I checked today, I have over 900 emails in my inbox.

I can’t believe it. I’m drowning in email.

The whole situation makes me realize I’m handling over one hundred emails per day. That much email reading has to be cutting into my writing time and productivity.

I think it’s time to analyze my email. Something I’ve never done.

Do I need to be receiving that many newsletters, blogs, group digests, and notifications?

I’m not sure.

I am sure that culling through all the emails I’ve accumulated will take time even if it’s time pressing the delete key.

Time I don’t have with all those boxes to unpack and a deadline looming.

Email has got to be tamed.

What about you? Does your email cut into your productivity?

Next Monday, I’ll be sharing some tips on how I plan to wrestle my email situation into submission.

Be sure to stop by and, in the meantime, if you have any tips, please share.

22 03, 2013

Chickens, Chickens Everywhere!

By |2013-03-22T05:45:06-05:00March 22nd, 2013|Friday on the Miller Farm, Guest blogger, Miller Farm Friday|4 Comments

A Guest Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

I recently spent a week in South Texas with Go Mission leaving my beloved chickens in the capable hands of vet-in-training Rachel.

The first morning of the trip I was walking the fence line of the property where we were working and surprise–I ran across…chickens!

I guess my Chicken Wrangler reputation has spread further than I knew.

There were two pens, one with a hen and rooster and one with a hen and chicks.

I will say they were not as pretty as our chickens, but then I’m sure they never got the royal treatment we give our hens.

south tx chicks2south tx chickens

Each day after that, I made sure to check on the chickens – just like at home. The only thing was I could not feed them but I could talk to them.

Later in the week, I was walking through a neighborhood with a group of youth inviting children to our Bible Club. One man had chickens roaming around his yard.

I talked to him about them (in Spanish), but was unable to come up with a translation for “chicken wrangler.”  I didn’t get pictures of these birds as they spent most of their time under the brush out of the sun.

Getting away from the day-to-day chores of life is refreshing, and I loved working with Habitat and Bible clubs.

But, I must say, I was very glad to be able to get my “chicken fix” while far from our birds. It kept me from missing my chickens so much.

18 03, 2013

Taking a Break

By |2013-03-18T06:39:36-05:00March 18th, 2013|Make Me Think Monday, Uncategorized|0 Comments

I am taking a break from blog writing today.

Well, I’m not taking a real break. I’m actually in the proces of loading a moving truck for the final leg of our tipping point adventure. [More on the adventure later.]

So I’m offering this adorable video instead of my usual lengthy blog to motivate or make you think.

Why don’t you take a break, too, and watch?

As you watch, note how many children’s storybook characters you recognize and can name.

Did you spot a favorite?

15 03, 2013

Chicken Math

By |2013-03-15T06:34:16-05:00March 15th, 2013|Friday on the Miller Farm, Guest blogger, Miller Farm Friday|1 Comment

A Guest Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Last week, Whitey – the hen who had the hurt leg and we nursed back to health – was once again walking funny.

We knew it couldn’t be a result of roosters jumping on her because the roosters were all at freezer camp. Chicken doctor Rachel diagnosed her as egg bound.

Egg bound means there was an egg that for some reason was stuck. The remedy was to put the hen in warm water for 30 minutes every two hours until the egg is laid.

We figured the best place for a warm water bath was an ice chest.

Whitney

We let her soak in her “hot tub” for thirty minutes and then brought her inside to dry off.

When this didn’t seem to make much difference, Rachel discovered that Whitey did not have an egg, but a tumor, which would not come out regardless of how many times we let her soak.

I did wonder at one point as I watched her hang on to life, if there was a “chicken hospice” organization. I’m sure someone could start one, but not sure, if others would pay for their services.

The sad fact was our Whitney was destined to die. A very sad fact, but nonetheless a fact. We all shed a few tears when Whitey did die.

Rachel went to the feed store later that week and bought nine baby chicks.

new chicks

Whitey was, indeed, a very special chicken if it took nine chicks to replace her.

We also have 24 eggs in the incubator due to hatch next week, but Rachel went to the feed store again and came home with two more chicks.

(She did ask me first. I figured what’s two more in our ever-growing flock.)

So now, we have potentially thirty-five new birds after losing one.

Rachel calls it Chicken Math.

I find it at least as confusing as regular math.

13 03, 2013

One Word Wednesday – EMOTION

By |2013-03-13T06:47:29-05:00March 13th, 2013|one word Wednesday, writing, Writing Craft|1 Comment

The chief goal of a writer is to engage the reader. How do we do that?

EMOTION

We dig deep within ourselves and find what motivated us and inject that emotion into our characters.

I like the way Hemingway said it here:

SOURCE: tumblr_md88wbST7l1rnvzfwo1_500

SOURCE: tumblr_md88wbST7l1rnvzfwo1_500

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It isn’t!

If you’re having a hard time getting EMOTION on the page, check out these resources:

1. Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias
This book should be on every writer’s resource shelf. The pages of Iglesias’ book are loaded with tips and techniques.

2. The Emotional Thesaurus
Another “bible” for writers. These authors have compiled a fabulous resource with specific examples for adding gestures to convey emotion.

3. The Bookshelf Muse
A must read blog with great tips for adding emotion to the page.

Now go do what Hemingway says, “Find what gave you emotion,” then give that emotion to your character so your reader feels what you felt.

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