Oldfangled

The new site is up!  Take a look: Oldfangled.Wordpress.com

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Changes!

Greetings, lovely readers.

Since it’s the season for giving thanks, the first thing I want to do is thank you for reading and commenting.  I really enjoy writing, and it’s nice to have an audience.  I think that by continuing to write, I’m developing my style and my interests, and that’s really fun for me.  I hope it’s fun for you, too.

I’ve been blogging for about a year and a half, and I’m ready to make some BIG changes!

As time has passed, I’ve realized that Small Town Runner isn’t the best name for my site or my online identity.  I am a runner, and I do live in a small town, but those characteristics are only a small part of who I am.  I really started thinking about what really, truly characterizes me, and the name Small Town Runner just doesn’t quite do it.

Also, I’ve been wanting to have my own domain name.  The idea for an online identity shift (sounds like a psychiatric disorder!) was affected by that desire as well, because as I looked into getting my own domain, there was already a blog called SmallTownRunner.com (although it hadn’t been updated in years) and a Twitter account with the user name @SmallTownRunner (so I had to change mine to @Small_Town_Runr, which I never really liked.)

In thinking about getting my own domain, I also decided that I wanted to shift to another platform that would give me more flexibility with what my site looks like (for example, having multiple dynamic pages and more control over design templates) while still remaining very easy to use.  I don’t want to learn HTML or CSS.

So the changes are coming in December!  I’ll be changing my site to one powered by Squarespace, and I’ll have a new name and a new identity.  The new site will still have much of what I have been doing — talk of food, gardening, home life, running, and becoming debt free — but I’m going to add some new things, too.

One of the first items I’m going to add is menu planning. I know that if I don’t have a plan, I tend to wander around the kitchen, staring into the cupboards until I’m ravenous.  I bet a lot of you are that way, too.  Planning my meals has been a huge sanity-saver for me.  I am very lucky in the fact that my husband is a fabulous cook and helps out a lot with meal preparation.  But a lot of households have just one person trying to plan and cook meals every day, and they would love to have a list of ideas to choose from.  While there may be more comprehensive menu plans out there, I hope the one I have will be a good starting place for fellow kitchen-wanderers.  And it will be FREE!

I’ve got other ideas on additions to the site, as well, but I want to do a little at a time so I don’t overwhelm myself.

In just a couple of days, I’ll put up another post pointing you to my new website.  I hope to import all my other blog posts to the new site, too, so everything will be kept together.

If you happen to follow me on Twitter, you’ve already started to see some changes.  But fret not.  You’ll get the whole scoop soon.

The Small Town Runner site will be quiet for a few days while I get everything worked out.  I hope it won’t take too long, and I intend to be blogging at the new place by the second week of December, and maybe even by December 1.

I hope you’ll continue to follow me in my new location with my new name!

Get 15% off Hope for the Barren Heart

There’s a special running right now: use coupon code FALLREAD305 and get 15% off Hope for the Barren Heart through October 16, 2010.

I read kid books.

Being laid up for a while has me stocking up on books.  (And knitting projects.  And DVDs.)  And since I’m thinking about books, I thought I’d pass on to you some good ones I’ve recently read.

My favorite books are those in the genre of young adult fiction.  You know, books written for teens.  I know, I’m not a teenager anymore (haven’t even been carded in several years!) but I still like the books aimed at teens.  They tend to be engaging, quick-moving, and easy to read.  I especially enjoy fantasy books.

Recently, I was in my local library and picked up a book called Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George.

George’s book is based on a fairy tale called “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.”  I don’t recall ever hearing that particular fairy tale, and you should know that you won’t feel at all lost when reading the book if you aren’t familiar with the tale.  The story follows a nameless girl as she lives with her family in the Nordic north and discovers her unusual talent to communicate with animals.  This gift becomes very important when a frightening snow bear comes to her home, and the girl agrees to go away with him in exchange for wealth that her family so needs.  Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow is so well-written, that I had an extremely hard time putting it down.  I always take a book to work with me to read at lunch, but this time, I would sneak in little reads during work — like when I had to wait on a program to load, or some papers to print.  I think it would be pretty accurate (metaphorically, of course) to say that I devoured this book.  The author has several other books which are not at my library, but which I’d like to find through inter-library loan in the hopes that they are as wonderful as this one.

Another great book is Graceling by Kristin Cashore.  (Sorry, you can’t actually click to look inside unless you go to the Amazon page for this book.)

This book is about a land, set roughly in medieval times, where there are individuals who have “graces,” or special powers that others don’t have.  Graces can range from being extraordinarily good at math or a fantastic swimmer to having the ability to read minds.  The story focuses on one young woman, Katsa, who finds that her grace is killing.  Katsa must come to terms with her grace and how the King of her country wishes to use her.  The story follows Katsa as she develops strength of character and learns to love and trust others.  Another very good book.

Fire is a companion book to Graceling.

The author contends that you don’t have to have read Graceling in order to understand Fire.  While I agree with that, I do think that if you read Fire first, there is a surprise in Graceling that will be ruined for you.  Maybe it’s not something that is critical to the plot, but I think that Graceling would be a little less enjoyable to read if you already know the story of one of the characters in Fire.  When I read Fire, I was expecting and hoping for a book as engaging as Graceling.  I admit I was a little bit disappointed.  Fire is still a good book, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d liked the first book.   The title character is a “monster” in her land.  A monster in this book is something that looks for the most part like others in its species, but with very vibrant colors.  A gray kitten is a kitten.  A cobalt blue kitten is a monster kitten.  Fire is a human woman, but a monster.  Part of her monster power is that she can read and control thoughts.  The story follows Fire as she learns to use her power on behalf of her King and other leaders, and yet not be manipulated into doing things she doesn’t believe in.  Fire seemed more complicated to me than Graceling, to the point where I sometimes had to think really hard about which character was which.  Also, while I liked the characters, I didn’t find them quite as engaging as those in Graceling.  Nonetheless, I did enjoy the book.  The author has another book, Bitterblue, coming out soon, and I intend to find it and read it when it arrives at my library.

Now tell me: What books can you recommend for me?

New Book: Hope for the Barren Heart

It’s not something we talk about much, but Chef and I can’t have children.

Our medical diagnosis is such that standard infertility medications and procedures won’t work for us.  There is one option to try, but it’s pricey, and of course it’s not guaranteed to work.  We tried adoption, but it’s a difficult and expensive option, and we had some experiences that closed that door indefinitely, if not permanently.

Right now, we’re pretty happy with where we are.  I recently told Chef that I think we have a pretty great life.  I love the spontaneity we’re able to have since we don’t have little ones in tow.  I like being able to sleep in on weekends and eat popcorn for dinner if I want to.   I like not having to plan my life around nap times and meal times.

But infertility does certainly hurt.  When you’re infertile, you can’t do something that seems completely easy and natural to most people — have a baby.  That can be really, really hard.  It can be hard to see completely irresponsible teenagers getting pregnant when you and your spouse, who are responsible adults, can’t.  It can be hard to have siblings or friends — especially friends who got married around the same time you did, or after — grow their families year by year.  It can be hard when each month, a visit to the bathroom proves that once again, you’re not pregnant.  It can be hard to have people give you stupid advice (“Just relax and it will happen!”) or make stupid jokes (“Are you sure you’re doing it right?”) or say things they somehow think will be helpful but aren’t (“Oh, you’re young.  You have plenty of time.”)  It can be hard to read “Ask and you will receive” (Luke 11:9) when you’ve been asking but you’re not receiving what you’re asking for.  It can be hard to feel like God has abandoned you.

Several years ago, some friends and I were working through our feelings on infertility.  We determined that we all needed better relationships with God in order to make it through what we were facing.  We took turns writing devotions for each other, and we joked that we should put them into a book.

Well, I finally did.  I took the devotions I had written and added more.  Hope for the Barren Heart is a devotional intended for the infertile Christian woman.  Here is a link:  Hope for the Barren Heart

If you are infertile, or if you know someone who is (and since infertility affects about 12% of the population, you probably do), I’d be honored if you’d take a look at the link, and maybe buy a book.

Spring

It isn’t officially spring until this Saturday (the Vernal Equinox), but I’ve put away my snow pants and my winter coats.  For the most part, I’ve even stopped wearing a jacket.  (Sometimes I’m cold as a result, but jackets are for fall and winter, and by the time spring rolls around, I really want to stop wearing them.)

At my house, spring means mud.  Our dogs have a portion of our back yard all to themselves, and instead of nurturing the plot of earth we gave to them, they ran wildly around until all the grass was worn away.  Each fall, I pile the raked leaves into “the dog yard” as we call it, and the dogs play in the leaves until the leaves are completely mulched and disintegrated.  The dog yard is just plain dirt.  When spring rains come, the dirt turns to mud.  The dogs (oh so generously) bring the mud into the house.  This means that there are perpetually towels just inside the kitchen door (which opens onto the dog yard) with the hope that the muddy feet will be at least slightly cleaned by the towels and there won’t be mud all over the house.  It works a little bit.  Even so, my kitchen floor is dirty, and it seems hardly worth it to give it a scrubbing until the weather dries out.

In my town, spring means water, and lots of it.  The park where I often run is nestled nicely between a creek and a river, and if you go to the far corner of the park you can sit on the banks and watch the two meet up in a delight of swirling eddies.  It’s really pretty.  This also means that the park floods every spring because the river swells and the creek swells, and they try to join up in the middle of the park.  The paved path is often covered over with water.  Unless I want to run in sloshy shoes, I generally avoid running in the park this time of year until the waters recede.

Water also infiltrates my house.  Our basement gets puddles as the snow melts and the rains come.   Sometimes the puddles are small and I can step over them.  Right now, though, after huge amounts of February snow have melted and an inch of rain on Friday saturated the ground completely, I have to wear shoes to do the laundry in the basement.  (I tried slippers, but the water soaked right through and I ended up with wet socks.

I was visiting my friends Chris and Rachael last Saturday for a fabulous brunch (which I especially appreciated because I had just exercised for a rather ridiculous three hours) and Chris, who is from South Africa, said, “What’s that saying?  April showers…”

I said, “April showers bring May flowers.”  And then, I couldn’t help myself.  “You know what May flowers bring?”

“What?” he asked.

Even before it was out of my mouth, I thought he might not get the joke because he didn’t grow up here, but I’d already started it so I had to finish it.  “Pilgrims!”

Chris laughed.  “You took quite a risk telling that joke to a foreigner!”

Yes, but it worked.

That was my lame attempt at a segue from rain to flowers.  Don’t judge me; I’m getting back into the groove of writing, after all, and you can’t expect perfection.

People keep saying that flowers are coming up in their yards, but I’ve looked and I haven’t seen much in mine.  Friend Gina pointed out some tiny green sprouts the other day, and I think those are Stars of Bethlehem coming up.

I used to pull these up each spring because I thought it was just grass or weeds.  Last year, though, I was too busy to pull weeds so I let them grow, and I was happily surprised to see these pretty little flowers.  We always had them in our yard when I was growing up, and I remember picking lots of them to put in a juice glass to give to my mom.  See, there’s justification for not pulling weeds — you might be pulling up pretty flowers unintentionally!

Spring means running outdoors instead of on the treadmill, and I’m excited about that.  It also means that I can start hanging my laundry on the line instead of putting it in the dryer (on days when it isn’t raining, of course.)  Apparently, spring also means a new look for my blog, so I hope you like it.

Oh, and spring means I start thinking of house projects.  Our house needs to be painted like nobody’s business.  Also, we bought a canoe last year (before we started on our path to debt-freedom, but at least we didn’t go into debt for it) and it needs to be sanded and painted as well.  And I wish I could have a garden, but our lot is too shady.  But spring means the Farmers’ Markets will start back up soon.  I’m so excited about that.  Oh, and Chef and I have already started talking about when we might take our first camping trip of the season.

Spring is by far my favorite season, and I’m glad it’s here.

On the Side

I mentioned previously that I wanted to find some sort of extra job to supplement our income in order to get out of debt faster.  The problem was that due to my busy schedule, it had to be something very part time, something that I could do whenever I had a chance, and something with no major deadlines.

I had signed up with an online company that matched writers with companies needing writing.  But the competition looked fierce, and I didn’t feel I had the experience to help me get chosen for projects or the time to put into what could be extensive assignments.

Nicole from Rainy Day Saver commented on my post and suggested that I check out Demand Studios.  Here’s what she said:

I encourage you to check out Demand Studios (www.demandstudios.com) — it’s an online content provider that provides copy to websites like eHow and Livestrong. I’ve been with them for 18 months, and they pay via PayPal twice a week. Sign up, and after they accept your application (they seem to accept most anybody), you can choose the titles/articles you want and complete them within seven days. Payment ranges from $7.50 to $25, depending on length/format. It’s something that you can do on the side when your already hectic schedule allows it. I write for them for $$$ to supplement my FT job and help us knock out our debt.

So I did check them out.  I applied and just a couple of days later got accepted.  I started looking through the titles I was interested in writing about, and found one on running shoes.  “Hey,” I thought, “this is something I know about.  I can do this.”  So I did, and it got accepted and I got $7.50.

I looked more, and couldn’t find anything else that I already knew about.  But I figured that most of these items weren’t hard to find out about with a little Internet research, so next I wrote one about deep pocket sheets (you know, the kind you use if you have a pillow top mattress.)  That one was also accepted, and I got paid another $7.50.

By this time I had realized that you don’t really have to know about the topic you’re writing about.  You just have to be willing to do a little research and be able to synthesize the information you gather.  I can do that.  My next article was about handkerchiefs vs. pocket squares, and and the next compared down with down-alternative comforters.

These articles will eventually be published on eHow.com or Answerbag.com or Pluck on Demand (a site I’d never heard of before) and other places.  They aren’t terribly interesting, but the work isn’t hard, and I’m learning little bits about a variety of topics.  Most importantly, I’m getting paid for writing!  It was really less than a year ago that I realized that I enjoy writing and would like to do more of it.  It’s what started this blog.  Unfortunately, I don’t get paid for this blog (though I’ve considered shamelessly asking for donations, so don’t be surprised if you see a Donate page here in the next few weeks!)  The blog is fun, and it gives me practice with writing on any subject that pops into my head.

But it’s really nice to get paid for it.  And $7.50 isn’t a lot, but if I write two articles a week at $7.50 each for a year, that’s $780.  Not enough to make a living on, but enough to help pay down our debt.

And that is really exciting.

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