Category Archives: Writing

Start Where You Are – Setting Goals You Can Achieve

Start Where you Aree

Perfect for the start of a new year – start where you are.

Goal: the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.

Resolution: a firm decision to do or not do something.

Some people set goals, some people set resolutions for the new year, and some people do both. For me, the connotation of “resolution” is different from goal – or at least it can be.  For me a resolution is a “New Year’s Resolution,” something set for what you want to do in the new year (or even stop doing in the new year).  A goal, on the other hand, can be a longer-range activity.  Perhaps there is no real difference or my interpretation is wrong.  At any rate, I have personally found it more helpful to set goals rather than resolutions.

To set my goals (long term and short term), I consider different areas of my life:

  • Mind
  • Body
  • Soul or Spirituality
  • Financial
  • Family
  • Social
  • Community
  • Work
  • Self-Development
  • Miscellaneous

I also consider both long-term and short-term goals.  I don’t like to look too far ahead so I might set five-year goals, three-year goals, and one-year goals.  Those can all typically be broken down into smaller goals, which will be easier to work into monthly goal lists, as well as weekly goal lists.

Once goals are broken down like that, it is easy (or easier) to see what steps can be taken daily to move closer to achieving goals.

Things to remember when setting goals:

  • Make sure you have goals that will make you stretch.  If they are all immediately do-able, you won’t feel you’ve really achieved anything once you’re done.
  • Make sure that you are fairly reasonable.  For example, if you are 40 and out of shape, the goal “Become an NFL running back” isn’t really something you can expect to accomplish.
  • Keep your goals where you can see them regularly.  It can help keep you motivated.
  • Review weekly or at least monthly to see any progress you’ve made, and also to determine where you need to refocus.
  • Reward yourself for achievements, even if it is a small reward.
  • Set goals that motivate you – if you aren’t motivated by them, you won’t work hard to achieve them or even follow through on them.
  • Have someone hold you accountable – basically, TELL someone what your goals are and have them check with you periodically.
  • Keep your goals written down.  Just the act of writing them down reinforces your goals.



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April 2015 – Useful Websites

I am not affiliated with any of these websites.  I have simply found them in my internet wanderings and found them interesting or helpful.




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Commonplace Books – What They Are and Reasons to Keep One

Commonplace 1

What is a commonplace book?  Well, it seems that it is something that I’ve kept most of my life.  It isn’t a journal or diary or travel log; it is far different than those.  A journal or diary typically contain a daily record of events or business.  A travel log may contain details of various trips, purposes behind them and so on.  A commonplace book is very different in originally it would contain quotes, thoughts, proverbs and other “wisdom” that the keeper wanted to remember.  Some were copy books.  Others, like Carl Linnaeus’, organized something systematically; he  used commonplacing techniques to invent and arrange the nomenclature of his Systema Naturae.  Per Wikipedia, “Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and scholars as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator’s particular interests.”

I tended to make my early versions into notebooks full (or mostly full) of little tidbits. My earlier notebooks were mostly quotes that I liked, books I wanted to read or that others recommended to me, the occasional movie title and description, and so on.   I have found that I keep different types or combinations of things in my commonplace books, depending on how my life is going at the moment or what is going on in my life.  When I have tough times, I tend to include humorous stories, funny cartoons, jokes, upbeat and inspirational quotes and websites that I find helpful.  I also have noticed my mood changes or shifts by the books that I note in my commonplace book.  I think commonplace books offer a different way to note and track changes in our lives.  I have also kept these at work as well, with the topics mirroring work I was doing, concerns I had, or things I needed to remember or to do.  Of course, with work documents, caution is advised; proprietary information must be protected. Always, always, always follow corporate policy with regard to company information.  (I am definitely not advocating information theft!) Someone following behind me may have found my tips and ideas helpful – or they may have just shredded them.

What can a commonplace book be used for?  Well, practically anything.  It can be a useful note-taking tool  while writing a book; you can keep research notes, books to use, character name ideas, location descriptions and more.  It can be useful in defining an idea – keeping all of the details flowing but allowing you to notate everything in one location.  It can be used to create a reference of inspirational quotes that you found useful – quotes specifically helpful to YOU, not necessarily everyone else.  It can be used to help organize your thoughts, your day, your studies. A combination of quotes and commentary on books read can be helpful as well.  The ideas for usage are limitless – well, perhaps limited only by imagination!  I am thinking of keeping one for my blogs;  I think it would be helpful to keep research notes, topic ideas, scheduling, and more all in one place.  Of course, I might also make that one section of a commonplace book.


Benefits of Keeping a Commonplace Book

A commonplace book may be an old idea, but definitely not outdated.  Today’s commonplace book may even look different; now, rather than writing things down, you can keep them electronically.  This allows for storage of words, images, videos, and all sorts of medias, all in one place.  Other benefits include:

  • Reinforcing learning – many people remember things better if they write things down.
  • Accumulation of information in one readily accessible location
  • Increased creativity – it can help us see patterns in various pieces of information, and help us create or discover connections.
  • Filter information – a commonplace book can help you filter the overwhelming amount of information that bombards us daily.  This is a place to record only what is significant or seems significant.
  • Organizing thoughts – basically making order out of chaos.  If you organize your thoughts in the book, you can see development and change over time; you can also see flaws in logic and so forth when you go back to previous notations

Whether you keep an electronic or a paperback version depends on what your goals are, what your preferences are, and perhaps which one is more frequently available to you.  An electronic version may allow you to include kinds of media such as videos, music, and images.  It can also be accessed from anywhere with internet access if you keep it online.  On the other hand, in a power outage, you lose access.  In addition, a paper version requires personal writing, which can aid memory.

Steps for Keeping a Commonplace Book

  1. Electronic or paper?  Choose your medium.  Weigh the benefits of both and chose the best one for your circumstances and preferences.  Blogs can be used for this, as can Pinterest and other similar sites, at least to some extent. I have also seen suggestions for Evernote, Tumnblr, and OnSwipe, among others.  Frankly, I prefer pen and paper.  For me, actually physically writing something out helps me remember things better than typing them out.  In addition, I can doodle, draw, and sketch to my heart’s delight. Others find electronic versions more appropriate or desirable.  Some of the benefits of keeping it electronically are portability, ability to combine pictures, calendars, notes, and more; in addition, electronic versions are more readily divided into sections, arranged and re-arranged.
  2. Contents?  Well, some people record quotes that they find interesting or thought-provoking.  Others use them as almost a reading journal, listing books that they want to or do read, thoughts on what they’ve read, and reactions to the reading.  Other people record recipes, notes, ideas, life lessons, heroes, song lyrics, clippings from newspapers, and important pictures. There are people who create music commonplace books,
  3. Another thing to consider is organization.  If you don’t organize your book in some way, you will struggle to find any information when you want it.  One idea is a section for list of books to read, another for quotes from the book, and interpretations and other material.    Ways to create sections depend on the medium you are using; there are tabs (permanent and sticky-note type) that you can add to blank books, you can use tabs in 3-ring notebooks, and you can break up blogs into pages or use labels/tags as well.  Organize before you start writing; trust me, it is easier this way!  I didn’t do this with my early versions and I found them difficult to work with in the end.  Some people organize their books by project.  Others use their commonplace books as devotional work, research records, or work toward a book.

Well-known People Who Kept Commonplace Books

H. P. Lovecraft

John Locke

Francis Bacon

E. M. Forster –

  • Clarissa Harlowe. Have read 1/3 of. Long books, when read, are usually overpraised, because the reader wants to convince others and himself that he has not wasted his time.”
    (E.M. Forster in 1926, excerpt from Commonplace Book, ed. by Philip Gardner. Stanford Univ. Press, 1988)

Victor Hugo

Washington Irving

John Hancock

Commonplace 2


My current commonplace book is a Miquelrius notebook with a soft leather cover.  At the moment it is rather similar to a day planner, with calendars added in by me and notes on weekly activities.  However, it is much more than that.  I have made note of sites that I’ve found helpful over approximately the last eight months (like PopClogs), as well as inspirational quotes and things that I need to remember.  I’ve noted my daughter’s height and weight changes between visits to her doctor, which has shown that she is steadily growing, not too fast and not too slow.  I’ve included lists of books that I’ve checked out and enjoyed, books that I want to buy eventually, and books that others have recommended to me.  All in all, it is a convenient bundle of information, readily accessible anytime it is needed.


Suggested reading and sources of information for this article:

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  • Rainy Day 2Rainy day activities

    • – this has some great ideas, including painting, using a laundry basket as a boat, and more.  The site is great – there are other ideas, such as crafts, activities and tutorials.  I highly recommend checking it out.
    • – I really like Oprah’s website overall anyway; there are categories for spiritual, health, relationships, books and more, as well as videos, newsletters.  This particular list is really nice.  There are games like Binocular Scavenger Hunt and Paper Airplane Relay, as well as Family Fashion Show and greeting cards that you can plant.
    • – I’ve never checked out before, but I’m going to now.  This is a great list – very creative.  One idea involves cutting a pool noodle lengthwise and racing marbles in the groove!  I know my seven-year-old loves to see how fast things go.  He’d love this.  Another idea that I love is creating an indoor herb garden; this is a bit more involved and requires some preparation but it is lovely and will eventually be very useful.
    • – this site is wonderful, especially if you want to teach your children about environmental issues.  The list of rainy day activities is good as well.  It includes cooking (baking), beading with found objects, and dress-up (not the usual kind – take the opportunity to try on clothes the kids might be getting ready to grow into!).  Other ideas include wrapping up and going to jump in puddles (after all, you DO go play in the snow – why not splash a little?)
    • – this list also has some cute ideas, such as Racing Water drops, Playing in the Bath, Shaving Cream, Tracing Finger on a Track (developing fine motor skills), and Creating a Sensory Tub.
    • –  these are not all aimed at adults, but they certainly CAN be adult activities: movie marathon, have a craft day, sort photos, fix broken things, sort out cupboards, bake a batch of cookies or bread, take a long indulgent bath, or work on mending.  Other ideas away from home include going to an art gallery, go to the library, visit a shut-in, volunteer somewhere you can make a difference, learn a home improvement skill at a home center, or having your tires rotated.
    •  –  this list has some nice ideas: take a walk in the rain, enjoy a cup of a warm beverage afterward, garden in the rain, fish, curl up with a good book and listen to the rain.
    •  – Ok, I admit it – this one is aimed at my local friends or possibly visitors to my area.  What can I say – this one is for me…lol.   I have to say that the list is short.  Apparently we have a rock climbing facility here (that was news to me), as well as a lovely aquarium, a modern art museum, and several historical sites.  I will add that the Chrysler Museum ( ) is closed for expansion and renovation.  I can’t wait to see it when it is finished.
    •  – Buzzle seems to be an interesting site.  I saw fiction that you could read, featured articles, news, and poems, as well as other sections.  I’m going to have to go check the general site out as well, but this article has some good suggestions for rainy days: write letters, scrapbook, play board games, make up a circle with family members as you sit in a circle, do your hair, and look at childhood pictures, to start.
  • Freebies:

I did not create any of these pages but I found some of the links/apps/et cetera pretty useful.  I hope you will as well.

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100 Biographies I Intend to Read

As I finish these, I will try to type up a mini-review or commentary on the version that I read.  Mind you, this is going to take some time!

  1. Richard Branson                       Done
  2. Benjamin Franklin                   Done
  3. Thomas Jefferson
  4. Edison
  5. Einstein
  6. Jasper Johns
  7. Jo Davidson (artist)
  8. Gandhi
  9. Indira Gandhi
  10. Lewis and Clark
  11. Christopher Columbus (?)
  12. Clinton
  13. Brook Shields                             Done
  14. George Burns
  15. George Carlin
  16. Fred Astaire
  17. Jimmy Carter
  18. Marlee Matlin
  19. Pierce Brosnan
  20. Sean Connery
  21. Alexander Hamilton
  22. Margaret Thatcher
  23. Tony Blair
  24. Winston Churchill
  25. Randolph Churchill
  26. Abraham Lincoln
  27. John F. Kennedy
  28. Elizabeth I                         August 2007
  29. Edward VII
  30. George VI
  31. Henry VIII
  32. Louis XVI
  33. Piere Trudoux (sp?)
  34. Gorbechov
  35. Bresnev
  36. French revolutionary leaders
  37. Napoleon
  38. George Allen
  39. Alexander The Great
  40. Frederick the Great
  41. Nelson Mandela                     DONE -fantastic  Fall 2011
  42. Booker T. Washington
  43. Malcom X
  44. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  45. Martin Luther
  46. Marian Anderson
  47. Arthur Ashe Done 1/08
  48. Benjamin Oliver Davis
  49. Frederick Douglass
  50. Colin Powell          Done Fall 2007
  51. Madame C. J. Walker
  52. Douglas Wilder
  53. Rosa Parks
  54. Titian
  55. Handel
  56. Picasso
  57. Beethoven
  58. Erasmus
  59. Calvin
  60. Catherine the Great
  61. Disraeli
  62. Roosevelt
  63. Cromwell
  64. Bertrand Russell
  65. Niels Bohr
  66. Madam Curie
  67. Teddy Roosevelt
  68. FDR
  69. Stalin
  70. Lenin
  71. T. S. Eliot
  72. e.e. cummings
  73. Ogden Nash
  74. Antoine Lavoisier
  75. Edward Jenner
  76. Joseph Priestley
  77. James Watt
  78. Gamal Abdel Nasser
  79. Anwar Sadat
  80. Menachem Begin
  81. King Hussein
  82. Benjamin Netanyahu
  83. Shimon Peres
  84. Ariel Sharon
  85. Abigail Smith Adams                                        Done (FANTASTIC)  2/5/2012
  86. Jane Addams
  87. Josphine Baker
  88. Ida B. Wells Barnett
  89. Clara Barton
  90. Molly Brown
  91. Rachel Carson
  92. Isadora Duncan
  93. Lucretia Rudolph Garfield
  94. “Mother” Jones
  95. Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  96. Harriet Beecher Stowe
  97. Grace Hopper
  98. Harriet Tubman
  99. Phyllis Wheatley
  100. Victoria Woodhull

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Really Useful, Amusing, or Just Generally Interesting Links for April 2012

Here are a few that I stumbled upon in my computer time:

  1.   This specific article had some good ideas and suggestions for items for an easter basket that are not candy, some for toys I haven’t even seen (not that that means much, I don’t go out shopping much these days.  Amazon is my friend!)  As for the rest of the site – there are video game reviews, toy reviews, movie reviews and so forth.  It has a staff of editors, web folks, and a sales group.  It is definitely worth taking a look at.
  2.  This is a short list of non-candy ideas and even has a recipe for dough for kids to play with included (as a link).  You can make some of these items yourself, saving some money or at least adding a special touch to the gift.   One idea I loved was uploading personal pictures to a website that will make stickers out of them – then you can provide a sticker book to go with them.  I know my son loves stickers so this would be great for him.  I have to say, looks like a fun site overall for parents.  It has sections for various stages of parenthood/childhood, Mom, Dad, blogs and more.
  3.  This looks like a fantastic site – it is fairly easy to guess what it is all about from the title.  However, there is more to it than the sections of crafts for various seasons/holidays.  There is a section of kids crafts, links to favorite sites, and a “crafts for all seasons” shop.  This is definitely worth browsing for ideas, inspiration, and even tips and techniques.
  4. http://www.craftsolutions.-com/index.asp.  This is another great site – great for ideas, patterns, news, and articles.  They are also on Facebook and Twitter, in case you need other ways to contact them or interact.  The pattern section in particular is a very nice gathering of craft patterns from many sources.  I love this site and will definitely be going back when I have more time.
  5.  This link is actually a list of links to project ideas from different authors on Squidoo.  It is a fantastic list and I definitely want to spend more time looking at each link in more detail.  I haven’t looked at Squidoo before (which may mean I don’t get out much, or online much, I’m not sure ) but it looks like an interesting community as well.  If a page on Squidoo does well, and they are each by an individual author, it earns royalties for the author or for a charity.  It is an interesting idea – enabling authors to organize their interests, their passions, online and share them with others.
  6.  This is fantastic and huge.  There are newsletters, videos, recipes, a blog, radio interviews, and so much more.  It is an incredible source of “green” news of all sorts, as well as so much more.  There are sections on design, technology, living, transportation, and energy, among others.  I read articles on America’s Best, an Indian man planting a forest by himself, and a recipe for sangria.   Definitely an interesting website.
  7. – very interesting site for music.  They list live shows, store locations (there are three, in California), and movies and news/contests, as well as Amoeba gear.  They also say that it is always free shipping on music and movies.  There is also a section on thinking green – they are doing their part by supporting various “green” groups and by raising funds.  There is a list of tips for living more environmentally aware.  Check it out – looks like an interesting site for music, a bit off of the beaten path.
  8.  Ok, ok.  I know that PLENTY of people are aware of Powells, so this link really does show my East Coast (of the US) bias I’m afraid.  I was originally told about Powells by a wonderful friend from Oregon who swears by them.  She has been on the East Coast for over a decade – possibly closer to two by now – and still swears this is the best place to go for books.  What more can I say?  They have a newsletter, a book club from the looks of it, and the normal sections to browse through.  I like the selection, and I like the fact that there is free shipping for orders over $50, though my wallet may not appreciate it.
  9.  Pandora radio is also new to me.  It is a fascinating idea – you type the name of your favorite artist or your favorite genre of music into it, and it goes through its entire collection, putting together a collection of similar works/music for you, creating a “channel.”  You can have up to 100 channels.  I entered Queen as a trial.  “We Are the Champions” started playing and the lyrics appeared underneath an album cover.  There was a blurb of information about the group followed by a short list of similar groups.  I like it.
  10.  I was looking for sources of information on government spending, voting, candidates and the like and I found and VoteSmart.  Another source of information listed by FedSpending is  All three are worth taking a look at, if you want to make yourself more aware of how the government spends, as well as the candidates.
  12.    This has a great deal of information and is  non-partisan.  Here is a link for “how to use Open Congress“.  I really think that more people need to take a closer look at how their politicians, of EITHER party, are behaving, voting, and so forth.  It really doesn’t take that much effort to find information, look through it, and try to make better decisions.
  13.  This is a fantastic site and can lead to a LOT of time browsing and reading and getting off track/topic .  I looked at recipes, how-to guides, and more.  So many categories to browse through, so little time.  One that I looked at had a list of links for more by the author, a beautiful and colorful “cover”, ways to embed and copy the link, and ways to like on Facebook, Google+ and more.
  14.    Dipity is an interesting site, though I know not everyone will agree.  You can create an online timeline.  There is a timeline, flip book, map, and list for each timeline, apparently.  I took a look at Thomas Kinkade’s timeline just as a sample, and the list consisted of links to articles concerning him, including recent ones regarding an autopsy  that will be performed.  The flip book showed pictures which also were linked to articles that mentioned Thomas Kinkade.
  17.  This is a fantastic list of websites for preschoolers from the Youth Library in Tempe, AZ.
  18.  Widgets for websites – you can create your own or use others that are on the site.  Good for blogs, you can find things like weather widgets, virtual pets, games, and countdowns.  Just a fun site to look through!
  19.  Great source for amusing gift ideas – like the self-stirring mug for those too busy (or lazy!) to stir their own coffee.  Another cute item: glow in the dark toilet paper…I never claimed these things were incredibly necessary for a full and happy life but they did make me smile.  But I MUST have the remote-controlled shark…wow!  Go check it out – the site is really great – one downside is that they don’t necessarily have links to the companies that actually sell these items (i.e., the remote-controlled shark…sigh.)
  20.  Great list of boredom busters and rainy day activities.  Not huge, but worth a look, if you’re like me and run out of inspiration after a while!

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Finish each day…

Finish every day and be done with it.

You have done what you could.

Some blunders and absurdities

no doubt have crept in;

forget them as soon as you can.

Tomorrow is a new day;

begin it well and serenely

and with too high a spirit

to be cumbered with

your old nonsense.

This day is all that is

good and fair.

It is too dear,

with its hopes and invitations,

to waste a moment on yesterdays.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What a great reminder to let go of mistakes, not to dwell on problems that are  minor but frequently seem like major mountains in the moment.  Who doesn’t need to remember this at times?

I posted this at work because I have a tendency to really obsess about mistakes I make at work.  Well, you know, I work in a bankruptcy department working with data.  To be honest, if I make a mistake (which I will, being human and all), nothing truly life-threatening will happen.  This isn’t to say that I need to NOT make mistakes, but it does mean that I need to not stress so MUCH about the mistakes I make.  I try to learn from the mistakes I make, so that in the future I won’t make the SAME mistakes over and over.    But this is a good reminder that we should all let it go.  Let go of the silly things, the irritating things that happened over the course of the day.

Tomorrow is a blank slate, a fresh beginning.  Take what you learned yesterday….and run with it.  🙂

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