The best blog award and a link to — One Morning Eleven Years Ago

I can’t recall exactly how Teepee12 arrived on my blogging sphere radar, but she did. And I’m glad. A few weeks ago she honored me with the Lovely Blogger Award. I know most of you have heard of that, but if you haven’t, you can follow the link to her site where she explains it.

After careful thought and consideration, over my vast blogging experience of a little more than a year and a half, I have instituted a personal award policy where I thank the grantor of the award, but decline the obligations. Kind of a having my cake and eating it too policy. But here’s where the story gets good.

Before I even had the chance to thank Teepee12, she posted about another award she had just received—a new one for me—the “Don’t do a damn thing award. I just like your blog.” I mean, does it get any better than this?

Being somewhat uncouth and ill-mannered, I asked Teepee12 if I could trade my Lovely Blogger Award for this new, and in my humble opinion, best blog award ever. She graciously agreed.

To Teepee12, I say a very sincere Thank You.

To my other readers, loyal fans, and drive-by glancers, I hope you will stop over and see Teepee12’s blog, Serendipity – pictures, stories, opinions and more where she discusses things near and dear to my heart with posts about nature, travel, animals, photography, writing, life, and much more.

Or in Teepee12’s own words regarding her blog:

This is about everything. And nothing. It’s life: whatever is on my mind, what’s happening to me and those around me. It’s about the valley where I live, the people in my world, and of course, the dogs.

“I offer you some memories, many thoughts, stories, and pictures. My pictures, mostly, but sometimes other’s pictures (always credited!) because I admire them. I also reblog postings that I think you will find interesting … or that I find interesting or funny or in some other way special.

“Welcome, whoever you are, wherever you are.

Her post in remembrance of 9-1-1,  One Morning Eleven Years Ago, is worth your time to read. I hope you’ll stop by.

A sneak peek of Dancing in Heaven

I just wanted to let all my blogging friends and those who have followed my self-publishing journey know that Dancing in Heaven is being featured in a “Sneak Peek” today by Indies Unlimited.

Indies Unlimited is dedicated to the independent authors, publishers, reviewers and readers. “A major challenge for any indie author is the lack of established infrastructure in place to market indie books. It can be challenging and time-consuming to get the word out about your book, to find reviewers, and to drive traffic to your website or Facebook page. As a new author, I was delighted to discover a very high level of mutual support and camaraderie in the indie author community. This platform is born from that spirit of mutual aid and support.” (About Indies Unlimited)

Dancing in Heaven will also be featured in the Indies Unlimited Store.

The Sneak Preview is a short excerpt from Dancing in Heaven that hasn’t yet been published on my blog. (You can read/hear me read additional excerpts at Dancing in Heaven.)

I’d like to thank Indies Unlimited, and all of my readers in advance for reading and sharing with your social network this opportunity to get the word out about Dancing in Heaven.

I hope you’re having a great day.

The weekend is coming.

Writing through the grief

Just a short note today. I’d like to invite you to read my guest post, How Memoir Writing Helped Me to Grieve My Loss, at Kathleen Pooler’s blog — Memoir Writer’s Journey. Kathleen is a writer and a retired family nurse practitioner. She is working on her own memoir about “the power of hope through my faith in God. Hope Matters” and believes “we are all enriched when we share our stories.” In the 2-1/2 years she’s been blogging, Kathleen  posts writing and publishing tips that have helped her along the way.

I initially found Kathleen on Twitter and when I realized she was a nurse practitioner, I asked her if she’d like to read Dancing in Heaven. Nurses have been among my best supporters. She subsequently read and reviewed Dancing in Heaven on Amazon and Goodreads.

I’d like to thank Kathleen, for the lovely reviews of Dancing in Heaven and for inviting me to be her guest today.

I hope you are able to take a minute to read my thoughts about writing through the grief.

How Memoir Writing Helped Me to Grieve My Loss~ A Guest Post by Christine Grote

Taking it to a table — a blogging tip

I’ve been working on my blog’s organization. First it was the drawers in the kitchen, then my clothes closet, and now my blog. I’m in one of those, as my daughter used to say when she was young, “organize it up” moods.

I’ve been working on my menu pages (tabs across the top), in particular on my “Places” page. The drop-down menu was getting too long and bulky so I categorized things into USA cities, International, and added a National Parks page.

My Yellowstone post was the first in what I hope eventually becomes my series of posts about the National Parks we have visited, and will visit in the future.

Do you have any you can recommend?

I’ve been using tables to  keep things organized. So I thought I’d share with you how to do that.

First you have to find and use the “text” tab on the edit post screen at the top of the menu bar. I explain this in n a post last year,  Fun with fonts.

For a table, this is all you need ( I keep it in a word document where I can copy it from and then paste it here. It’s just a lazy woman’s short cut.):

<table border=”1″>

Think of it as a symmetrical sandwich. Or paired parentheses. In html when you have a command or instruction, it is typically enclosed in <>. I talked about how to do this with fonts in  Fun with fonts.

Each command needs a closing command. So they come in pairs: an “<em>” will italicize the words that follow it, ad infinitum until you add the closing command “</em>”, which is simply the basic command preceded by a “/”. I explain this idea more thoroughly in Fun with fonts.

If you look at the html for a table, you see the “<table>” command at the top and it’s mate at the bottom “</table>”. (You also see a specification for the table border at the top). Then you have the table body “<tbody>”, the row “<tr>”, and the cell “<td>”. They all have closing commands that are nested together, like parentheses.

Right now I have only one row <tr> in the table. It has two cells <td>. And once I type (or paste) it in the “text” window, it will look like this (without the words):

 First cell in one row Second cell in one row

If I want more cells across the page, I just add “<td> </td>” inbetween the <tr> and </tr> in the code above.

<table border=”1″>

cell one cell two cell three cell four

I typed the words that appear in each cell in between the <td> and </td> while I was working in the “text” editing window. But once you have the table set up, you can see the lines for it in your “visual” view. Then you can place your cursor inside a cell and type or place pictures as you please. My only caution about pictures in tables is that if they are too large, they will blow out the table borders and not work. I often use “thumbnail” or resize the photo to be 150, 200, or 250 pixels wide if I want to use one in a table. Read my post about putting pictures on WordPress.

If you want more rows, you add them with the number of cells you are using in between. So for the above table, if I wanted to add a row, I would need to add


for each row I wanted. This all has to be before the closing </tbody> and </table> commands.

I have some good examples of multi-row, two-cell tables on my Birds and Deer pages under the Wildlife tab above.

I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know how it works. Feel free to send me your questions if you want to do this and get stumped.



From Yellowstone post. Click on picture to see larger image.

Dancing in Heaven receives glowing first international review


Those of you who regularly follow my blog will know that I recently sent a copy of Annie’s story dancing across the ocean to the small country of the Netherlands where my blogging friend Marion waited with open arms.

This morning I sat at my computer intent on posting a blog I had written yesterday about motherhood, but first I checked my email. That’s where I found out that Marion has finished Dancing in Heaven and written an absolutely heart-breaking review of the book. It continues to both surprise and validate me when readers are able to put into words what I had hoped to write. Marion has done this.

I hope you have a minute to stop over and read the conclusion to our ongoing series about Dancing in Heaven‘s trip to the Netherlands.

Dancing in Heaven

Posted on June 7, 2012 by Marion Driessen at Figments of a Dutchess

“As I turned the last page, tears were streaming down my face. Happy that sweet little Annie was finally able to dance in heaven, no longer hampered by the prison that her body had been for her sparkling and merry mind. Sad that her radiant smile was now only a memory.” Continue

Photo courtesy of Marion Driessen at Figments of a Dutchess June 7, 2012

This was a fun and rewarding adventure for me and Annie’s story. If you missed any of the posts you can find them below.

Thank you Marion. You’re a terrific writer and friend.

Why we write our stories — a guest post at Wrote by Rote

I’d like to thank Arlee Bird at Wrote by Rote for the invitation to write a guest post on his blog about memoir writing. Why we write our stories, is a post I wrote about writing stories in general and Dancing in Heaven in particular. I hope you’ll stop by and read it there today or sometime through next week.

In addition to Wrote by Rote, Arlee is the author of  Tossing it Out (his main blog), A Few Words (a Sunday contemplation), and A Faraway View (about dreams). Arlee also initiated  April’s A to Z challenge.

Thank you, Arlee, for your interest in Dancing in Heaven, and your invitation to guest blog.

A bouquet of wildflowers to you.

I feel a change coming

In some ways I might be a little ADHD. When I was younger, stronger, and had a house with more possibilities for it, I used to rearrange my furniture on a more frequent basis than my husband, at least, was comfortable with. That’s putting it gently. He’d come home after a hard day at work and find the piano stuck in the foyer, or the bookcase halfway across the room. Can’t fault him, I guess, for being a little tiffy about it at times.

I’m too old for that hoopla anymore. I just have to live with the same ol’ same ol’ because I’m simply too old and have a few physical limitations that discourage me from being impulsive in that way.

I have to find a new route for my impulsivity. (I might have just made up a new word, or misspelled an old one.)

I feel a change coming.

For quite a while now I’m been looking at how I’m spending the hours in my days. The older I get, the more valuable those are to me.

I’m thinking about backing off of blogging to two or three times a week from the five posts I do now. I know some of you who are getting barraged with daily messages from me in your inboxes may be heaving a sigh of relief. The biggest concern I have is that I used my daily blogging commitment to get myself seated at my computer and put words on paper every single day—something all the pros say is a must. But what I’m doing with my blog isn’t what I would call quality writing, usually. Not that I mind that much. I took a series of photography courses in college, really enjoy doing it, and wish I had more time for it. But the blogs with many photos actually take much longer to do, as I’m sure other photography bloggers can verify, than simple writing does. For me, at least.

The long and short is, I want to try to translate some of this disciplined at-the-computer time into working on my writing.

One sticking point is that I’m trying to build content on my blog, so I don’t know if I will be able to resist blogging every day. That’s an odd twist. I may try making better use of my Facebook author page (Christine M Grote) and Twitter.

I’m not going to make any more predictions or promises about blog frequency. I’m not a big rule-follower, which has been to my detriment at times. But it comes to me naturally and what can we do about genetics?

It’s a beautiful, blue-sky day here this morning. The windows are open and I can hear the birds singing, and babies in the birdhouse out front chirping. A soft breeze ruffles the leaves on the very end of the arched limbs that hang withing view from my desk. A robbin is skipping around the landscaping looking for a worm, no doubt.

My garden waits.

Dancing in Heaven arrives!

I can’t wait until morning. It’s 2:45 p.m. here in Ohio and 8:45 p.m. in the Netherlands.

If you never click on another link I post, I do hope you’ll click on this one now.

Dancing in Heaven is dancing in Holland

Gosh, after reading her post, I think I might cry.

I sent my copy of Dancing in Heaven to Marion at Figments of a Dutchess almost exactly one week ago. The US Post Office, and other international postal services, came through. I’ll be posting more about the Netherlands later so we can all see where Dancing in Heaven has found a new home.


Photo courtesy of Marion Driessen at Figments of a Dutchess.

Thank you, Marion, for reading Annie’s story.

Your friend across the ocean,


Dancing in Heaven dances across the ocean

It all started on Twitter.

I had tweeted out a thank you to the friends of the library at Kettering College for inviting me to speak about Dancing in Heaven to them and students in a psychology and sociology class.

@cmsmith57: A big thank you to Kettering College for inviting me to speak yesterday about Dancing in Heaven. Great student questions. Great event.

A blogging and twitter friend of mine named Marion, from the Netherlands, responded right away.

@MarionDriessen: And you did great, I’m sure of it! 😀

Exemplifying yet again, how supportive my blogging friends can be. I decided it was time to move forward on my idea of getting Dancing in Heaven into the hands of some of my international friends.

@cmsmith57: Thanks, Marion. I’d like to send my book out into the world, across the sea. Can I send you, or someone you know, one?

@MarionDriessen: YES, I’d love to read it and can give it to friends after. Just tell me what to do 🙂

@cmsmith57:  I just sent you an email asking for your address. 🙂

@MarionDriessen: ROFL, and I just sent you an e-mail too hahaha, they have crossed above the ocean 😉

In case you’re as internet illiterate as I am, ROFL means “rolling on floor laughing.”

And the idea of Dancing in Heaven, dancing across the ocean (Marion’s phrase) was born.

I stopped by Book Bums, the local coffee shop and book club place, and sat at one of the antique tables scattered about the room.

I opened the book and signed it for Marion.

Then I placed it in the padded envelope for its long trip over seas.

I sealed the envelope and headed for the nearest FedEx.

What a surprise.

It was going to cost me $85 to send this little book over the ocean to the Netherlands. “Yikes,” I said. “Never mind.”

Now I know people like to complain about governmental organizations in general, and the post office in particular, but I’m happy to say that the good ol’ U.S. Post Office will carry my book across the sea, making sure it is delivered into the waiting hands of Marion in the Netherlands for a mere $10. And they’ll do it in 6 to 10 business days. FedEx was charging me 8.5 times as much to get it there by Monday (or 5 business days).

You might think that $10 for shipping is a lot for an inexpensive little book, but it typically costs me $2.41 to send the book to most places in the continental U.S.A. so I figured an extra $7.50 to go across the ocean wasn’t all that bad.

My little book is on its way.

Stay tuned.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Marion Driessen, the Netherlands

Marion Driessen blogs in English at Figments of a Dutchess and Dutch on Doldriest. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociological recreation and is working as information manager and e-learning coach at a university. She blogs about art, poems, music, and life. I think she is a sensitive soul with an adventuresome spirit.

Her tag line on her blog header reads, “On Figments, I share my travel through life, my dreams and treasures found. Often with a dressing of humor. And YES, ‘Dutchess’ is misspelled, but hey, what do I know? I don’t belong to the English nobility… I’m just Dutch!”

She is the only dutchess I know.

You might enjoy Marion’s Thanksgiving in Holland post with pictures.

The Netherlands is about half the size of South Carolina. It is located on the North Sea, bordering Germany and Belgium. The climate is northern maritime, with cool summers and mild winters. The government is a Parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch.

Freshly Pressed Magic

The Last Snow - March 5, 2012

This is another reason I love March.

This morning I shuffled into the kitchen and was blasted with light from the snow-covered limbs of all the trees in the woods beyond our windows. It is truly astounding to see, and I wish I could bring it to you here, but photography has its limits.

I consider it a birthday gift from above. Mother Nature has dressed herself up to celebrate the day I came into the world. Isn’t that nice? (A big egotistical, perhaps, but a nice thought.)

I’m as ready for spring as anyone, as you might as noticed from the recent post that won me great notice and acclaim, but I don’t know if there is anything more beautiful than a fresh snowfall that coats the limbs of the trees.

But this post is about being freshly pressed, not about fresh snowfalls.

Thursday morning I was putzing around on my computer as I do every morning, creating and publishing a post, reading emails, responding to comments, you know the routine, when I started noticing several new people visiting and commenting on my blog. At first I wondered, “Did one of my good blogging friends like Julia at wordsxo (whose post today makes a nice companion to my famous, award-winning, best-ever, post-of-year) tweet my post again?”

Sometimes it happens that someone retweets my post and I see new faces on my blog. Always nice.

As I was reading my email, comments started filtering in from my loyal followers. In fact the first eight comments were from the familiar faces, or in some cases, icons, of friends.  Then two new names showed up. Then Susie Lindau, another new face, cleared up the mystery when she congratulated me for being freshly pressed.

It was like when I got a bad mammogram result via registered mail and I double-checked the address thinking, “I got somebody else’s letter by mistake.”

Then the “likes” and the comments started rolling in like a tsunami.

Being freshly pressed blew my stats right out of the water. My blog does not have a huge following, but I very much appreciate the loyal supporters I have as well as the occasional random visitor who may be searching for “gote I know” or “foyer white delta light.” On any normal day I am happy to get between 80 and 150 hits on my blog. This number has steadily increased over the year that I’ve been blogging, and I hope it continues to do so.

If you’ve been freshly pressed, you know. If not, check this out. My stats went from my normal 100 or so hits a day to 2389 on Thursday and 2851 on Friday. I am still experiencing the aftershocks as I have already had 287 hits at 8:00am today. I’m not complaining. I am here to tell you, that yes, being freshly pressed really does drive visitors to your site. And I’d like to thank each and everyone of them who stopped by.

The important question is will there be any lasting effect?

This was actually the third time I’ve been freshly pressed. The first time was exactly a month after I started blogging when I posted “Hopping Hilltop Towns in Tuscany” on February 21, 2011. I had taken my computer to Dayton to be able to keep track of my stats which I was still obsessively checking at the time. I think I was getting about 20 hits a day. When I got to my mom’s there were 100 hits. I didn’t know what happened. Someone congratulated me for being freshly pressed and I still didn’t know what had happened. I watched the hits rise that day to over 1000, enjoying the thrill of the ride. It was nice that my mom was able to enjoy it with me.That post got a total of 2595 hits if I can trust my stats page. It received 53 comments.

Less than two weeks later another post about our trip to Italy, “The Soft Footprints of St. Francis in Assissi,” was freshly pressed. It received a total of 2000 hits and 62 comments. The comments number includes my responses, I think.

After each of these posts, I also gained new subscribers which greatly increased the number I previously had (which may have been around 2). In fact, I think several of my loyal readers, and now friends, may have come via the freshly pressed page. On Friday night I had gained over 50 new subscribers to my blog and they keep trickling in. So that’s all good. I don’t know how many subscribers actually continue to visit and read my blog. But it can’t hurt.

Right now I’m just trying to figure out how to get my book freshly pressed.

What’s my secret for getting freshly pressed? Like many things in life, a good dose of luck. Was my “Welcome March” post the best one I’d ever written? No. Not even close. So far I’ve found that the quality of the posts I write, according to my system of evaluation, has little to nothing to do with the popularity of the post. Sometimes it just has to strike somebody right and they want to share it. That’s what happened here, I’m pretty sure. But I did do a couple of things right.

First, a couple of weeks ago I visited the freshly pressed page to see what tags the editors were reading to use as freshly pressed. I think if you visit this page from time to time you will see there are certain categories of posts that they promote. I think my first two posts made it in under the “post-a-day” tag last year. I don’t think they particularly emphasize that tag anymore. The tags I noticed being freshly pressed, that I post about, are life, photography, travel, photos, and nature. If I want the editors to see one of my posts, I’d better have a tag on it that they’re looking at. There are millions of posts out there every day. (Actually I think it may be only hundreds of thousands.) I think “Welcome March” got picked up under the “photos” tag.

The second thing I did, I learned in feature-writing class. I put a catchy title on it. When I was writing the post I thought, Is this Shakespearean title a little over the top? And then I thought, Oh, what the heck, and I clicked publish. I think the title helped to get it noticed.

I try to write posts that are enriching in some way. Maybe they’re informative, or insightful, or something that the readers can relate to. Maybe it’s just something I found interesting or beautiful. But I try to keep the reader in mind, and post something that may be of interest to the reader. I’m sure you do the same. With my Welcome March post, I think my timing was impeccable and I hit a nerve. We are all more than ready for spring.

And then I just got lucky.

I’d like to thank the editors who selected my post for the freshly pressed page.

I hope this experience will bring me a couple of new friends. I’ve already found a few blogs that I intend to follow. But what I realize is that you all who read my posts week after week, and who came back today when I’m no longer rich and famous, are the true gems. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your continued support.