My Blog is Two Years Old, So Now What?🤷‍♀️

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Invisible-no-more turned two in the month of November, 2018. With that milestone, and the New Year beginning, I got to thinking. How is my blog doing? Is it the same after two years of personal growth, and all the changes that have happened since I began this journey?

Honestly, there have been many times, particularly over the last 6 months, when I have felt guilty about my blog. I have not posted regularly, or been prompt reading other blog posts. I am slow to respond to comments and feel terrible when bloggers, who I truly care about, have waited for me to “get around” to acknowledging them.

I want to be clear here, no one has made me feel this way! Not one harsh word or comment has ever been communicated to me-this is my guilt, my issue. So, I need to either close down the blog, or figure out a better balance with my new, more active (and fun) life!

I don’t want to end my blog, it has brought too much into my life. I have met amazing people, learned too many new lessons and it has enriched my existence beyond words. Instead, I want to analyze my current situation and attempt to bring a clarity to this process. My goal is to write content that is truly engaging, as well as meaningful to me personally.

I got an idea from Amy at Bedlam and Daisies. She took a look at her top blog posts from last year. And, I thought this might be a great place for me to start this analysis. I am looking for trends in what spoke to readers. So, without further ado:

The top ten posts of 2018, ranked by “likes”

  1. Yoga Retreat, One more time –

    2. The Final Family Climb in Tucson

    3. I Am So Touched and Humbled By This!growning self blogger award

4. Leftover Ham? No Problem

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5. Great Article From a Like Minded Blogger

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6. King Cake for Mardi Gras

7. A Precious Gift

8. Standard Route on MT. Lemmon

9. Eating and Drinking Our Way Through The Tucson Botanical Gardens, Savor Tucson!

10. Sally’s Baking Addiction, January Challenge: Conquering Yeast

So, what have I learned from this exercise? For one thing, I have had an amazing year! And, all 10 of these posts are from Jan and Feb 😳 Clearly I started off strong, posting more often, and then let too much time pass between entries.

Variety seems to be key as well. Travel posts did as well as adventure and baking. That seemed to be true as I expanded this list to the top 20 blog posts.

If this is true, then people like the variety but don’t know when to look at my blog, because I am too inconsistent.

Other posts that did well, by this limited metric, included my fellow bloggers. Both posts from my trip to Montreal, where I visited with 3CStyle, ArtyPlantsman and Mainepaperpusher (aka, Dominique💕 ,Darren💐 and Linda🐉) did well. As did my book reviews for James (Jay) Cudney, author extraordinaire 📚 and I have two other books of his in the hopper to post!

What did not do so great? Some of you may remember that I participated in the April “Blogging from A to Z” Challenge in 2018. This was a great challenge for me as I posted daily in the month of April. The posts were pretty detailed and time-consuming, but I was happy that I did it! But, since they were not well received, and took an immense about of my resources, I will not join this year.

Sally’s Baking Addiction challenges are hit and miss. Generally, they are well liked and, because I truly enjoy them, I will continue this through 2019. I have been doing these challenges since their inception by Sally, and although I am often at the absolute deadline, I have made each and every one. I have also learned a few new skills along the way, which makes this worth it for me 😊

So, with this cursory look at my blog stats, here is what I am planning. I would like to set the personal goal of a minimum of two posts per month. One will be related to an activity or travel experience and the other will by Sally’s monthly challenge. I envision that the personal write up would be at the beginning of the month, and the baking post near the end (as that seems to be my default pattern 😉). There may be the rare occassion that I might get three posts in for a month, and I am ok with that!

The point here is that I am going to challenge myself to be a better blog buddy, participate regularly with the blogging community and hold myself more accountable to the overarching goal of my blog maintenance.

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New Year’s Eve in Portland, Oregon

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This has been a tough year for us, so my husband and I decided to take a short trip to Portland, Oregon to celebrate the ending of 2016 and the kickoff of, what we hope will be, a fresh start moving into 2017. Now, I will be the first to admit that a three-hour drive from Redmond, WA to Portland, OR does not constitute a large travel itinerary, however a night in a beautiful hotel followed by a unique dinning experience is always a welcome departure from the normal routine.

We set out at 8:30am to 1) hopefully beat the traffic and 2) get to a sports bar, by noon, to watch the University of Washington Huskies play Alabama in the Peach bowl. We made it to On Deck Sports Bar and Grill in plenty of time to cheer on the Dawgs. On Deck is located in the Pearl district of Portland, think hipster meets rabid football fans! The food is basic, well executed pub fare, great cocktails and over 25 HD televisions. It was clean, affordable and the staff was friendly and attentive. Unfortunately, Alabama won the game, so we headed off to our hotel with a heavy heart!

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We stayed at Hotel Lucia, about ¾ of mile from the sports bar. This is the second time we stayed at Hotel Lucia and we liked it even more the second time.

This is a boutique hotel known for their art collection, particularly their black and white photography collection, which I tried to provide a sample for you here.

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Kramer is on all the floors of the hotel!

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This is made up of gray crayons!

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Another huge bonus, for my husband, is their nightly craft beer hour where they showcase local breweries from 5:30 to 6:30 every night. Since it was New Year’s Eve they included the option of a champagne toast and/or craft beer, free of charge of course! We enjoyed some champagne before heading to the restaurant. As I mentioned before Hotel Lucia is in the Pearl district and used to be full of warehouses and railroad related industry enterprises. Like many urban areas it has undergone a transformation and is now known for its art galleries and unique shops and upscale restaurants. So, we had a lot of great places to choose from for our New Year celebration. Fortunately we chose Park Kitchen and its prix fixe menu. The restaurant was tucked away in a renovated warehouse. It was cozy with just a few tables, which required reservations. The prix fixe menu consisted of eight courses!

The New Year’s Eve special menu:

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But this is a celebration! So we started off with some cocktails with our oysters!

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The Lonesome Whistle Barley salad was delicious! Look at the Chèvre around the top of the bowl, so good!

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The Carman Ranch flank steak salad with blue cheese and sherried onions was also spectacular!

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While the Arctic Char was cooked perfectly, the star of this course was the black radish which was new to me.

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The Carmen Ranch Ribeye, while also cooked perfectly, is not my favorite cut of beef, so it was pretty good. We also opted to add the Oregon Black Truffle (it is a special night after all!) We both love truffle infused products, but this time the truffle really didn’t add much to the dish, in our opinion anyway.

As if we were not full enough yet-there were two desserts! The apple cake with toffee, spiced pecans and chèvre creme anglaise was outstanding! You can see how much we loved it!

And that was followed by the double chocolate tart with hazelnut ice cream!

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Then, because two desserts are never enough, they brought out homemade cracker jacks with the bill.

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To say we were stuffed and tipsy is an understatement! We were also happy and thrilled with our choice of restaurants! Park Kitchen was delicious, even the dishes I was not as excited about, were tasty and a fun change from our usual fare. The staff was attentive and knowledgeable about the menu and the preparation. The chef even took the time to talk with me about one of the sauce preparations. I had an unobstructed view of the kitchen and enjoyed watching the sous and pastry chef in action.

My husband and I both recommend On Deck Bar and Grill, Hotel Lucia and Park Kitchen and plan to visit all three in the future.

Happy New Year Everyone!

I thought I was waving, a year in retrospect.

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There is no hesitation for me when I say that 2016 has been the worst year of my life. It started out excruciatingly painful and by April, I just wanted it over. I thought it could not get worse, until it did in June. Any recovery I had scratched out for myself to that point was smothered in a new round of despair. I found myself slipping under the surface time and time again, hoping that the decisions I was making were the best for my future and my self-preservation. I have never felt so alone, so sad and so invisible.

Slowly, so slowly, I have been moving forward and trying to find solid footing on this shaky, unstable ground. In the course of re-establishing my life I have been reading. Books, poems, song lyrics, really anything and everything that may, in any way, connect me to some sort of idea on how to proceed from this darkened space. In this massive literary consumption I came across a poem that truly spoke to me.

Not Waving, but Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,

But still he lay moaning:

I was much further out than you thought

And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking

And now he’s dead

It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,

They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always

(Still the dead one lay moaning)

I was much too far out all my life

And not waving but drowning.

-Stevie Smith

I began to research Stevie Smith and learned that this was her most famous poem, and I can understand why. Smith’s words perfectly captured my feelings of obscurity. That I was as far out to sea as one could get, yet no one saw my signal for help. I had become irrelevant in my own world. And I cried, but there was no one to see my tears. I hid them like I always do because I don’t want to upset my family.

The truth is that I pretended that I was waving, not drowning. And, it was not just this past year that has been the root of all my pain and problems. When I really started being honest with myself, and looking at the pattern of my behavior, I realized that I have been drowning for several years. I told my family and friends that I was waving the entire time but the reality was that I had been drifting further and further from shore. I had not been happy for some time and was trying desperately to figure out how to fix myself without inconveniencing my husband and children. This mid life quandary is impossible to navigate alone, but that is me, and how I deal with everything, on my own. It took the ensnarement of this massive rip tide of the last 12 months for me to finally ask for help. I had to realize that my friends and family want to help and we both gain from that exchange. I have been trying to change these engrained behaviors of mine for the last few months. It’s very hard for me because this often requires me to think of myself as a priority, and I am not wired that way. When I have managed to remember to include others and let them into my personal space, it has worked well and I feel better, prideful even that I acted against my nature and let others know what I am feeling and thinking.

The last two months have found me in a better place than back in June. I have started this blog and connected with many interesting people, which I hope will continue to grow. My husband and I are more connected today than we have been in several years. We are spending more time together exercising, traveling and laughing. I have been able to find the gratitude in the small things that one takes for granted in a long term relationship. If you think that is easy, wait until you have been together for three decades to render that judgment!

So, as I end this ugly, unpleasant year I want to start fresh in 2017. I can’t control how other people act, but I can control how I respond. I will…

-Stop putting my needs last

-Ask for help when needed

-Not be the last priority in my relationships

-Have my own back

-Continue to exercise for stress management and fun

-Remember that I deserve happiness too

-Travel more!

And to start a regular gratitude segment for my blog to remind myself how good I have it, how lucky I am and how great things may be in the future.

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Happy New Year!