A Sweet Milestone & a Giveaway

Celebration time! This post marks the 500th blog post I’ve published on this site. It’s a sweet milestone. One I wasn’t sure I’d ever reach. But big or small, bitterly won, or sweet–milestones should be celebrated.

image of fireworks to help me celebrate a sweet milestone.

Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.

–Nelson Mandela

Looking Back 

When I sat down to write about my 500th blog post, I reviewed this blog’s history.

Listing your personal milestones is like storing a pocketful of sunshine for a rainy day. Sometimes our best is simply not enough…. We have to do what is required. 

–Winston Churchill

I’ve learned a lot. About writing. About discipline. And about blogging.

Jump in With Both Feet

I took an online blogging class from the incomparable Kristen Lamb in the fall of 2011. I learned a lot. But some things I ignored.

She recommended we have a month or two of blog posts ready to go before posting. I couldn’t wait. 

My first blog post went live on October 14, 2011. Mostly because I had no idea what I would blog about from day to day.

It’s not a bad method, but you need to understand that you’ll experiment with lots of ideas. And many of those ideas will be failures.

Blogging and internet savvy experts would say get rid of those posts that were failures. I say that not all failures are the kind to hide under the rug. You can learn the most from your mistakes. At least, I know I do.

Life Happens

In 2013, life had several surprises in store for me. The good included an illuminating Master Immersion Class with Margie Lawson. The unpleasant surprises included my husband’s struggle with multiple health issues that grew larger and more life-threatening at every corner. Caring for and being there for him, maintaining a full-time job as a pediatric nurse, writing my novel, and writing a blog became too much. Overwhelmed and out of spoons, I quit blogging. Even my fiction writing slowed down. 

My husband’s health still has its ups and downs. And I’ve retired so I don’t have outside obligations. I’ve learned different ways to cope, and I’m kinder to myself when I miss a blog post or a day’s writing.

An Incredibly Support

Oh my gosh, my classmates during that blogging class were and remain an incredibly supportive group of individuals.

Some of them found that blogging wasn’t a good fit for them but have done amazing things. 

Others have unbelievably popular blogs. Many have found a level of success that works for them. Others, like me, have had to learn our lessons more slowly but are finding our own successes.

And many of them—big or small—continue to express their support, for which I am eternally grateful. Thank you WANA 2011—you know who you are.

Having Readers Is Motivating

Image of a first prize trophy--like the one I feel like I've won when you read my posts.

When I started building my email list (way later than recommended), I discovered that it’s easier to post regularly to the blog. I have readers! You may not keep track of every blog post, but I sure don’t want to disappoint you. It’s incredibly motivating. You give me strength. You make me feel like I’ve won a grand prize every time you click on a post, click on a link, or comment. Thank you.

Write to Your Strengths and Your Weaknesses

I love history and science and everything about reading and writing. Those topics are easy for me to write about. 

One of my favorite posts is when I talk about a flaw of mine. I am consistently inconsistent. I’m not proud of it, but I am human. 

I’ve also shared when I’m discouraged or my routine’s disrupted.

Blogging Helps You Know Yourself

It took several years for me to get to where I can blog about what I want to blog about. Is that selfish? Maybe. But I tried writing what I thought readers wanted me to write. That doesn’t work for me—or for most people. Through my mistakes, I’ve learned who I am as a blogger. An ongoing process, I assure you.

If you’re a blogger, especially when starting out, you have to do it for you. Readers and comments don’t come quickly. Maybe not at all. But, I’ll tell you what, when readers comment–that brings a special kind of joy.

Another Milestone

In addition to the 500th blog post, I’m celebrating my first time being interviewed. You might have seen this on Facebook if you follow me there. I was invited to be a guest on Mysterious Goings On, a podcast by Alex Greenwood. Alex is the author of the Pilate series of mystery thriller novels. His podcast focuses on reading, writing, and creativity much like my blog does. I was pretty nervous about doing it, but Alex is a great host.


Hands forming a heart over the pink & gold sunset symbolizing my gratitude for you--my reader.

 When we celebrate a milestone, we are reminded to give thanks for the rest of our everyday moment.

–John Stahl-Wart

Reaching the milestone of 500 published blog posts wouldn’t be possible without you. And what fun is celebrating without including you?

So From now until October 14th I’m running a giveaway at KingSumo. Grand Prize is an autographed copy of both My Soul to Keep and Fellowship with a surprise gift bag. There are also runner-up prizes. 

Current newsletter and blog subscribers are welcome to enter (No worries—you won’t get two copies of every email from me. And if you enter, you’ll be credited with having subscribed). Enter here:


ETA: Sorry early viewers. King Sumo didn’t allow me to start the contest earlier than 12:30 CDT.

Most importantly, please accept my heartfelt thanks for reading, for commenting, and making this a sweet milestone possible.

Celebrate and Win Every day

You know that game you play on your cell phone? You get frustrated that it’s so hard or that you can’t win but you play it anyway, don’t you? Do you know why you play the game? Because you get to celebrate and win every day. 

The Science

Whenever you have a positive, rewarding stimulus (like winning a game, or sex, or even a tasty meal) your brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. It enhances the anticipation of pleasure. This causes us to do more of this pleasurable activity. In fact, dopamine’s nickname is the “feel good” neurotransmitter. 

Dopamine helps with movement and has other functions as well, but brain science is complex so I’ll spare you the nitty-gritty details.

If you would like more detailed explanations you can read watch the short version in this youtube video. Or read this University Health News article.

The downside of dopamine is that it is also released for some people when they drink alcohol or take drugs. This is part of the reason addiction is very difficult to treat. 

Hack Your Body

You can “hack” your body and help motivate yourself by triggering the release of dopamine. If you celebrate even the small wins, you will release a bit of dopamine and win every day. 

How do you do it? Pick three things you accomplished each day. You got out of bed, got dressed, and fed yourself—give yourself a dopamine hit by celebrating what you did. 

Ah, but you say—if I reward myself every day for jobs done, I’ll go broke (or get fat). Rewards don’t have to cost you calories or money. Let me give you an example.

My Rewards Hack

This weekend I finished the edits on Fellowship and sent it to the proofreader on time. Yay! My body doesn’t need any extra calories and my budget has little room for extras so how to celebrate? 

At first, I lazed around. Nice, but not terribly rewarding somehow. 

I’d been planning to write a post about rewards and dopamine. When I sat down to write today’s post, I realized I already had a calorie-free and cost-free way to reward myself. 

Virtual Shopping

I have a Pinterest board where I collect things for my “fantasy home and garden.”

The rules for my fantasy home and garden virtual shopping trip is—cost is no object. It requires over-the-top, let’s-have-fun items. So today I went shopping. 

My Rewards 

Robby the Robot

Image of Robby the Robot, one of my virtual rewards to celebrate and win every day


Seven feet tall, Robby is “created from the same blueprints, molds, and templates used to create the original movie-prop costume.” He is pre-programmed. He’ll rotate his head, spin his gyro stabilizers, and twirl his scanners. Various lights will flash exactly as seen in the film. He can deliver his most famous lines from the movie in that distinctive “Robby the Robot” voice.  You can even project your own voice or connect him to your home theater system. Wouldn’t he be fun at a party?

Live-in Housekeeper/Caregiver

$100,000 / year

This would be a double duty job. No house cleaning for me! And someone to help my husband with meals and activities of daily living when I’m out of town. I plan on lots of book signing tours (if you’re going to dream…) I’ll take two Rosie the Robots, please.

A Private Chef

Image of Emeril Lagasse, my virtual choice for a private chef. a way to celebrate and win everyday.

$100,000,000 (est.) / year

Nutritious, well-prepared meals served to us every day? Now, I wouldn’t want Gordon Ramsey, though he may be a perfectly nice man in person. I’ll take one Emeril Lagasse, please. He’ll come in a prepare one or two meals a day—What’s not to love? 

A House


I love my neighborhood so I’d want rebuild on our lot. It would be a larger, more luxurious house with a basement apartment for my live-in house cleaner. But I’m having a hard time deciding if I’d want a palace or an ultra-modern, Jetson home.

Five Person Exploration Submarine

Image of a red, fiver person exploration submarine--another virtual reward so I can celebrate and win every day.


This baby sub comes with “comprehensive training.” It can descend to a depth of 656 feet and cruise at a maximum submerged speed of 2 1/2 knots (4 knots surface). I can’t wait to see the reefs and sea life around my private island!

A Private Island


Rangyai Island, Thailand is for sale now. It’s 110 acres in size. The island comes complete with fresh water, electric generator, and mobile signal. It’s only twenty minutes from Phuket International Airport. Or you can take a ten minute boat trip to the nearest town. (I gotta admit, the name of the closest city attracted me—but it’s not what you think. The way to pronounce Phuket is Poo-ket.)


The reality is, I can’t afford a single one of those things but it is nice to dream. For me, this virtual shopping trip cost nothing but fun. And that’s where the dopamine comes in. 

If you’re feeling like this isn’t for you, you might want to read “You Have the Right to Feel Good About Yourself.”

Maybe a virtual shopping trip isn’t your thing. But I’ll bet you can find your own virtual reward. Perhaps you already know what yours is. Tell me how you hack your body’s dopamine hist and celebrate and win every day.