Happy Dress Up


Today is my favorite holiday — Halloween! It’s been a favorite of mine since college. I think I was drawn to it for a few reasons, the least of which is that Halloween just wasn’t a thing to celebrate during my childhood. Back then, I believed it was a time when people celebrated Satan, demons and, God forbid, magic! And that was the sole focus of Halloween.

I dressed up a few times as innocent characters — Pluto the dog, Daffy Duck… but later, as I got older, I was allowed to dress up, though usually only in my own clothes. Comic books [DC / Marvel comics] were never brought into our home. I didn’t start watching TV shows based on the comics until I was in my late teens. Some of my favorite characters today are Rogue and Gambit from X-Men, Iron Man and Pepper Potts…

So, it’s difficult to explain my complex feelings about Halloween and dressing up…

  • I love the idea of being someone else — especially favorite characters from films, books, and more…
  • …but I think we should all enjoy being ourselves…
  • …or better yet, create our own character. WRITE OUR OWN STORY! But wait… we should do that daily, anyway.

As an INFJ, I’m easily embarrassed or shamed. When I was a child, if I liked a character in a book and decided to ‘be’ them for the day, all anyone would have to do to squelch my playtime would be to identify my character to an adult. It would feel similar to being caught in a lie. I didn’t want to give detailed explanations of a book no adult had read — though that was fun, too, as long as no one said, “Ugh!! You’ve told me a MILLION TIMES…!!”. I was just in play mode.

When I married, I was completely unaware my spouse was really into Halloween. Prior to that, I didn’t have someone to really enjoy it with. We usually use our own clothes and Drew was the one who really showed me how much fun he had creating his own character for Halloween. It usually looks something like Sting [the wrestler], and in 2013, his character was accompanied by a rather punk-looking librarian.

Today — on Halloween, I want to encourage you to dare to be yourself. Not just the you that everyone already sees. But the you that’s buried so deep inside you’d blush and smile shyly if somebody called you on it. Be the character you write about in your private fiction. Enjoy it.

Above all, be safe. [Don’t forget to keep your pets safe, too.] We’re rooting for all of you.


The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks

Book Review

I couldn’t return this book to the library without writing this. The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks: Life and Death under Soviet Rule by Igort is probably the closest thing to horror I’ve ever willingly read. And I think we all should take a few weeks to read it. I say a few weeks because if you’re sensitive to the human condition, you will need to take many a break to let the information sink in. Or, you’ll likely find yourself hunched over the toilet in an emotional mess.

I won’t give away any of the story at all, but as with any review, I wish to take a moment to cover the basis of it. Igort, a renowned comics artist / illustrator, spent two years in Russia and Ukraine researching and taking down stories from people who survived Soviet rule. Honestly, it felt like I was learning so much of this history for the first time, and that bothered me to the core.

Like all education systems out there, America’s is flawed. There are holes in what we’re taught. Some teachers skip specific materials and fields of thought altogether, or worse, their hands are tied. We’re missing some big pieces of history — which to me is more dangerous than missing pieces of artistry, language, science, geography, or arithmetic. History repeats itself; especially for those who ignore it.

Some of what I read, I discovered [through Google dictionary and Wikipedia searches] was a repeat of my history lessons in highschool, only words foreign to me [often Ukrainian or Russian terms] are used to describe them. Still other things I find myself extremely confused on.

My confusion stems from a lack of education in regards to the Soviet Union. I’m uncertain whether:

  • I learned this and forgot over time.
  • I was taught this.
  • It was glossed over in a class because so much of it is “R-rated” and not for youths.
  • The teachers themselves weren’t aware of some of it due to the secretive nature of that government.
  • Left out of textbooks or otherwise deemed unfit for my age bracket.

Either way, it feels like a tattered thrift shop puzzle — I’m still waiting for over half the pieces to turn up in the thrift shop, but in the meantime, I have a fractured view and understanding of the final image. This is yet another reason why history is so crucially important. If your schools aren’t teaching it appropriately, I challenge parents and teens to go the extra mile[s].

This is a graphic novel. Though the illustrations are not grossly detailed, there is most definitely an unmistakable comprehension of each image’s message. I do not recommend this book for teens unless a parent or guardian reads it first and then supervises the teens’ reading. We are a sensitive people — take care of one another in this. However, I do strongly recommend this book. Imagine how much better we’d each have done in history classes had the textbooks been comics!! This is an excellent way to learn history. As I stated earlier, I’m a little confused — however, this is due solely to my lacking knowledge on the subject prior to reading the book.

A few sensitive topics the book covers: 

  • Government imposed starvation
  • Cannibalism — usually per the starvation mentioned above
  • War — and Igort don’t mess around… every detail he gleaned is laid bare for us to read.
  • Terror — let me repeat; Igort. Don’t. Mess around.
  • Assasination of activist[s]
  • Police state

I wish I could say to enjoy the book… The truth is, I had difficulty getting through this one without vomiting. I read it because I owe it to myself to know history. To know the truth. So I’ll leave you with that. Understand, you won’t enjoy this. But do read it and know an inkling of truth.

Thanks for reading.


Free Automatic Re-sharing


Above photo by Simon Peel via Unsplash.

I recently promised Anna I would write a post explaining how to automate re-shares of links to social media. In my research, I came across this Social Media Examiner article on the subject of re-sharing updates freely using tools already at our disposal — specifically Google Calendar and IFTTT. This is not an all-inclusive guide as I felt the article linked above knocked it out the park. However, I hope to clarify a few things and answer some questions I had so y’all don’t have to ask. It may sound a bit Greek at first, but bear with me…

What you’ll be doing [in human speak]: this is the basic to-do list.

  • Creating a new Google Calendar.
  • Creating a free account at IFTTT [link above — I PROMISE this isn’t an advanced coding website… the letters stand for IF That Then This.]
  • Sighing contentedly in the knowledge that using IFTTT will not irreparably damage or break your website. I like to call it by the sound those letters would make if they’re a real word, ‘ift’. Fun, isn’t it?
  • Relaxing as you tell IFTTT which social media you’re most interested in.
  • Creating a ‘recipe’. Say for example you want to be able to create an event on your calendar which will then trigger a blog post you published last month to re-share. The recipe makes this happen.
  • Connecting your social media sites to IFTTT; you can do this as you go along.
  • Creating an event. IFTTT works with hashtags. These tags will act as a command from the calendar (or other thingy you’re using) to trigger the re-share. IFTTT searches your event’s title, description and location.

Getting started / making transition easier:

I am mildly disappointed by the fact that “#twitter” is right there in the re-share. We put a great deal of effort into marketing ourselves and part of that is having a clean, professional looking post. It seems mildly tacky that hashtags cannot be hidden somehow. So I’ve tested different ways of handling this. My favorite is to create a shorter hashtag with the same meaning [#tweet, #fb, #fbme for my personal FB page]. By the way, I checked with IFTTT  to see if there was a way to hide these hashtags. They haven’t responded.

by Laura Weiller

sample Tweet, note hashtag

First off, if you haven’t already, get a short helper. By this, I mean Bitly or Goo.gl, not your 2-year-old, although they might be helpful, too. Bitly shortens links free of charge. How does this help with IFTTT? Well, if you’re using Google Calendar, whether you do so manually or via CSV, you’re going to be typing a bit. You’ll be using links a lot during that typing and it helps if they’re shorter.

  1. Sign up with Bitly.
  2. Open your blog in the web. Do you have any important pages [about me, contact, shop…] you might share most often? Do you want to be able to memorize these to spit them out in a flash to anyone who asks? You’ll likely want to personalize these particular bitlinks. Copy/Paste the links into Bitly and go for it. For example, bit.ly/lala427 should take you directly to my About page.
    {Heads Up!: Bitlinks cannot be deleted, only archived. So take care with personalized ones. Also, they’re case-sensitive. So in the example above, if you type in bit.ly/LaLa427, it will tell you it’s incorrect and won’t take you to the About page. In Bitly, when editing the generated bitlink, the first letter you type will most likely automate to capital, so watch that as well.}
  3. If you use Pinterest / Youtube, etc. on a regular basis — if they’re related to your brand, consider creating bitlinks for them as well. Same with something like Instagram.
  4. Go back to IFTTT and create a recipe — “If new blog post, create new bitlink”. You just automated your bitlinks. But what about the rest? The posts you’ve published already?
    {Note: In creating recipes, be certain to double-check options [assuming there are multiples] for what type of post to trigger.}
  5. Create a second recipe — “If WordPress event is hashtagged with #bit, create new bitlink”.
  6. Write down your most important bitlinks to have at the ready for creating events in your Google calendar.

The calendar:

  1. If you haven’t already, create a new calendar.
  2. Decide whether to upload a CSV spreadsheet or enter events manually. CSV is best if you’ve a lot of re-shares. I chose manual as I found it a bit easier.
    {Keep in mind: You have the option of repeating the event over time as needed.}
  3. If choosing CSV, it’s as simple as creating an Excel spreadsheet and importing it into a CSV document before uploading the file to Google Calendar. [Google Spreadsheets may also be used in a similar manner if you’re using Android devices.]
  4. In the manual version, create an event in the calendar and follow any prompts in creating it. Be sure it’s the correct calendar.

    by Laura Weiller

    sample calendar entry

In the sample calendar entry below, please note that:

  • The time frame is at least 10-15 minutes per event. The reason for this is that sometimes it can take around 15 minutes for the events to trigger from the time they are scheduled.
  • I list the link as being the location and…
  • …repeated the link in the description. This is because I use feature images and I’d like them to show up in my tweets.

    by Laura Weiller

    sample Facebook link post

  • Facebook will NOT show feature images from the Google Calendar. Instead, it will force a link post.
  • In the description, I include the directive hashtag at the very end. That way, it’s the very last thing in the post, other than the image.

Thank you for reading; if you’ve any questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Happy re-sharing!by Laura Weiller

Updates: After about a week of using this, one thing I have learned is that for Twitter, whenever I use a shorter hashtag [#tweet] in place of the longer one [#twitter] in a Google event, it will not post appropriately. Instead, it will look like this photo to the right. I haven’t found any other mix ups yet, but will update as I note them.