February 25, 2022

Twenty-Post Challenge: An Interview With Dr. Lora Kosten

This is the fourth post in a twenty-post series blogging challenge.

The challenge for this post was to interview someone that my readers would find interesting. I’ve chosen a dear colleague from the University of South Florida's education faculty, Dr. Lora Kosten, about her book A Handbook for Positive Living A Through Z. Dr. Kosten’s interview is provided below. I hope you will check out her book!


Interview Questions: A Handbook for Positive Living A Through Z


Without summarizing it in any way, what would you say your book is about?

This book is about transforming your life through Positive Living. Many times, when we think of improving our lives, we think of only diet and exercise. This book helps address ways of thinking to see things through a positive lens, use mistakes as stepping stones for growth, find balance and peace of mind, and take small steps that can become a part of a daily repertoire for Positive Living.

Without explaining why and without naming other authors or books, can you discuss the various influences on your book?

My holistic counselor: Dr. Dolores Seymour was most influential. Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer and Tony Robbins too.

Without using complete sentences, can you describe what was going on in your life as you wrote this book?

Crohn’s Disease… Dr. Seymour’s Inspiration…Positive Thinking…Changing My Perspective…Taking Action…Sharing Timeless Strategies with Others…

What are some words you despise that have been used to describe your writing by readers and/or reviewers?

I do not appreciate profanity or inappropriate language, but I feel that everyone has the right to an opinion. It is important not to take things personally and to see what can be learned from comments made. If it doesn’t speak to me then I can just let it go.

If you could choose a career besides writing (irrespective of schooling requirements and/or talent) what would it be?

I am a teacher at heart and it is my hope that this book will help others acquire skills and strategies to make their lives more meaningful.

What craft elements do you think are your strong suit, and what would you like to be better at?

This book takes on Positive Living themes from alphabetized words A through Z. Each chapter addresses a theme and has assignments for reflective activities. These activities cause the reader to process the information and apply it. One does not have to read this book in any sequence which makes it an ideal resource to have on hand. The elements and craft relate to the book’s themes and the assignments to help the reader address different strategies.

How do you contend with the hubris of thinking anyone has or should have any interest in what you have to say about anything?

Chapter One conveys the importance of doing what is “right for you.” This book may be right for some but not for others, and that is ok. It plants seeds to help readers expand their repertoire for self-care and holistic wellness. People may take those seeds and do what is best for them.


You can read an excerpt or order a copy of Dr. Kosten’s book A Handbook for Positive Living A Through Z.

Interview questions are from: https://lithub.com/what-ive-learned-interviewing-almost-300-writers-over-seven-years/

The original challenge is from Writer’s Write.

#amberclee #20postchallenge

Twenty-Post Challenge: My Blogging Story

This is the third post in a twenty-post series blogging challenge.

The challenge for this post was to share why I started blogging and tell about the moment that I decided to write.

When I first started blogging, I was in my early 20s. My very first post was summer 2008 and was entitled "A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With A Single Step..." I had earned a technical writing degree that gave me a little insight into writing and how to use online tools.

Life was promising but a little tough at the time: I had moved eight times in the span of just a couple years following a relationship around the country that later failed. We moved from Florida to Arizona to Pennsylvania to Maryland to Alabama and then to Texas, twice. I remember working at my computer looking out at the snow from a Texas apartment, boxes still stacked up from the last move, and trying to share with the world some of the thoughts that I have written down in my little notebook while working a part-time job as a gas station clerk.

As a creative, I needed an online platform to share my opinions and designs. I write and design a lot in my free time because that’s what I’m driven to do – it’s my gift that, like a tsunami wave, I can’t hold back and must write down the thoughts swirling into and around my head. I have notebooks saved on my bookshelves from over 20 years of writing: little scribbles, planning things out, drawing out systems or ideas. So, I take the best or most relevant ideas that I have and share them on the blog.

A blog provides me with a public platform for possible employers or other professional connections where I can create the story publicly of who I am. I want to showcase my writing and share the experiences I’ve gained with other people. I gain authority in my field by confirming my opinions and designs with others.

By maintaining a blog, it makes my own thoughts important to myself by becoming concrete and shared with the world. Sometimes thoughts come in our heads and slip away so easily. Blogging gives me a way to concretely engage with the rest of the world. It’s also not as intimidating as doing so face-to-face. I can connect with others who have similar ideas or interests through the power of the Internet.

Bloggers can add great value and richness of experience to what is presented on the web for consumption. I hope the ideas and designs I share on my blog bring you value too!

More to come about why I decided to start blogging in future posts.

The original challenge is from Writer’s Write.

#amberclee #20postchallenge

February 17, 2022

Twenty-Post Challenge: My Favorite Quote

This is the second post in a twenty-post series blogging challenge.

The challenge for this post was to share my favorite quotation. I’ve chosen to share a quote attributed to Dr. Maya Angelou.

Image by Amber Lee.

Dr. Maya Angelou was an influential modern American writer (to use her words, a phenomenal woman!) and fully understood both positive and negative human emotions. Her understanding of people is reflected in the quote I’ve chosen to share. In a world where everything material is treated as so important, Maya reminds us that how we treat others will be the only important remainder.

Think about your interactions with others: have you had an interaction with someone that left you feeling a little beat up? Sometimes the goal of a conversation is reached, but the participants really don’t treat each other with respect in the way they interact.

Feelings and emotional interactions are often dismissed as non-important in business and personal dealings. If feelings are prioritized, then you’re somehow weak and not focused on concrete goals. Feelings are not a reality of a situation, but simply an experience that can be controlled and thus should be easily dismissable.

But what happens when we look at our interactions with others from a long-term perspective - when we look back on our lives and remember what truly “matters?” When all we have are achievements and amassed wealth in material or financials, does this really make a life satisfying to live? Many people might say no…

Maya is teaching us in this quote that the only things that will really matter in life is how you make someone feel. Were you kind? Did you make someone feel accepted or take extra patience when someone struggled through something? Did you help someone that needed a friend or simply a kind word? Just like you, many people have shortcomings or their own obstacles that they’re trying to overcome and a little kindness may be greatly appreciated.

When we’re kind to others, the positivity radiates into our lives too.

Let this quote encourage you to treat others with kindness and respect. Realize that there’s more to winning at life than acquiring possessions and achievements. And as writers, we can utilize feelings to drive our literary goals with an audience.

Here’s an interesting point to end this blog post: although this quote was attributed to Maya for her 70th birthday wisdom in 1998, the original quote belongs to someone else, a preacher, who published it first in the 1970s. So Maya may have liked and used this quote, but she was not the originator! Regardless, Maya seemed to love this quote herself and used it in several of her speeches later in life. 
By Office of the White House - White House.org [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52404806

The original challenge is from Writer’s Write.

#amberclee #20postchallenge

February 11, 2022

Twenty-Post Challenge: Where I Work

This is the first post in a twenty-post series blogging challenge.

Although the twenty-post challenge by Writer’s Write was created with “beginning bloggers” in mind, I realized that on my blog I’ve never really addressed any of the topics suggested for prompts and that maybe my readers would like to know some of these details about me and my work. Many of my posts are largely impersonal with what I choose to share with the world online. I’m just not that big into sharing my personal life or activities blasted online for everyone to see (and track, thanks big data).

Today's challenge is to share a photo of my workspace and to tell why I like my space and a little about what I do there. As you may know from my other posts, I currently work completing technical writing and instructional design projects for several different clients, so having a quiet space to meet, write, and design is essential to working effectively.

Below you can see my work area for writing and other projects located in the spare bedroom. I am thankful to have a dedicated space to work in. Often times, you’ll find me writing in the morning in this quiet, peaceful, and inspiring space.

This is my dedicated work space. Photo by Amber Lee.

Many times when I write, I prefer to use my smart phone. It’s mobile and I often have ideas on the go, so using my phone allows me to record notes whenever or wherever an interesting thought or topic comes to me. It’s also quicker for me to dictate my thoughts and use the voice-to-text phone feature: sometimes my thoughts come so fast that I can’t type them out fast enough, so I speak them. I can then go back and correct any mis-heard words or awkward phrasing, which I will usually complete at my computer.

My desk and chair are a set that a friend gave me many years ago. She has since passed, so it’s special to me that I can use the desk she gave to me to be creative and write at today. The clean, heavy desk has a great marble top and a retracting space underneath for my keyboard and mouse. It is a very nice set and I remember my friend as I use it, so I hope it will provide me with a working surface for years to come.

I built the big “A” letter you see setting on the desk about five years ago for a graduate school club recruitment event at the University of South Florida. The letter is made of styrofoam and foam board glue-gunned together with lots of masking tape for sides, which I then painted the entire creation in a wash-out blue pattern from reused paint. It was really fun to make and DIY'ing the project saved me a lot of money for a fun event prop.

I also have a fun Rick and Morty psychedelic wall tapestry that adds color to the background of my space. Rick and Morty is a fun adult cartoon. I really like color, especially blues and purples, which is prominent in my space.

On my desk, I have my computer, my whiteboard, my planner, and my notebook. I use these tools every day to keep organized and produce work on a consistent schedule. Many times I’ll write notes by hand if I’m having writers block.

You’ll also notice some extra equipment on the desk. We use this area for DJ’ing music, so there is a mixing board, speakers, and some fun lights that can be turned on. Writing and instructional design by day; DJ’ing by night - this space gets lots of use!

Using the DJ mixing board and fun colored lights at night. Photo by Amber Lee.

Underneath my desk, I keep a foot massager, a foot stool, and a soft rug: I like to be comfy when I work, as you can see by the pillows too. Ergonomics are important and this desk setup helps me keep from being in pain after being on a computer for several hours a day.

You might wonder why there aren't any little plants growing in this sunlit space. The answer is my cats: I have an older cat that loves to eat anything that resembles a plant, including fake silk plants. He then gets sick. So no plants in my house, unfortunately.

I hope this gives you a little peek into how I work every day. See you on the next post!

The original challenge is from Writer’s Write

#amberclee #20postchallenge

February 4, 2022

DIY Combined Aquaponics and Hydroponics Gravity-fed Food and Fish Production System

Let me tell you a little bit about a cool aquaponics and hydroponics food production system that I’ve built on a small scale several times using very simple parts and with great success. A combined aquaponics and hydroponics gravity-fed food and fish production system is just what it sounds like- you grow plants and fish together in one system. There is no dirt or soil for the plants, but instead, they are fed from the water containing fish waste that is recycled through the system. In turn, the nutrients released by the plants and the ecosystem that is created will begin to feed your fish as well as to sustain a healthy oxygenated water environment.


The first DIY aquaponics/ hydroponics system in production.

For the system displayed in the photos, you will need one standard aquarium pump to move the water from the bottom container or holding tank up to the very top container. The system then filters the water through the plants utilizing gravity to move through each catchment level in the system.

For plant growing medium, you can use small stones, pebbles, or the clay hydroponic growing medium. Hydroponic clay growing mediums are expensive so I usually opt to use small stones and pebbles from any standard landscape supply. Use larger stones by the drainage tubes and smaller pebbles in your planting area. Do not use any dirt or sand in your plant beds as this will clog your system and is unnecessary. The plants and pebbles will filter the water adequately and provide an ecosystem for your plants to thrive in.

In the first DIY system built, I used goldfish because they are very hearty fish and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t kill them easily. I’ve built three systems sense and I’m now using catfish because this is a fish I would like to grow and eat myself. Catfish do not require a lot of heating unless it gets to freezing temperatures so in my climate they work well. Tilapia are also a good choice if you can provide heat in the winter and trout is a great choice to grow in colder climates. You might start with goldfish to start your system, but do not grow goldfish with any of these other fish types. Goldfish waste can be toxic to other fish.

Monitor your combined aquaponics and hydroponics system closely for health. Watch for stress points like when you first add the fish and the plants are small or when the plants are large and you harvest the fish it will stress the plants. Look for signs of stressors, such as wilting or sickly plants, cloudy water, dying fish, or too much algae growing. You want some algae and bacteria and a healthy system because this is what will eventually feed your fish. When first starting your system, you will need to feed your fish, but as your system matures, the fish will begin to feed on the algae and particulates created.

Arrange your growing containers with the plants planting bed at the top then have that feed into a containment area in the middle for an overflow, and lastly at the bottom of the gravity-fed system have your fish. Consider paying a little bit more for the plastic irrigation tubing that is meant for drinking water pipes (PVC). You’ll need to slowly add water and run the system for several days without any plants and fish to make sure that your bacteria environment is starting to grow in a healthy way. Do not add any chemicals to the water for the fish, as these chemicals will be absorbed by your plants that you're adding. Also, consider light needs: install an indoor growing lamp over the plants at the top or place everything in front of a sunny window.


Small systems can be built without need for a pump, but water quality must be monitored even more carefully.

A combined Aquaponics and hydroponics gravity-fed food and fish growing system is really not as complicated as it seems. Once you start building your own DIY system and see how the fish and plants feed each other, you’ll be hooked too. The best part is when you begin harvesting your fresh fish and vegetables right from your DIY system. Happy growing!


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