1. Zen habits. I stumbled upon Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog years ago when I was Googling around to learn more about Buddhism and the Zen movement. Back then, I was a mother of two small children with a demanding and stressful full-time job as a writer/editor, and I was desperate for a little peace in my life. I found it at Zen Habits.

Leo and I had much in common. We were writers, parents, runners and vegetarians (I’m not anymore) and clutter-haters who shunned the relentless acquisition of more stuff and yearned for a more simple life.

Leo’s posts are always well thought out, insightful, inspiring and just long enough to be useful without being totally overwhelming (see Marc and Angel Hack Life — great posts, but just FAR TOO much information for one blog post).

Zen Habits is probably the reason I eventually quit that stressful, demanding job.

2. One Crafty Mother. Ellie is a mother, jewelry-designer, and recovering alcoholic whose recent struggle through diagnosis and treatment of Stage 4 Tonsil cancer has made me weep for a woman I’ve never met.

I don’t know her last name, where she lives or how old she is, but I know that she has changed my life. Her honest and raw posts have made me pull my kids close and cherish the simple (and even irritating) moments in my own mothering life because Ellie would give anything to have a normal day again — spilled milk, sassy backtalk, geometry homework and all.

I kept this excerpt from Ellie’s “Waiting to Unfurl” post in my e-mail box so that I never forget it:

I’m so, so tired.  I’m tired of fighting.  I’m tired of brave and strong.  I just want to get up in the morning and fix my kids’ breakfast, go to the gym and then do some grocery shopping.  I want to drive my car.  I want to bite into a crisp apple or a gooey slice of pizza.   I want to cradle a toasty Starbuck’s latte between my hands and anticipate its deliciousness.

3. The Extraordinary Ordinary. Heather at The Extraordinary Ordinary started “Just Write,” an exercise in free-form writing, and introduced me to the absolute joy of in-the-moment blogging without having to always make a freaking point.

If you’ve read any of my Just Write posts (every Tuesday), you may have noticed that the old column-writer in me just can’t resist wrapping it all up with a tidy bow, but that’s OK because at EO, anything goes.  We bloggers link-up (scroll down) and share our captured moments allowing us to support, cheer and console one another.

When I started writing A Touch of Cass at home on my own after 5 years of writing Life & Her Times for the newspaper (where it was my job to come up with fun, meaningful, witty posts),  I lamented not having time to write anything meaningful. Heather showed me that it doesn’t have to be that complicated. All I really had to do was just write.

4. The Great Fitness Experiment. Charlotte Anderson and her crazy “gym buddies” try out every gym class, fitness fad and nutritional trend out there and then Charlotte writes hilarious posts (with photos) that have made me LOL more than a few times in the last few years I’ve been reading The Great Fitness Experiment.

But, beyond the lighthearted stuff, Charlotte’s honest candor about tough topics like her past struggles with eating disorders, miscarriage, mommy guilt, and sexual assault makes this more than just a fitness blog. It’s personal, like any blog worth reading is. (See Dooce).

5. Runner’s World Daily. Only Runner’s World magazine’s Mark Remy could make something as run of the mill (pun intended) as running hilarious. I’m in awe of his wit, wordplayand ability to take perfectly ordinary running news and turn it into something that makes me spit coffee on my keyboard.

Mark’s blog is a daily reminder that running is fun (or should be).

I’m Linking up for the Great Blogiversary Linkup at “It Builds Character”