A Vision for my Blog

 On my way!

Today’s assignment: consider what you want to accomplish with your blog. Write down three concrete goals you want to achieve. 

I started blogging because I was intrigued with the ability to have a place (even a place among millions) in the digital world. It was an outlet for creativity, for connecting, for self-expression. I was surprised at the community that grew out of blogging. Almost overnight I found kindred spirits I had never known, and re-established connection with friends and family who found their way to my site. Blogging has challenged me and grown an interest in technology and writing that I didn’t have before. It’s turned on the light for me in so many ways I didn’t expect.

So now, a little over three years in, where do I go from here? What’s the point?

My site has and will be free. It’s meant to be a little ray of light and optimism (most days I hope that’s what it is!) Some of my posts are personal, some more philosophical; sometimes I share good things I’ve stumbled across, or recipes I’ve tried. I’ve considered trying to narrow the focus, and maybe that needs to happen. But for today’s assignment, I’ll stick to answering the question. What am I trying to accomplish?

  1. I want to grow my readership. It’s fun to enlarge my circle, and as my readership grows, in turn, that introduces me to other bloggers. So it’s a mutual thing in many ways. I’d like to increase my followers by 50% by the end of the year. I think if I post more regularly that will help. I’ve also tried to keep up with visiting the blogs I follow, because turn about is fair play. So consistent give and take is important as well.
  2. I want to improve my photography skills. I love beautiful photos…well, who doesn’t? And whether the photo is a portrait of one of my grandchildren, or a delicious dish I just pulled out of the oven, or a landscape shot from a floatplane, photos are enticing, they tell their own story, and they make the written word more interesting. I bought a Canon DSLR a few months ago, and I’ve played with it a bit. But I need to own it, claim it, capture the amazing shots it can give me.
  3. I want to improve my titles to make them more interesting. Sometimes I see blog titles that are quirky, or obscure, or draw me in because they sound so curious. I need to find a way to title my posts with more imagination.
  4. And just for a little extra, I’ll go one more. I don’t understand SEO. I understand the concept, but I’m not sure how to translate what I think I know into functional changes for my blog. So that’s on the list too!

I’m sure this isn’t all I need to do, or want to do. But it’s a beginning, and that feels good!

~ Sheila

 

 

 

 

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Can’t get it out of my head.

I never do post prompts. But this one caught my eye.

Like a song I go to over and over on my play list, here I am, still, or again: learning, exploring, wondering, and waiting…all these things I can’t get out of my head. I feel like there’s work I’m waiting to discover, waiting to begin. I see potential. But the gap between where I am and where I think I belong is some invisible thing that I struggle to bridge. I don’t even know how to define the pieces I’m missing. What exactly will it take to move me from where I am to where I would like to be?

I work, and then I research. I read about content marketing, about apps, about business platforms, I listen to podcasts, I watch videos. I bookmark. I’ve narrowed my focus a lot; but often, I know I’m still in the mode of “ready, fire, aim.” Still wandering around in the wilderness doing discovery by accident.

I’ve blogged about this before, and I continue to look: under every rock; sites I come across that seem to have answers; books that fill my Kindle, begun, but rarely finished. I think I’ll know the answer when I see it, or when I feel it. Or when the universe opens up and rains it down on my head. Or will I? Maybe the rain has fallen already and I was protected from the answers with my umbrella of questions. Is it right? Is this the beginning? Do I have what it takes? How will I know?

My search for entrepreneurship, solopreneurship, authorpreneurship, has been on for a while now. And I struggle with one of the most daunting barriers: I have work, and income, and commitments. How do I jump from what I know and what is stable to something shaky and risky? I’m no 20-something ready to embrace my first failure on the road to success.

No, I’ve done it backwards. I’ve had all the traditional trappings of the good life: family, home, work, stability. So why am I looking for more, in my 50s? Wasn’t I satisfied? Wasn’t I fulfilled? And since I’m making a living doing what I’m doing, if this is just about money, what difference will it make to exchange one way of earning an income for another?

Yes, I was satisfied. And yes, I have had many good things in life. I’m not trying to fill a hole, I’m trying to express an ambition. And the ambition is not for money, although I can’t leave that out of the equation. The ambition is to create something of my own, something that has my stamp on it and my sweat behind it.

Now I dream of building a consulting business to offer writing services. I love the validation of seeing my blog name on the screen, and seeing my logo on my business card. I love the feeling of empowerment that establishing a digital home has given me. I’m not vain about it, but I am proud of it. It feels like the emotions I experienced with my children. I knew that they were not solely of my making, but I had a hand in the process, and a mother’s fierce protectiveness toward them and their journey.

Turns out, it was a lot easier, in the short run, to birth a child than to birth a business, at least for me. Or maybe this is still just the incubation phase, the pregnancy phase, and I’m waiting to see the results of three years of thinking, and exploring, and obsessing. And I don’t feel hopeless: just obsessed and curious. Like someone looking on from the outside, I wonder, when will it happen? And what will the story be, when all the pieces come together?

Too old? Absolutely not!

From a recent article in New Republic:

Silicon Valley has become one of the most ageist places in America. Tech luminaries who otherwise pride themselves on their dedication to meritocracy don’t think twice about deriding the not-actually-old. “Young people are just smarter,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told an audience at Stanford back in 2007. As I write, the website of ServiceNow, a large Santa Clara–based I.T. services company, features the following advisory in large letters atop its “careers” page: “We Want People Who Have Their Best Work Ahead of Them, Not Behind Them.”

And that’s just what gets said in public. An engineer in his forties recently told me about meeting a tech CEO who was trying to acquire his company. “You must be the token graybeard,” said the CEO, who was in his late twenties or early thirties. “I looked at him and said, ‘No, I’m the token grown-up.’ ”

Read the whole thing.

I love the quote. “Token grown-up.” I can’t say that quite describes me, but I understand the mindset.

I’m dabbling in a world that belongs to youth. Or at least that seems to be the not-so-subtle message that frequently goes hand-in-hand with the universe of tech. And some days, when I’ve lost my way, trying to make sense of terminology (have you ever looked at the Google Testing Center site?) and the next link to the next to the next…well, some days I wonder: is it true? Am I just kidding myself that I can create a presence in this world, learning as I go, learning from stumbling and self-support? Oh, I pay for things along the way: books, and an occasional training program or an upgrade for my blog. I do a lot of reading, trying to stay current, trying to figure it all out.

It is overwhelming. But I also know that even if the technology we have today had been available when I was younger, I probably wouldn’t have dived in. Because I was busy with life, and raising kids, and keeping milk in the house.

I’m still busy. But now I have a lot more free time to invest. Life doesn’t revolve around school schedules, or youth group activities. I’m working my own hours, my own pace, for the most part. And while I have plenty of self-doubt to fuel the fires of insecurity, I’ve also had successes to bolster my confidence. And I think I’m not the only one of my age and experience who has freedom and incentive to navigate in the brave new world. I see a lot of people with more than a few years under their belt out in the digital universe.

The truth is, I’m probably more valuable in the work force now than ever before. And I would guess that’s true of a lot of people my age. We don’t have as much pressure at this stage. We’ve seen business booms and corporate cycles, we know the buzz words and the corporate-speak. We know how to read the writing on the wall, and how to get the job done. And while I may not be start-up CEO material, not being a 20-year-old, fortunately, that’s not the role I’m seeking.

I like to think that this is my time to shine, and to be told that my best work is behind me feels like an insult. What happened to all the slogans that say 50 is the new 30? Because the truth is, I’ve known people who were young at 60, and others who were old at 40. Age is as much a function of one’s mental state and physical health as the actual number. And we’ve known that for a long time.

So while I don’t kid myself that I’m a 20-something, hot out of college and feeling my Wheaties, or even a 30 or 40-something, I also know: I have a lot to do yet, and a long way to go. I won’t be the person churning out new inventions of technology, but I’ll be using the methods and the platforms that work for me.

And I’ll be playing nice. I’m not going to show an ageist attitude toward the young people in the tech industry. They have every right to be where they are, and I’m even happy for them to lead the charge. But don’t tell me I’m too old to participate in a meaningful way just because I’m a few decades further along. I’ve only just begun!

 

Primary Care

Two weeks. For two weeks this month I worked in the local primary care clinic, seeing the daily parade of patients and problems: the good, the bad, the ugly.

The clinic was short-handed with some staff out for spring break, and I was able to help out at the front desk. I went through training last year to be a super-user for the clinic’s electronic record, and it helps me to stay current to go in and work in the live setting when I have opportunity. And it’s good to catch up with staff I used to see on a daily basis when I worked full-time in the admin department. Plus, the clinic is in Ketchikan, so I got to be in my own home while I fulfilled this commitment. So all good.

I’ve blogged about this before. Most of my work in the world of healthcare has been on the administrative side. I came into healthcare through the back door of grant writing and office work. I’ve expanded to policy writing, recruiting, project coordination…all tasks that are familiar and comfortable. But patients…now that’s different.

Patients are the reality check to all the work I do.

I usually work in quiet offices, with much of my day consumed with writing, or researching, or interacting with other staff: problem solving, planning, coordinating efforts, meetings, interviews. All valuable, and part of the mechanism that keeps staff in house and programs operating.

But in that world I’m shielded from the nitty, and the gritty. Two weeks of primary care changes that focus.

The other staff I worked with are great: patient, helpful, appreciative of the support I offer, even when it’s imperfectly delivered. In a busy clinic, you need all hands to juggle clinic hours (the clinic offers extended hours; some days the schedule begins at 7:00 AM, and others it ends at 7:00 PM), patient demands, and keep up with the minute-to-minute of busy days. Navigating the electronic system for patient registration,  scheduling appointments, fielding a million questions a day…ok, maybe a thousand, but it seems like more…well, I’m reminded again: I’m grateful to be healthy; humbled to recognize that my complaints of life are “first world” in nature; and I alternate between admiration of people who are cheerful and upbeat in the face of difficulty, and amazement at patients who abuse the very staff who are trying to help them.

Patients are thoughtful, kind, appreciative, attentive. Some are dainty little old ladies, or stately elderly men, in for blood pressure checks and routine appointments that make them regulars. The staff know them by heart. They’re the ones that give you a sense of purpose and satisfaction.

Others are also known, but not for their good traits. They’re rude, demanding, careless, dysfunctional. They’re the ones with an attitude and a knack for saying the wrong thing. They no-show for appointments, then complain when they can’t be worked in; they “lose” prescriptions; they’re quick to criticize and expect more. You see one of those names on the schedule for the day and you hope you don’t have to encounter them. They make you glad with their absence. And yet, even as you put on the smile and ignore the attitude that’s so inappropriate, you wonder: what happened to this person to turn them into a (take your pick) bitter/manipulative/ungrateful/difficult human being?

Work in a clinic setting, and it’s inevitable: you begin to have better understanding of the issues. The headlines about healthcare and insurance and regulations have a real-life meaning that you see through forms, and requirements, and layers of bureaucracy created to manage patients, and the business of paying for care.

The patients make it real too. Some of them can barely walk. Some of them smell. Some of them are dying, slowly but surely. Some of them are living, but miserably. I see the way the staff work with the needs, the challenges, the drama. I’m impressed that these people make a life of touching, healing, processing, listening, advocating, arranging, soothing. The list could go on, and does: the work is never-ending, and the reward is more of the same.

Sometimes it’s funny. When people become patients, you can expect the unexpected, and just when you think you’ve seen it all, it’s another day, and you’ve haven’t seen anything yet.

Sometimes it’s heartbreaking. Patients die, and every week there are two or three sympathy cards laid out on a back shelf, ready to mail “to the family of…”

I say it often: working in healthcare is not a job for the faint of heart.

The job of professionals is to make hard work look easy, and the team I just worked with does that on a regular basis. They find the grace to rise to the challenge every day.

I never had any aspiration to become a nurse, or a physician, or a hands-on healer of any sort. And I’ll admit I’m more than a little relieved that now I’ll go back to my role as a sometimes-recruiter, sometimes-project coordinator, juggling many balls and enjoying the variety of my world. But I have to acknowledge, a little time in the hot seat, interacting with patients is a good thing. It reminds me that there are people at the heart of the work I do from my safe and sanitized desk.

Surprise!

Surprises happen.

We’ve been working, recruiting, doing taxes, traveling, more working…well, it’s a common plight…life requires income, and income, I find, requires work. At least in my experience.

Anyway, I’m home for a few weeks, looking forward to getting re-acquainted with my kitchen and my bed. One of the perks of traveling for work is that I’m always happy to come home…kind of the reverse of needing a vacation. I’m just happy to be in my own space since work usually takes me elsewhere.

First things first. I couldn’t concentrate on other tasks until I reclaimed my space. After a couple of months of one and two day turn-arounds, the house was a bit needy. I try to leave things tidy, but after awhile, you just have to stop and do some upkeep. So things got a wipe down, and where appropriate, a scrub down. Those dust bunnies don’t take a holiday just because no one’s home.

Then it was on to the calls. I have a few repairs to line up, and in this climate, anything that is exterior has a short summer window of opportunity. So I’ve put myself on a list for some summer painting, and some deck maintenance. A little hedge trimming is in the works too, probably sometime next month when we have some warmer weather. And most painful of all, I’m replacing one of the huge picture windows that are framed into the front walls of the house.

Cracks in the glass

Cracks in the glass

Well, I’m not doing it, I’m merely financing it. The window guys are doing it. And let me tell you, the whole thing is just a bit frightening.

We came home to find that this window, a double-paned giant, had developed a crack on the inside pane. I’m pretty sure the dust bunnies aren’t playing baseball inside the house when we’re gone, so I assume this was due to temperature change, age, or some force of the universe that’s both invisible and unidentified. There’s no sign of any impact, and no damage to the external pane. So I guess it’s just one of those things. Anyway, no help for it, it has to be replaced. With a three to four week wait time for the glass to arrive, I’m just hoping it holds and I don’t wake up to shards all over the floor before the replacement is installed.

But that’s really not the painful part. At least so far, the glass is holding, even if the cracks are scary. No, the really ugly part is the cost. Twelve hundred and fifty dollars this will cost me. $1250.00! Good thing I’m working!

And then! Then, when we got home, there was a little love note on my door. My friendly home heating buddies had stopped by and left a bill. Eight hundred and thirty-two dollars for fuel oil the last two months, and we’ve barely been here! Oh, we left the furnace on, with one zone of the house heated to keep the pipes from freezing. But still! Do you think someone has noticed that we’re gone a lot and helped themselves to our fuel oil? I mean, really, this is ridiculous!

Fuel oil robbery?

Fuel oil robbery?

So, after that battering…I mean, I know utilities and repairs are expensive, but this was a harsh opening of the door…after that, I needed some time to enjoy being home and get cozy. If I’m bleeding out from financing this gem of a place, I better get some return.

So, I’ve tidied, and I’ve nestled in. I went shopping in my basement and replaced the winter decor with spring (ever hopeful) that the new season will arrive on time. In honor of springing ahead, I’m prepping for Easter, longer days and brighter colors.

Now if I can just figure out where my fuel oil is going!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I wrote these thoughts a couple of weeks ago, but now, I can’t post this without adding that these are trivial issues today. My father-in-law is in the ICU, has been for the past few days. He had a cold last week that sent him to the emergency room on Tuesday, and to ICU level on Wednesday. What’s a broken window and a fuel oil bill? They’re irritants and expenses, but they are not the stuff of life. Life is the stuff of life. Funny how easy it is to forget that, at least on a very small and personal level…I’m not talking about recognizing that the world has many ills and tragedies that unfold hourly…but about the unwelcome reminder that life is fragile, when one of the 7+ billion humans on the planet that I know by name and love by heart is seriously ill.

PQOTD

A few years ago I signed up for a free email service that sends me a daily quote. Some are from famous people who’re well known. Other quotes are from more obscure sources, people I never heard of. But whatever the source, the wisdom is often the perfect nugget I need to hear. Not sure how that happens…that what I need for inspiration or encouragement falls so neatly and regularly in my email inbox. But so it does.

Here are a few recent favorites:

The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green. ~ Thomas Carlyle

Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting. ~ Elizabeth Asquith Bibesco

As one’s fortunes are reduced, one’s spirit must expand to fill the void. ~ Winston Churchill

Money is a “way of keeping score in life,” says T. Boone Pickens. But that is just for those who like playing the game. The real goal is to live with grace and dignity. You can do that with a small amount of  money…or not do it with a fortune. ~ Bill Bonner

We are drowning in information, but starved for knowledge ~ John Naisbitt

And finally, on this rainy, chilly day, longing for spring to come, I love this:

“Spring is God’s way of saying, ‘One more time.’” ~ Robert Orben

If you’d like to join this free list (you can unsubscribe at any time), visit Positive Quote of the Day