A little blog grooming

Ah, nothing like some sprucing up to feel refreshed! Today’s assignment helped me take a look at some widgets I’ve been neglecting, ignoring, or had lost in the transition from one theme to another.

The great thing about WordPress is that there are so many customizable features, many available for no extra charge. The longer I’ve worked with the dashboard options, the more comfortable I am with experimenting, moving things around, using my choice of words or position for the features I want to add. Thanks, guys, for making it simple and giving me a more polished look!

The main focus of today’s assignment is on branding…what is my brand, and how do I stay consistent in everything I publish? Well, that’s going to take a little more thought to define. But asking the questions is a great beginning. And for now, I’m content to let thoughts of brand percolate a bit while I work on some of the more concrete elements.

For anyone reading who hasn’t checked out blogging, dive in! I promise you’ll find your horizon expanding and your knowledge growing. (You’ll learn what a widget is. :) )

And you can’t beat the price!

~ Sheila

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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

 

 

 

 

What’s new (new to me)

So here’s a roundup of fun new things/blogs/ideas I’ve run across…most of these are new to me, I’m sure, rather than the world at large. But just in case you’re moving at my pace of discovery, you might find these interesting:

Blogs:  These are a few I’ve found recently that I’m enjoying: Malou Prestado writes Going Dutch, a lovely blog on the adventure of merging cultures and living in Europe. She’s quite the photographer!  Domestic Diva MD is an often hilarious and irreverent source for tasty recipes, each one with a story attached, and the stories are as tantalizing as the recipes.

The Worrywort’s Guide is a blog that I can really identify with. A lot of this author’s writing sounds like me, only she’s funnier and far more clever! Photobotos is a new photo blog I’ve subscribed to, and each morning I have a stunning or funny or amazing image to view, complete with story behind the shot and technical details from the photographer. The site also provides  product reviews, useful if you’re in need of photo tech info. Check it out!

Cara Long Writes is a site that a friend of mine is doing, and it highlights her blossoming career as a children’s book author, and adventures as a mom of nine (9!).

General Info: In case you’re thinking of connecting with fellow bloggers for inspiration, encouragement, information, or tech tips, here’s a site for locating blog conferences throughout the remainder of the year. You can check out the various options and register for anything of interest here.

Here’s an article about cool sites for free items or bartered services. I was familiar with some of these options, but had not heard of others. I’m not much into looking for free things, but I am still cleaning out, little by little, and it’s good to have options for clearing out larger items that I can’t haul to Salvation Army in my vehicle. And I love the idea of bartering services, that’s something that could be hugely useful. Check out the options here.

Tech: If you use Safari as your browser, there are a lot of great tips for making it a more useful experience here. And finally, if you have an Android or Apple iOS smartphone/device, check out this free app for better photo editing: Adobe Photoshop Express; see here for more information.

Hide and Seek

I’m in gathering mode. I’m learning. What a challenge it is to reinvent yourself! I have a stack of books by my bed, I have more downloaded on my Kindle, and I’m finding new resources online through blogs and websites. Information overload! All this reading makes it hard to produce. One of the cardinal rules of writing is to write. Stay with it. Once again, I find that my blog has been on the back burner.

I like to think I’m a multi-tasker extraordinaire, but maybe I’m not…I tend to get a bit sidetracked by what I’m reading, get lost in the maze of discovery. I’m researching the process of writing a book here and here; reading about life mapping here and creating passion in life here; learning more about blogging and the digital world, here; and looking for mentors and events to broaden my horizon here. I’ve also picked up a couple of books that are (deceptively) simple “how tos” for increasing happiness here and getting along with others, here. More about these later.

I’m learning new programs, taking my conversion to Apple to the next level by working through the Pages and Numbers programs.

And I’m working relief for PeaceHealth clinics and taking on some project work on a contract basis for another organization. I feel a bit like I’m back in college, having a day job, and coming home to start a mental second shift. I’ve been ramping up to this for a while, but transitioning away from a full-time position in January has upped the stakes. I have a bit more freedom to concentrate on my own projects, but also more risk. I have to admit, I miss the regular check already, although I love not having to think about my leave balance when I make plans to travel.

All this makes me wonder…what’s really next? I committed to this path last summer…well, at least I committed to leaving full-time work at the new year. Hard to know where all of this will lead. I get conflicting messages. There’s the belief that if you don’t script out your life (life mapping) you’re in danger of wandering aimlessly without focus or clearly defined purpose. Some believe that your passion and your career work should be intertwined. Some believe that your passion does not necessarily reflect your skills…that your skills and your gift are not the same. I read something a few days ago that said that we don’t have to search for our passions, they find us. Just like we don’t have to work to know if we like a certain color or taste or music. We just know. That seems right, and yet, I don’t know. What I’ve learned is that the thing I’ve had the most passion for in my life, mothering, is now largely completed, at least in a day-to-day, hands on way. So while I’ll always be a mom, and I’ll continue to find joy and fulfillment in my evolving role as a mother, that is not going to be my life’s work at this stage.

Then the questions begin. I’ve always loved to bake. Maybe I have the seeds of a restaurateur in me. Or maybe I’m destined to help others find their own path, as soon as I’ve figured out the formula for myself. Or maybe I’ll find a way to become a writer and get paid for it. That’s the really sticky part. I’m looking for something I love, something I feel passion to do. And I need it to feed me…emotionally, professionally, economically. Sounds like a tall order. And yet, these stories are everywhere: people magically falling into something they love to do every day, and getting paid to do it.

Well, I’m sure this will continue to be a theme for a while. So far I have more questions than answers, and the gathering phase is only beginning. I think of all the clichés: if it’s worth having, it’s worth waiting for; it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be worth it; never, never, never, never, never give up.

So off to work, then home to do some more work. Reading. Searching. Reinventing. Really, how can we expect kids just out of high school to know what they want to be? It’s a challenge at any age, unless you happen to be one of those blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) individuals who are so defined by their particular talent that they are compelled to be a painter, musician, author. I need a new category. Guess I’ll have to invent it myself, I’m not finding my particular passion in the standard line up.

One year old today

A year ago I posted my first blog. This little milestone is particularly meaningful to me because this has been the most challenging year of my life. I’d never thought about blogging until October of last year, and within a couple of weeks of deciding to try it, I was up and going.

20111025-200343.jpg There are a number of sites that offer free blog hosting, with a variety of support and features built into the programming. I use WordPress.com, but this is only one of many options. The point is, you too could start a blog. You can write about anything, as often as you want. You can spend a lot to add bells and whistles, or pay no money at all and still create a site with a professional appearance.

Blogging can be a digital diary, but it can also be much more. I’d be willing to bet that there’s no subject you could name that doesn’t have at least one blog devoted to it. There are photo blogs, list blogs, aggregate blogs. Endless variety!

My goal this next year is to migrate my blog to WordPress.org, the sibling of WordPress.com. The .org platform requires more user knowledge, and you pay a fee for a web hosting service. But the .org platform offers other possibilities, and I’m ready to explore the next steps.

I also want to attend a blog trade show. I know, I know, there’s a lot of noise and chatter at these types of events. But I don’t know what I don’t know, and I think it would be entertaining, at least, and possibly instructive, to see what exists in the blogosphere that I haven’t stumbled across yet. I’m pretty sure there’s enough to fill a convention hall or two. My usual method of discovery, accidentally tripping over something online, typically while looking for something totally unrelated to my real find, is just not efficient.

I don’t have a clear plan in mind for “next.” Mostly, I’m just curious about what I can do. The reality is that this little blog has played an important role in my life, giving me a positive and energizing outlet during a time that has otherwise felt more than a little daunting. I think I’ve rounded the corner on that, moving from fear to excitement. Oh, it’s good to reinvent myself in some ways at this stage of life!

But this is not about celebrating me. This is about celebrating new. Celebrating learning and joy.

I’ve known for a long time that I’m not a pioneer at heart in a physical sense. I would never have made it crossing the plains on a wagon train. I have no interest in going to the moon, or exploring the ocean depths. But the digital world?! Yes! See you out there!

Number 200!

I realized when I was looking at the dashboard for my blog that this will be post two hundred I’ve published since last October. I don’t post every day…only about 165 short of that mark! But still, two hundred posts…that’s a lot of words.

I want this blog to be a lens for viewing the positive and uplifting moments in life. I also celebrate humor, comfort, joy…all things wise and wonderful. The best things that have come from blogging in the past year?

  • Exercising my creativity
  • Finding the discipline to work on this project
  • Learning new skills and technology
  • Meeting new friends via WordPress and reconnecting with others
  • Finding all sorts of resources for whatever I’m writing about – the Internet never ceases to surprise me!
  • Being inspired, amused, touched, challenged, amazed by others – there are so many wise, clever, and incredibly funny people in the blogosphere.

So for this little milestone I’m sharing some of my favorite new quotes…oh, there’s a never-ending supply! These are a nice sampling of wisdom, humor, and cleverness. (All images from Pinterest.)

Enjoy!

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