Goodbye 2016

I have spent some time this morning decluttering the house. While I packed away Christmas decor, tossed out old files, and loaded the car with boxes of the latest donations, I started to reflect on this past year. It went by in a flash, but I am truly humbled by the last 365 days.

Highlights of the past year remind me of more good times than bad, which is something I haven’t always been able to say every December 31. What I have always been able to say, regardless of the ups or downs, is that God is good. He is faithful, and He continues to bless me with undeserving goodness and mercy.

This year, we welcomed two new family members — Michael David (born May 23) and John Carter (born September 12). Both of these handsome boys are my great nephews, born to my two oldest nieces, Jessie (Carter’s mom) and Katie (Michael’s mom). Being an aunt is an honor that I do not take for granted. I’m certainly not the best aunt, but I love all of my nieces and nephews (and now great-nephews) with all of my heart.


Michael (above)


Carter (above)

I ran a few races over the past 12 months. Six to be exact. With each 3.1 miles completed, my back felt better and I became both stronger and faster. After the struggle that I had last year with my back injury, I was happy to end the year at the same pace that was once my fastest.


I spent a few days in Myrtle Beach at one of my favorite conferences – Women of Joy. It is nice to get away for two nights and soak in some Vitamin Sea. I am most as peace where the ocean meets the sand. Between the sun, sand, and salty air… and the wonderful worship that fills the conference center over those 72 hours… I always come back rejuvenated and restored.



Author and speaker, Lisa Harper at Women of Joy 2016

I finally made it to Chicago this year. Five of my friends and I took an extended weekend girls’ trip up to the Windy City. We laughed a lot, we bickered a little, and we made lifelong memories over the course of five days. We ate great food. We saw historical landmarks. And we even caught a game at Wrigley Field. Little did we know we were watching the World Series Champs in action.

Shortly after returning from Chi-town, I received my biggest blessing of all — turning 40. Some people dread getting older but to me, it’s a privilege. When I say that I am grateful for my days, I seriously mean that I am grateful for every.single.day. As y’all know, I’m on a mission to make the most of this life that I have been given, and embracing every second is the best way to ensure that!

I took Mom to see Dolly Parton in concert this year. Dolly is someone that she has listened to as long as I can remember. I grew up to Mom playing Dolly albums on the record player… Here You Come Again, Jolene, and Two Doors Down are just a few of the Dolly songs that are part of my Life Soundtrack. It was really awesome to get to see Dolly perform them live with Mom sitting beside me. So much fun!

As I look ahead to the new year, one word comes to mind and sums up my goals for 2017:

Focus

Focus on the good.
Focus on what matters.
Focus on my health.
Focus on my family.
Focus on new distances.
Focus on making dreams a reality.
Focus on fun.
Focus on staying on budget.
Focus on staying on track.
Focus on my mission!

I admit that I can easily be distracted. As a matter of fact, I should still be in the office decluttering but I stopped to write this post. 🙂 I don’t want to lose site of my ultimate goal… my mission to make the most of life. I want to live minimally, eat clean, travel places that I’ve never been. I want to push past the comfort zone of 5Ks and train for a 10K. I want to spend more time on this blog, sharing life with y’all. I want to give freely, bless others, and be creative. I want to finish projects that I’ve started. (Boy, does THAT require heavy focus!! haha) I want to dream bigger than I ever have before, and not lose sight of all that I am capable of… and all that God wants me to experience.

What are your plans for the new year? Will you make resolutions for 2017? Do you have certain goals that you would like to accomplish? Comment below and share YOUR dreams with me. Let’s join together and encourage one another as we focus on a mission to make 2017 the best year yet! Happy New Year, friends!

Life Update: December 26, 2016

Where do I even start?

I guess it would be polite to begin with hello, and Merry Christmas! It blows my mind that my family and I celebrated the holiday yesterday and I still do not feel like it’s Christmastime. I have truly struggled to get in the holiday hustle and bustle this year. And I have already taken down and packed up the decorations. But I did have a wonderful Christmas, and I hope that those of you who celebrate it did too.

Now… to explain my recent absence. Y’all. Some days I shouldn’t be allowed to get out of bed. haha

Two weeks ago, I was trying to be proactive. I had wanted to transition my Etsy inventory over to this website for a while, and December 10 seemed like a good day to do it. So, that morning, I got an early start on creating a page, importing media, and researching the best way to display my online store. [I should probably mention here that, although I have been a blogger for 6 years, I’m still not all-that-savvy with all-things-Wordpress.] I found a great tutorial with sample HTML codes and carefully followed instructions to assure everything was perfect. When I was finished with the first of many planned pages, I clicked the publish button and waited anxiously for the page to refresh… to see if everything looked good. I didn’t want to code all pages if there was something that needed to be tweaked.

At that moment, my heart sank. Where was my page? I clicked the refresh button beside the URL. Nothing!! My page was solid white. Trying not to panic (although I was already having a full-on anxiety attack) I convinced myself that it would be no big deal… I would rekey my Dashboard URL and delete those codes, or even that particular page, and all would revert back to normal. Um, nope. That didn’t work either. Why did that not work?!! I got sick to my stomach; my head hurt; I think I was on the verge of a breakdown. With the click of one button, I had lost every post that I had ever written since 2010.

Of course I Googled for WordPress tips and tricks to help me revert the damage that I had done, but everything that I found either didn’t work or was too complicated. I had to walk away. It tore me up, and shut me down, for a few hours.

Then it dawned on me… I used a third-party hosting company! Maybe they would be able to tell me what to do to get my page back? After 15 minutes on the phone with my hosting company, it was evident that whatever I had done was irreversible via WordPress. I wanted to cry. What had I done?

The technician placed me on hold for one last attempt for him to save the day and when he returned, he had found a work-around. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a free work-around but it would restore some of my posts. He explained that the hosting company occasionally backs up accounts, and mine had last been updated on December 1.

The process took a while to complete. I had to fill out a service ticket, they had to process my payment, and then they had to compete the restore. I had lost four posts – 12/5, 12/8, 12/12, and 12/15. (And of course I don’t have them saved anywhere else.) I didn’t have any posts scheduled for 12/19 and 12/22 by the time my page was back up and running, it was the week before Christmas and the holiday chaos had begun. I was upset that I had lost posts but given the fact that my website had been restored otherwise, I couldn’t dwell or complain. I’m so unbelievable grateful for my hosting company!

Today, I’m back on track. I spent some time this weekend scheduling topics for the upcoming year, and I have some exciting things in store for 2017. I hope that you’ll subscribe to my blog so that you don’t miss any of my future posts ….including my online store! 😉 I will figure out a way to post my inventory without crashing my site again. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Comment below or message me on Facebook!

Ch-ch-changes!

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
Turn and face the strain
Ch-ch-Changes
Pretty soon you’re gonna get a little older
                                        – David Bowie

My life has been a whirlwind lately. Ok… I guess that isn’t anything new. I usually run at full speed 99% of the time. But lately, I’ve been trying to run wide open while battling a sinus infection and nasty cough. Although they were slow to kick in, it seems the antibiotics I took for two weeks have finally worked. Or maybe I just finally got some much needed rest.

So here I am… re-evaluating things yet again. Why do I always pack my schedule so full? Why do I say I’m going to slow down for good, only to find myself still running mach speed? It seems to be a never-ending cycle. But one that I think I manage fairly well. I overload my plate but somehow always get by. It isn’t easy though. And I usually bring on a lot more stress than I should.

Last month I had decided to go back to school. I had my application filled out and ready to submit. I was lining up financial aid. But in the midst of my grad school preparation, I made plans on top of plans and overlooked my niece’s and nephew’s birthdays altogether. How terrible! I felt awful. Without hesitation, I put a hault on grad school. It will have to wait… and that’s perfectly okay.

Realizing that I need to amend my schedule yet again, I considered putting this blog back on hiatus and focusing solely on On A Mission. I am so frustrated, I even want to cancel my social media accounts. Don’t panic. I’m not planning on doing that just yet. (But the thought has crossed my mind!) After thinking carefully about how to recify this chaos better known as my life, I have come up with two things:

  1. A friend of mine suggested that I adopt a “daily schedule” where I select one day to focus on one task. For example; Mondays will be writing for this blog, Tuesdays will be for nonprofit work, Wednesdays will be writing for On A Mission, and so on. As rigid as this may sound, I think it may actually work. It’s worth giving a shot anyway!
  2. Perhaps I should remove several apps from my phone. I once attended a Social Fresh event in Charlotte where DJ Waldow confessed to removing his email from his phone. This allowed him to focus on his emails while he was in the office, and remove himself from work when he wasn’t. Maybe social media is too accessible to me right now. I waste too much time unfocused on things that shouldn’t be occupying my time during certain hours of the day.

I still struggle with this blog’s content. Right now it truly is a conglomeration of several different ideas. As frustrated as I get trying to make sense of this website, it would be easy to shut it down and walk away. But I enjoy writing. And I’m coming up on my second anniversary with this blog. So I just can’t fathom throwing in the towel right now. Bear with me. I am bound to streamline this website at some point. 🙂

All that said… I would love your input, your thoughts, and/or your suggestions. I’m in need of some changes!! Has anyone else struggled with reigning in your to do list? Do you have any scheduling tips for me? Is my blog enjoyable as it exists? Or should I work on narrowing my topics? Please comment below. I would love to hear from you!

In Search of the Perfect Blog

I’m a perfectionist. It’s an annoying trait to have, especially now that I have a blog.

I worked as a graphic designer in publishing and print advertising for over a decade. Because of that, I have come to expect drafts and corrections on a regular basis. I have always enjoyed writing but blogging does not come easy for me. I struggle to keep my blog current. I over-analyze topics and wonder if my readers will find them interesting. I am wordy. I spend countless hours editing. I nitpick every aspect until I feel like it is near perfection. Most posts take me several days to produce. You would think I was a copywriter for the World Book Encyclopedia.

Because of this desire to create perfect blogs, I find myself sitting in front of my computer contemplating the effort to write. Is it even worth the time to maintain a blog when I only publish a couple of posts a month? I am blown away by my blogger friends who can crank out multiple scheduled posts weekly. How can they have time to decide on topics, write them, and edit them all a few times before posting them? The more I think about it, the more frustrated I become. Maybe blogging isn’t for me.

I considered making this post my last attempt at blogging, but thought I should research perfectionist blogs just to see if I could find a helpful tip or two. What I found surprised me. There are a lot of folks who struggle with this very problem. It seems those of us in search of the perfect blog are the ones who are least successful in the blogging world. If you happen to be one of those struggling writers, let me share with you some great words of wisdom from folks who have overcome the desire to be perfect.*

Darren Rowse of ProBlogger encourages us to:
Realize that the web is flexible.
Understand that our readers know we’re human.
Recognize the value we can get from using reader feedback to improve our posts.
Respect the importance of our publishing schedule.

Darren states, “Of course, we all want our posts to be factually accurate and typo-free—that’s a given. But there are also considerable advantages to letting go and seeing where a less polished post might lead.” Great advice!

Jennifer Blanchard of Procrastinating Writers believes, “Other than fear, [perfectionism] is the main reason people procrastinate. They get so worried that the blog they create won’t be perfect from the get-go that they don’t even bother starting it. Perfectionism causes serious stress, which is always a recipe for disaster.”

She also reminds us that perfection is an idea, not a reality. No one is or can be perfect. “So rather than berate yourself for not being perfect, remember that life – and blogging – is a journey. And the only way to reach the end goal of that journey is to take the first step: Start your blog!”

Dr. Bob Clarke of Simple Solutions for Part Time Entrepreneurs
actually used a 20-minute exercise to break his perfectionist ways. He set a timer, started writing, and when the timer sounded… it was done. He posted the blog as-is, with no capitalization, no spell check, and no formatting. Who is up for this challenge?

And finally, Tristan at The Backlight writes, “Being perfect is overrated and unnecessary. Apart from the fact that perfection is impossible, your blog doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be better than the other blogs in your niche. No one cares if you’re perfect. Your readers care about your content.” I love this graphic included in his post:

Thanks to these bloggers, who imperfectly shared their advice, I do feel more comfortable. Although changing my habits won’t happen over night, I have decided to give blogging another shot.

If you’re a perfectionist blogger, do you think these suggestions will help you?
How critical are you, as a reader, of finding mistakes in other blogs?
If you’re a successful blogger, are there any additional tips that you’d like to share?

*Be sure to check out the links to each blog post when you’re finished here for even more helpful information.

SoGeeky South

I wanted to take a quick moment to share with you three upcoming social media/technology conferences that you may find worthy of attending:

SOCIAL FRESH Charlotte 2011
via www.socialfresh.com

During Social Fresh Charlotte’s two days of training – September 6-7, 2011 – our educational track can be broken down into a few core focus points:

Training Topics — Social Fresh is adding more and more training opportunities. Our sessions focus more on teaching actionable lessons and less on broader strokes or concept discussion. Attendees told us they wanted more hands on training, so now we have including training topics for teaching tactics and strategy throughout the entire conference. We avoid talking ABOUT social media and focus on showing you what you can do today.

We select the topics and sessions we think you will learn the most from. We include brand lessons that will teach you. Attendees from Social Fresh can hit the ground running after the event. They take away tons of notes and insights that can be implemented right away.

Better Speakers — I don’t know of a training event that can say they have the experience that Social Fresh has with finding the right social media speakers and topics for an audience of marketers. We have hosted hundreds of top industry speakers. The best speakers are one part high level insights, one part first hand knowledge, and one part not boring the attendees to tears.

We know who can convey the best social media lessons and brand lessons. We know who is rated the highest by your marketing peers, event after event. And we know which speakers can actually send people away inspired and more confident, as opposed to more confused and wanting more.

Our Charlotte conference has the best line up of smart speakers that we have ever put together. These thought leaders get it and put this stuff into practice for clients and big businesses every day.

WHY IS SOCIAL FRESH DIFFERENT?

Focus on Networking
Focus on Fun
Focus on Actionable Content
Focus on Case Studies

Hosted by Jason Keath and Corey Creed. Please visit the Social Fresh Charlotte website to read more about the event and speakers. Click here for ticket information.

ConvergeSouth 2011
via www.convergesouth.com

ConvergeSouth is the annual tech users conference held in Greensboro, NC. Entering our 7th year, the conference is organized completely by volunteers. Originally based on the “blogger-con” concept, ConvergeSouth has grown as technology has developed and has tried to meet new needs of our community via Social Networking, Social Media, App Development and more without ignoring new users’ needs – that’s why there will always be a “101″ or Beginners Track at ConvergeSouth.

Mark your calendars for October 6-7, 2011 in Greensboro!

ConvergeSouth has also added a one-day Nonprofit Track this year to draw in tech-savvy nonprofits who do so much for our communities. The three special sessions are designed at the introductory (101) level to assist nonprofits move deeper into the tech world.

Thursday’s keynote speaker is a globally-recognized blogger, educator, business consultant, and author who blogs at {grow} — one of the AdAge Top 50 blogs of the world, Mark Schaefer. Mark has worked in global sales, PR, and marketing positions for nearly 30 years and now provides consulting services as Executive Director of U.S.-based Schaefer Marketing Solutions.

He has advanced degrees in marketing and organizational development and holds seven patents. Mark enjoys teaching social media marketing courses at several colleges and is a faculty member of the graduate studies program at Rutgers University.

Mark is the author of The Tao of Twitter and has a new McGraw-Hill-published book arriving spring, 2012.

Please visit the ConvergeSouth website to read more about the event and speakers. Click here for full-event ticket information or here for Non-Profit Day registration.

GEEKEND 2011
via www.geek-end.com

Geekend is the interactive conference phenomenon you have been waiting your whole life for. It is your chance to interact with people taking the tech and creative industries by storm.

Geekend is the annual gathering of the geek tribe. Geekend is what you might call an interactive conference with some truly awesome parties. It’s the kind of event that you’ll be texting, Tweeting and Facebooking from, while making all your friends back home super jealous.

Geekend is a mashup, a meetup, and a Tweet-up all mixed together in a delicious Low Country boil of innovative ideas. It’s networking, Savannah style. It’s a veritable supermarket of fresh thoughts and delicious camaraderie. To sum Geekend up in one word is really quite impossible, but we tend to use this one: Fun.

Join us this October and November as the brightest geeks, designers, developers, artists, and social media mavericks flock to Boston and Savannah for several days filled with cutting edge speakers, fun-filled after parties, and amazing networking opportunities.

Go to our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter for all the Geekend details and updates.

Our Mission:

To bring together the brightest geeks, designers, artists, social media mavericks and forward thinking entrepreneurs.

Founded by Miriam & Jacob Hodesh and Sloane Kelley, you will be blown away by the events Geekend 2011 has in store for you. Visit Geekend’s website to checkout the schedule and list of speakers. Please click here for ticket information.

You will not want to miss these three conferences. Why are you waiting? Get your tickets now! Comment below if you already have your tickets and plan to join me. See you there!

Pet Peeves

No one is perfect, thankfully. Could you image the pressure of having to uphold perfection? I certainly wouldn’t want that stress. Perfection among a society could also lead to boredom. Without individual quirks, I’d imagine things would be pretty dull.

However, having worked for 10 years in Marketing, there are a few things that annoy me to a greater degree than others. I wanted to take the opportunity to blog about my pet peeves simply to get things off of my chest; although secretly I hope this will also raise awareness to the community.

THEN versus THAN

For some reason, society has forgotten the definition of these words. There seems to be an increase in misuse over the past years. The error has become so common lately that, for a second, I actually questioned my use of the words!

THEN is defined as a place in time; as in immediately, soon after, or next in order. It is an adverb. Used in a sentence, it would read We ate dinner, then started home.

THAN is a conjunction. It is a function word used in comparison or to express choices. Used in a sentence, it would read Easier said than done.

To read “We can go to the mall than go to the movies.” would – although poorly stated – actually indicate a choice (either mall or movies) and would not indicate a sequence of events.

The only time than can be used in timing is when it is replacing scarcely or hardly. For example:
No sooner had we arrived than the class starts.
Hardly had we arrived when the class started.
However, please keep in mind that hardly and than should never be used in the same sentence.

So rather THAN continuing to consistently make errors concerning these words, please reference these definitions above, THEN make the correct choice in your emails, texts, Tweets, or blogs.

BACKSLASH versus SLASH

It is common occurrence to confuse these two words, as well. I understand that not everyone is educated on this type of terminology. I hope that this brief discussion will encourage you to share the information in an effort to raise awareness. The correct use of these words is crucial when sharing your URL or giving a website to someone.

BACKSLASH is the mark and is typically used in computer programming. On a standard American keyboard, it can usually be found above the Return/Enter key. It shares the key with the mark |.

SLASH is the mark / which has multiple uses. It is sometimes referred to as a forward slash. Typically it denotes “or” as in the sentence above where I mentioned Return/Enter or “per” as in Miles/Hour. It is also the mark commonly used in URL (website) addresses. It can be found on the same key of a standard keyboard as the question mark (?).

To state that your website is jennbcreative-dot-com-backslash-jennb would result in the following: www.jennbcreative.comjennb  You will find that if you enter a backslash, you will receive an error message. Please remember when sharing URLs to properly state “slash” when the / mark appears.

PROOFREADING

I am notorious for making typos, especially if I am using my iPhone to communicate. Aside from auto-correct issues, my fingers simply struggle to reach the correct keys at times. This happens most commonly when I am in a hurry. Typos are simply going to happen.

However, when managing a business’s Twitter/Facebook page or being heavily involved in blogging, typos and other grammatical errors should be kept to a minimum. This should specifically pertain to folks who consider themselves writers, blogging specialists, or social media gurus. Proofreading is critical. Without it, our publications can look hurried, sloppy, pointless, or uneducated.

Blogs are written to express our feelings or to share knowledge within a community. We want our posts to convey accurate information right down to the punctuation. I like to think of it as this; blogs allow us to publish our own online newspapers with articles specific to our own liking. Imagine if you purchased a NY Times and found words out of place or misspelled. It would be difficult to take from it what the writer was actually trying to communicate. If my NY Times read like many blogs I have seen, I would demand a cancellation of my subscription and a refund in full.

Often when I write a blog, I want to put everything down as quickly as I can, for fear of leaving out details. Sometimes I type faster than I should, or my brain jumps ahead of itself. I have been known to omit words and even sentences. Because of this, I save my blogs as a draft. I then take a break and revisit the blog at another time. If your schedule does not allow for a revisit, take your time selecting the words of your blog. Don’t rush through it. If you don’t take the time to write it, do you think your guests will take the time to read it?

I also take advantage of the Thesaurus and Merriam-Webster websites. The Chicago Manual of Style is even online! We really have resources at our fingertips. In college, I remember having those books scattered across my desk during English and Creative Writing courses. Now, I simply keep these websites up as tabs. When I struggle to find a word, I will click on the thesaurus tab. Within seconds, I have found a better word for my blog. As silly as it sounds, I also find it helpful to re-read your blog aloud before publishing it. It is easier to find misplaced words and misspellings that way.

I hope that this post will enlighten just one person, who will be moved to share this information with someone else. This isn’t to point fingers at anyone but is simply to remind us that – although computers have simplified our lives – technology doesn’t necessarily make us smarter writers. We need to still be aware of what we are publishing and utilizing resources when we need assistance.

Put into your blog what you want someone to take from it, and never stop learning.