Going Pink

breast cancer awareness ribbonWhat a difference a few days can make. This time last week I was thinking about adding blogging for a cause as a regular feature. One thing led to another and pretty soon I was joking about dyeing my hair pink.

Do you need a little backstory? Yes, methinks you need a little backstory. Here goes.

Pink Valentine’s marketing frou frou brightening local stores led me to musing about the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon, which led to remembering that I haven’t gotten around to getting a mammogram lately, which for some strange reason led to musing about midlife crisis and how much fun the first bubble of midlife crisis was for yours truly (when I wasn’t suffering,) which reminded me of my 20’s for the same reason (fun, when I wasn’t suffering) which reminded me of how I used to joke that one year for a good enough reason (a “cause”) I’d dye my hair pink for Valentine’s day.

During about the same time period I heard about SEOs Fight Fat from Donna Fontenot, and I guess you could say that one thing led to another, which leads me to more backstory.

Sympathy Dieting Sucks

Since SEOs Fight Fat launched I’ve gained five pounds. My intent was to do a little tandem sympathy dieting and take my weight down another 25 lbs, at five pounds a month. Losing 25 lbs last year and 25 this year would get me down to a comfortable place. Another 25 and I’d be at my pre-baby weight of 21 years ago… but that’s not really necessary. At my height, nearly six feet tall, anything under 175 lbs is a matter of distribution, and I’m cool with that. However, going from 200lbs to 205 in one week was not in the plan.

Maybe sympathy needs a compass

Sympathy dieting is not the same as putting yourself on the line. Sympathy opens everything. In my case last week that included opening my mouth for veritable slabs of super yummy, skin-on lemon-pepper chicken – and for the most part I’m someone who lives happily on moderate amounts of nuts and berries and dairy. It’s just that I get almost zero exercise and a lot can happen between “moderate” and “amount” when I listen to a craving.

Cravings lie. Cravings say “You need to eat another heart-shaped frosted cake before bed time. Mmmmm, satisfying. Now you need another.”

Cravings should be used to fuel comfort, curiosity and the creative, but never to make decisions impacting health. Health is a choice – not even in the same universe as a craving.

Choosing health is a daily celebration of life

Not to get all fluffy about it, but dieting is not about the skinny jeans or the struggle to avoid one’s beloved cheese fries. My neighbor is a case in point.

He’s a tall, broad-shouldered guy who’s had a full life – military service, kids, work, friends, extended family, retirement, and his current position as Neighborhood Ambassador. The day I moved in he walked over and introduced himself. Very old school. Very home town friendly. Very… Cre8asite. Yes, I spend too much time online.

Anyhoo, my neighbor has lost more than 90 lbs over the course of a year. At the halfway point he got cancer and found that he is not a good surgery candidate because of what the weight does to his blood pressure. He did other treatment. He’s OK so far, and is still plugging away at the diet.

Makes you think, doesn’t it? You never know what will happen next. Weight loss is not about fitting into the skinny jeans. The skinny jeans are a side effect, a milepost. The better part of willpower is willingness to live the good life. Cheese fries ain’t got nothin’ on that.

Are You Willing to Get Wacky For a Cause?

I am. :)

Remember up top when I said something about pink hair and joking that one year for a good enough reason (a “cause”) I’d dye my hair pink for Valentine’s day? Here goes.

Some of the folks at SEOs Fight Fat are off to a slow start. Some haven’t started blogging yet, and some who have have yet to sell an ad on their page of the project. I want to encourage them to go a little crazy over their cause, by going a little crazy myself.

If each of the eleven SEOs at SEOs Fight Fat sell a new display ad by February 14th, I’ll dye my hair pink.

To be fair, Valentine’s Day is only six days away. If they want a re-match, I’ll go green for three new ads each by St. Patrick’s Day – March 17th. Do both and I’ll do both. Come close and make me an offer, but I’m not shaving anything.

DazzlinDonna, Jennifer Laycock, Aaron Wall, Jim Boykin, Simon Heseltine, Nathania Johnson, Ben Cook, Scottie Claiborne, Jeff Quipp, David Wallace and Debra Mastaler, li’l ol (tall) me is callin’ out you and your readership.

If you’re reading this and smiling I encourage you to leave me a tip. It will cost a mere dollar to add a message to the brand new My Top Spots gizmo in my side bar. I think it’d be a lot of fun if my first few tips come from people who would like to see their choice of the SEOs Fight Fat bunch dye their own hair. I encourage you to click “Show some love, buy one” and plunk down $1 to leave an encouraging, linked message for the SEO of your choice.

Oh, and for your information, my long hair is now a natural brown, and I’ve got an appointment for that mammogram.

Breaking the Mold Without Breaking Myself

Creativity is a bit like a butterfly net. A butterfly net can be a tool, an unused artifact, a source of silly visual jokes and metaphors – determining its significance requires perspective. Most of us don’t have a butterfly net on hand at any given moment, and a net doesn’t do much on its own.

Someone needs to pick it up and be ready to act, and then there are always more questions:

  • Where are the butterflies?
  • Am I going after the right butterflies?
  • Should butterflies be caught, mounted in a collection, bred in captivity… or in this case are they better admired in the wild?
  • How many is enough?
  • What is this other thing that landed in my net?
  • Is running around waving a net really the best use of my time?

Weekend Off? Wax On

This is post 23, published on day 31 of my goal of 101 posts in 101 days. I’ve been writing every day and posting almost every day. Along with publishing 23 new finished posts, I’ve saved about 12 new drafts and made about three more “draft” pages that are lists of ideas and links I like, and my “ideas” notebook is beginning to fill up.

At about post #10 I noticed that writing was getting easier, though writing something finished every day was harder. I decided to try posting twice in one day once in a while, still working on drafts when I wasn’t going to post that day. That may not be the best path for me: the need for a day off got stronger, and finishing things got harder.

Part of the problem was feeling like I’d let go of discipline by not posting every day, though sometimes, hey, the fruit is on the tree but not ripe for picking, if you know what I mean. I decided to experiment with purposefully taking time off from posting and writing, to see what would happen between my ears. Would I get better results from “I will take this weekend off,” or from “I will do all I can and take a day to myself if I need it?” Not posting for a day, no matter how purposeful, didn’t feel much different from slacking off because of burnout. Something was missing.

A couple of weeks ago I forced myself not to post over the weekend, and it was a surprising experience.

During that two days I had a sudden flood of creative ideas and even some practical ones. I felt like I’d experienced something wonderful about balancing pushing myself with leaving open space, and I was eager to get back to work. Then, that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were exhausting, like pulling my own teeth while under the influence of not enough anesthetic. I was more tired than before giving it a rest.


  • Change of pace is good for creativity.
  • Getting self-discipline going after a break is hard.
  • Balancing the two is challenging!

Discipline Is Good For Learning and Building

Achieving something when creativity comes to call requires that skills and tools are in place ahead of time. Skills and the use of tools requires practice, practice and more practice – like exercise. Every exercise that requires effort builds something.

Working out is like making art

Drawing every day improves coordination. Hand-eye coordination, small muscle coordination, and the big stuff of muscle memory are all grown in the brain and the body, through practice and desire. Instinct may be inborn, but the ability to do something with it or even to notice opportunities is not automatic and doesn’t happen over night.

Art students are sometimes advised to put their heart into every drawing, but not to expect to be making precious objects. Draw every day for the experience of drawing, and expect the first hundred to be throw aways. After the first hundred, drawing is a little more likely to occasionally result in art. Experimenting with CSS can feel much the same way. ;-)

Regular practice is essential. Without daily practice the coordination starts to go, and then the would-be artist is left with hope and vision, or hope for a vision, or maybe just insecurity and desire: one of the side effects of practicing through clumsiness is a quiet bravery.

Bravery comes in handy. The creative process can be ruthless and klutzy, like a kid running around with a butterfly net.

The Plan

The goal is still 101 posts in 101 days. If I need to go to six posts a week to stay human, that’s OK, but the existing goal is still 101 posts in 101 days. At the end of the road will be a sense of identity (brand) for this space.

The plan is to post daily except for weekends. Though it’s Sunday evening here, you’re hearing from me today because I felt like it. Weekends are mine.

Insert evil laughter?

Who let that blogger out without a net?

Seriously, though, here’s a forecast for the week to come:

  • Three more tutorials
  • An interview with the delightful Dazzlin D – we’re going to talk about community. Yum.
  • Between two and four other I-don’t-know-whats, to include a drawing of some sort.

Is this hasta la vista, or how can I hasta la forest for the vista of the trees, from my viewpoint of this rectangular screen where we meet? Either way, trees are cool and I’m up for a good walk.


I am a compulsive tinkerer. Must nudge and tweak. Must take it apart to see what’s underneath. Forcing myself to conform and focus enough to make forward progress is a challenge. Little things can take me forever. Washing dishes makes me wonder about how soap bubbles work. And dust – ever wonder how the connecting parts of dust bunnies look under a microscope? I have.

Seriously, it’s not that crazy between my ears all the time.

Being me does have its moments. :)

One really good and bad thing about being me is that I have to feel like I can re-invent the wheel. I need to feel authentic about a thing in order to feel peace about doing it. Following directions is never enough. Making it work is almost not as important as understanding how it might work.

Understanding – wow – understanding is a high like chocolate or the concept of childbirth or a really good sunrise in springtime. I can be like a vampire for what-makes-it-tick. I can sit with someone who is an expert at something about which I know nothing and, if they’re good at talking to a noob, absolutely inhale their wonder and logic around whatever it is they do. I can go on for hours, years even, as long as their mind is lively and in love with what they’re doing.

In between breaths, I’ll go to my “home” place and doodle with my own stuff. Doodling can take many forms. When I was baking professionally, a good dinner party conversation with an international investment banker (about banking) led me to re-assess what flavors I wanted to lay along side a dessert built on almond paste laced pound cake — there was something about a balance of relationships that needed to be communicated through cake. Now that I am involved with the web I see relationships in terms of links and usability. Like so much of the rest of life, the details are boring as dirt, but the workings are as wonderful as the great outdoors. There is poetry everywhere, laying along side the box models and elseifs… and here I am flirting with 1am looking at what I want to do with it.

At some point I need to make myself get linear and apply the poetry to productivity. It’s a balance thing. I want and need another kind of self-directed, public project with which to balance the soul searching.

Here it comes: split focus.

I think I’m going to blog my way through the WordPress Codex. Really learning the Codex will be good for me, and I might make a good resource for others. I like the shared learning experience atmosphere of Cre8asite Forums. Bringing that here feels like a good identity statement. Besides, I have this personality thing going on: I am first and foremost an artist, and perfectionism is my script kiddie.

What I mean by that last sentence will have to wait for another day. I will push the publish button before I get too far past 1am.

Kitty Kitty?

It’s been in the 20’s here lately. Our January average low is 32. My usual practice is to turn off the heat at night and pile on the blankets. Environmental awareness meets necessity: I’m both cheap and good. Sometimes mornings are very cold – under 50 degrees indoors. The colder it gets, the more likely it is that my cat Otter will burrow under the covers and sleep with me.

Otter is a small, rounded kitty, more like a hoagie roll than a heat vent mogul. With proper motivation he rises to the occasion. On cold mornings when the heat goes on he morphs from baby baguette into super-sized artisan loaf – or perhaps I should say he morphs from witty kitty into loafing artisan.

He knows to nudge aside the little hood thingy that normally directs heat into the room. Then, he can somehow spread his little body to approximate the rectangular shape of a heat vent and then some. And he lounges there, completely covering the heat vent, taking up the Really Important Space as a matter of course, not unlike sites made to take up as much surface area as possible on search result page #1.

See? You knew there was going to be a Search related reference in there somewhere. You were right, but let’s get back to Cat for a moment.

Despite the fact that I am the adult human with the hand that controls the thermostat and the keys to his kingdom, Otter rules one of two heat vents in the room where I spend most of my time.

Upon discovering what he was doing, my first reaction was frustration. My home was not warming up because the heat was not getting through. I like results and I don’t like being cold.

After Otter looked up at me with love on his face I decided that he can get away with heat-hogging, more or less. He has redeeming qualities and I already know that I like him quite a bit.

Also, it helps that I know he likes me for more than my heat vent.

Can the same be said for those made-for-clickthrough pages that loaf about at the top of search results? They sure look like they’re in it to monopolize as much Really Important heat map space as possible. Are they also prepared to love me back? Before I click on them, is it possible to have a sign?

Searchers want love, too. They want results.

Lots of exposure in the top spots increases click-throughs for advertisers, but if the destinations are sites that are trying to make themselves bigger in order to soak up as much click action as possible, might users want to have the same reaction to those sites that I did to my cat? Will they? Can they?

Kitty kitty?

Lessons From Otter the Cat

  • I make my own decisions for my own reasons. Your I-don’t-know-why-you-care is my Chosen Perch.
  • Though I can entertain myself, not everything makes good Kitty TV.
  • Ignore me and nothing else matters.
  • Prosperity consciousness uber alles. A full food bowl frees me to fall in love with other things.
  • I may not want your lap at this moment, but I do need to know it’s there for me.

Hat tip to Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?: Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing

Blogging Is The Devil, Or Not

Yesterday I spent a couple hours getting to know StumbleUpon better. I had entirely too much fun sorting and clicking and searching. I added some interests to my profile, including blogging, of course.

Blogging Tally 666

How could this be? Blogging: 666.

I heard a lonely meow-yowl, looked over my shoulder and saw that my cat had tipped over my desk-side wastepaper basket, spreading bits of paper everywhere. He’d obviously been at it a while. I’d been clueless, absorbed by the Internet for how long I do not know.

We locked eyes, I meow-yowled back at him and he did a joyful little prance, an invitation to partake in what I’ve come to call the caffeinated kitty cat tango. Sometimes when we play we face each other down, pretending to be very fierce, before another little ritual known as “peek-a-boo chase.” Cat owners know what I mean – great fun indeed.

This time, I didn’t tango or peek-a-boo. I did “one more thing” online, and when I was finally finished he wasn’t in the mood any more. Sad.

I thought of a nation of people like me, wanting to be at-home parents while working like that with our toddlers or teenagers in the house. I thought of how for hours on end of our kids’ childhood they see the backs of our heads as we sat at our computers, doing “one more thing.” Very sad.

Though I love what I am doing, has this work made me less of a person in my off-line life? I have no answer.

Passionate Workaholics?

The passionate worker is busy blogging on vacation… because posting that thought and seeing the feedback it generates is actually more fun than sitting on the beach for another hour. The passionate worker tweaks a site design after dinner because, hey, it’s a lot more fun than watching TV.

Seth Godin’s Blog – Workaholics

TV? What happened to interactive multi-player board games, or creative activities that involved teaching each other skills? Or sewing, carpentry, gardening, making pancakes, hobbies, going camping, pitching in around the house or even just going for a walk together after dinner? And, this pot can’t call the kettle black without admitting that I don’t miss non-computer activities as much as I used to. There’s something wrong with that.


Workaholics have little time for activities outside of work. They lose touch with the joys of their non-work lives. Workaholics lack balance. Workaholics are obsessed, not passionate.

Passionate workers revel – in work and not-work.

Passionate workers should check to see if they recognize themselves in some of these lists and quizzes. I flunked, but it’s not the end of the world. I *do* love what I’m doing, after all.

PS: Blogging Is Not The Devil

This morning I checked in on StumbleUpon again and found that the “Blogging” tag tally is no longer 666.

Blogging Tally 665

Blogging: not quite 666. Now somebody else gets to see the 666 and ruminate about what makes their world go tilt. As for me, I have a couple half finished articles to work on, and then the machine gets turned off. So there.

Caffeinated kitty cat tango here I come.

Making Your Own Luck

Do you ever feel helpless? As if problems are too big or too unfixable, and there is not enough time or love to go around? Try out this survival skill: make your own satisfaction.

How do I create my own satisfaction? Let me count the ways.

Taking a Bite Out of Crime

Today I reported a scraper to Technorati. The slimeball I reported was pasting a copy of a response to my Tips for Nonprofits Meme on to the last half of copy after copy of other scraped posts. Every instance triggered a trackback that happened to include the text “If you link, Elizabeth will contact you about including your tip in a compilation of tips.” Oh, the irony. As of now there have been perhaps two dozen trackbacks at the rate of three or four a day.

After reporting that scraper I felt like the energizer bunny. I can’t stop the rain, but I can help Technorati keep their hip boots clean as they wade through sorting what I’m sure is a flood of doubtful sites gaming their system for reputation points. If Technorati follows through I’ll get another little boost in the batteries. If they don’t, I still have the initial boost. I did not make the report in an effort to put the scraper out of business: I made an effort for good, and let that good be enough.

Note to self: look into owning a pair of pink bunny slippers to wear while getting in the mood for energizer bunny action. Pink, because I would also like to glory in being-femlike-ness. So there.

Glory In It

Bunny slippers bring me to another nice self care tactic: bite-sized basking. Again, the idea is not to end spam in our time, become a measurably evolved human being, wear yon bunny slippers to the top of the heap in my niche or even to have a nice day. The point is to set myself up to notice a goodness. Sometimes checking my stats does this very nicely, but only if I am not stressing about meeting a goal. Some flexibility of purpose is necessary. For this reason, the Monty Pythonesque Big Teeth bunny slippers would not be as appropriate. Too aggressive. Accept the sunshine, as-is.

So, if I’m going to be all go-with-the-flow about seeing the sunshine in my life, how do I get more of it?

Make Your Own Luck

Sometimes this is direct and purposeful, like when I asked directly for input in yesterday’s tell me what you want post. Sometimes cause and effect is less direct.

For instance, check out Ladies Who Launch on using social media to make your own luck.

…I was checking my Facebook, an action I try not to do every day, and after signing up for and playing a bit of The Oregon Trail, I checked one of the emails in my Inbox (my Facebook inbox…I call it Face-mail). It was from a guy I didn’t know. Suspect? Yes. Curious? Yes. Turns out he’s a reporter from the Wall Street Journal doing a story on the writers’ strike. I support the writers’ right to potentially lucrative money from online content. However, I was quite excited when Jon Stewart was coming back. I also want the crew to have work. So I watched. I was disappointed in the way Jon addressed the strike. I visited the Jon Stewart Daily Show Facebook Page, of which I’m a Facebook “Fan,” and declared my views on the Wall, and suggested we all “unfan” the Page until he either goes back off the air (because it does weaken the strike) or brings more awareness.

Thus, I got contacted by this journalist as one of many who may be in his piece on the strike, The Daily Show, Letterman and Leno. Afterwards, he asked about what I did, I quietly gave my web and blog sites which he took. So, set up your own luck, folks.

Katie Jones

Making just any comment on Jon Stewart’s Facebook Page wouldn’t have made a difference. Katie had to both share what she thinks and put some energy into thinking it. Thinking. That means she had an idea while being herself.

Care and feeding of luck: lather, rinse and repeat. When the journalist made contact, I’m guessing that Katie Jones was less likely to get stuck at “ummm, gee, that’s nice,” because she had years of experience stretching her creative and articulate self, as reflected by her web presence.

I don’t think anyone gets a place in the sun by being lucky, and I don’t think luck appears because of a place in the sun. There are tandem steps. Motive, means and opportunity, with a side of playfulness and generosity. Faith and practice, sometimes heavy on the faith. Willingness to put one foot in front of the other with eyes open, on a regular basis, like an exercise regime. Willingness to be changed by all of the above.

Speaking of an exercise regime, thus endeth the eleventh post of 100+1. I have passed the first 10 percent of my goal of 100 posts in 100 days and am about to bask in it by treating myself to a glass of wine before bed. Life is good.

A Ritual of Incubation

I went to sleep last night wondering what on God’s green earth I am going to blog about today, and woke up with ideas for three niche sites. One is web design related and may not be practical, but is worth looking at for several reasons. One has to do with literature and would be rewarding, though it could involve some serious work. One would be a whole lot of fun to get started – it’s one of those “like being a kid again” projects, without the air guitar.

I slept like a baby and woke up with three site maps and a couple link building strategies dancing in my head. If only a small slice of these ideas becomes part of something I make and enjoy, I’m still ahead. Not bad for a good night’s sleep.

How did I get from “what in the world am I going to blog about,” to two and a half new ideas for niche sites? Methinks it was ritual. Readiness plus ritual can stack the decks in our favor.

Often, when I go to bed at night, I review achievements and feel-goods of that day, then reflect on what is still on the to-do list, and drift towards picking one or two things to promise myself I’ll work on the following day. I fall asleep envisioning success with some specific thing or other.

I got into that habit out of desperation: I am an insomniac par excellence. Using some sort of positive focus helps me limit what my mind is doing and get to sleep. Herb tea doesn’t do it. An extra glass of wine works only as long as my head is fuzzy. Identifying something I am bugged about getting done and imagining steps towards achieving it with a positive and yet passive focus is the magic key. It works.

More often than not the result is no more spectacular than a peaceful night’s sleep, and my dreams don’t usually have a direct application to the practical world. Once in a while the dream experience is like taking a tour through real world possibilities. Problems get solved, or ideas are born.

I promised to write about whatever would help me develop a foundation of my brand. What’s the relationship between waking up with ideas and what I want for my brand?

Faith? Encouragement? Making problems simple, letting go of the big picture, concentrating on the achievement of small and positive steps? Giving one’s self credit for setting the stage?

I’ll be dreaming on it.

Ritual, Manners, Branding, Identity

As I cast around for how I want this blog to develop, I’m constantly revisiting what impresses me about other individual blogger’s values. “Values” is not exactly the right term. What I’m talking about is more of an atmosphere that says “this is who I am.”

Even people who don’t talk about their private lives will behave in a way that reflects personal values. This builds an expectation of the personal version of what we’ve come to call corporate culture.

The scent trail of culture can incorporate signals of any number of qualities. Spam has a scent. So do creativity, integrity, really good sales, loves, hates, competitiveness, ruthlessness, generosity, reverence, obsession — you name it.

If all self promotion was as self centered as spam, the Internet would be one stinky place. Fortunately, a marketing promotion, with the right atmosphere, can be both magnanimous and encouraging.

Here’s one, simple example of how promotion can ripple.

Last month, I posted excerpts from my new book. I also wrote a glowing post about Garr’s new book on presentations. Guess what? My stats show that I sold more copies of Garr’s book than mine.

The truism of the web: people talking about you is far more effective than talking about yourself.

Seth Godin – That doesn’t make sense

I have a strong suspicion that self promotion on the web is more like self promotion in face to face relationships. Think about it. You’re at a dinner party and the person next door leans in and begins discussing their magnificence. Not cool. No matter how magnificent they are, not cool at all. In my mind’s eye I can already “see” bad breath end ego oozing from their vicinity like viagra stanking up a spam filter.

Getting in someone’s face about how great you are is ugly in any interaction. In print media the recipient can put the leaflet down or throw it away. On TV a really bad commercial means the channel gets changed. In forums and blogs, spammers get banned.

Really good forum-style netiquette plays pretty well in person.

To skip straight to the point, ya make like a friendly resource, behave like a trusted (bathed, fact-checked and spell checked) resource and show who you are, patiently, reliably and prolifically. And you follow through like you care about who is listening more than you care about your own “rank.”

Self promotion on the web has a scent of social ritual.

Ritual is one aspect of culture that I hadn’t considered in relationship to marketing until after reading about beer, ritual and branding in posts inspired by a Wall Street Journal article. They were writing about an un-promoted, un-labeled beer produced by Belgian monks. Though the beer articles passed my eyes before Thanksgiving, they haunted my Christmas and were still in the back of my mind when considering New Year’s resolutions. Ritual is a big deal this time of the year.

Besides being what people describe as an excellent beer, Westvleteren has developed into a cult brand based on its rituals. All of the items mentioned above are ritualistic. Make an appointment. Call the Beer Phone. Two-case limit. No label. A regular release schedule. A unifying belief system. However they’re defined and practiced, rituals embody culture. They are symbolic expressions of a company’s values.

Ben McConnell – A religious donation to an unlabeled beer

Symbolic expressions of values: what are they and where do they come from?

Here, I could postulate. I could make knowledgeable-sounding lists and generalizations. I’m not going to do that because what I really want to know is what the process of exploring meaning is like, for me, blogging and in my flesh and blood life. After exploring I’d feel more genuine about defining, though getting to finite definitions wouldn’t be the point: I want the broadening experience of a journey.

Anything less than that kind of intimate depth would, well, bore me. It would feel too plastic, not meaningful enough to mean I’ve really really done good. And because I haven’t dug in and explored meaning for myself, as a blogger, I don’t really know what it would look like as I evolve, I dig in, stretch out and take a look.

I have a slightly crazy idea.

What if I committed to making 100 meaning-of life posts?

I’d base it loosely around how Elizabeth stuff bisects Internet, to keep some semblance of relevance and because the Internet is mucho hot stuff.

The Internet is the hottest thing to happen to communication since movable type – the printing press, not the blogging software. The way it connects us across cultures and experiences is nothing short of revolutionary. Seven generations ago my ancestors were getting out of Virginia after the Civil War. Seven generations from now our descendants will be learning about the communication revolution of the early days of the Internet. The world will be a different place for them because of what we figure out today about the power of the link.

My hope is to arrive at how the thing called Internet bisects my values and things I enjoy that I’d like to do more of in everyday life. If I don’t find a destination, per se, that’s OK. The goal is to explore, joyfully and with dedication.

Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth.

Mark Twain

Seeing With Your Spirit: Supporting Nonprofits

Here in the Northern hemisphere we’ve had the harvest and giving thanks season, and we’re winding up the shop for somebody else until you drop season.

This hustle bustle holly jolly season is also the darkest time of the year. Winter officially begins after solstice, the longest night with the shortest day. Culture, history and human nature have conjoined to make this dark, cold and sometimes miserable time about giving and reverence: about light on the eve of new beginnings.

Sharing the Light

Christmas is touted as being about many things, along with a potentially myopic idealization of family gatherings and encouragement to spend money on material goods. Idealization sucks. God forbid being alone or poor or sick at Christmas. God save us from darkness and lack of hope.

Hype and concrete reality don’t live well in the same universe, which can make the holiday season seem like there’s not room for the real lives and needs of real people.

Wherever hype doesn’t sync well with real life there is unease, insecurity.

Humans don’t do well with insecurity. Even when we are insecure we’ll deny it, trying to triangulate our positions based on a silver lining, as if we are wired for a cross-cultural multi-denominational qibla-like focal point for hope.

That silver lining’s stubborn and sometimes secret hope is where the commerce, the spiritual and the ritual of “Christmas” giving can meet up to make a real difference, a real celebration with real depth.

Reverence and Relationships

I believe that everyone needs extended family, in some way, probably in many ways. In a cooperative society we contribute to something beyond ourselves as a matter of course. We pay taxes. We keep each other safe by following traffic rules.

Paying taxes isn’t enough to spark up the light of giving in most people’s souls. Crusading for or against them, for a cause, maybe. What makes the difference is a sense of connection or contribution to a value, for one’s self or others or both.

Contributions accumulate. Value is passed.

Personal values, personal causes, personal networks are part of how we live. An interpersonal network or a cause-based contribution can build into becoming extended family.

Accumulating the Goods

Marketing is about getting the word out by connecting to the end user’s needs and wants. To push without sharing light in some way is something like evangelizing for taxes: not enough gist in “taxes” alone to spark up the target audience.

There’s got to be a light.

Maybe it’s light from the expectation of feeling smart for buying a particular car, or of having better cell phone service, or maybe it’s the light of hoping Grandma will like her new Christmas slippers. Really successful advertising cues in on this and connects in some way to the fact that part of the ROI of having a need met comes from ripples not directly connected to commerce. Part of the decision to purchase is a visualization of how life could be.

Giving goes farther than any budget.

Consider: anyone who involved in a publicly available media is sharing light in some way.

Sharing the Light: Taking Note of Nonprofits

I’m winding up this musing with an encouragement to get involved, up close and personal.

Start where you are. Use what you know to make a little joyful noise. Opportunities large and small are out there. Food bloggers all over the world just banded together with Chez Pim’s Menu For Hope to raise over $90,000 for the United Nations World Food Program. On a smaller scale, try simply blogging about someone you admire, or why you love what you do… or you could tag yourself for my tips for nonprofits meme.

Find a food bank. They’re everywhere, all the time, and their needs don’t slow down after Christmas dinner. Besides food and money, they may need time and drivers. While you’re on the phone with the food bank, ask where to take donations of pet food.

Extend your family. Make friends with someone who lives in an extended care center. Though nothing can replace a missing parent or grandparent, there are ways to bring delight into the lives of new aunties and uncles. Go for walks. Go out for coffee. Listen to stories. Learn to knit. Teach someone how to blog.

Adopt a school. Call one up and find out what they need. Guidance counselors sometimes keep a stash of books and whatnot that can be gifts for kids whose parents need some help. In my case (shameless plug) I have a special bond with a school, because my mom is the founder of Louis Braille School. If you want to relive a little Santa magic, have a listen to what happened when local radio came to call.

Spread light. Spread joy.

I Have a Crush On…

…my online friends and neighbors, with whom I’ve been blessed to share linky coolness.

When Kim Krause Berg tagged me for a round of blog tag I saw her link first in my WordPress dashboard. Such fun: my new blog’s first new incoming link.

I passed the torch to Miriam, Lee and Yura, all of whom decided to play along. Miriam’s post reminded me of something bird related, of course, which took me back ten years to when I was living in Indianola, a tiny and beautiful town on Puget Sound. I’d call “kitty kitty kitty,” from my back porch at the edge of woodsy paradise, and an owl would call “whohoo whohoo whohoo,” right back at me, night after night. If I called “kitty” once, the owl called “whohoo” once. Sweetness. It went on that way for weeks. Eventually he (she?) made friends with another owl and quit flirting with me. I loved hearing them whohoo to each other.

This week I spotted my first appearance in a blogroll. Bill Slawski has added me to his blogroll at the marvy and authoritative SEO by the Sea. I love knowing that Bill’s blog started off by announcing a gathering. Now that’s my kind of blogville.

And, I stumbled into where Kim had Sphunn my Tips for Nonprotits Meme. Note to self: get Sphinn into my feed reader or go there more often. So far, the meme has been picked up by Kim Krause Berg, Joe Dolson and Mike Cherim. I’ll be writing more about supporting nonprofits.

Another linky niceness came in yesterday, when Andrey Milyan posted Search Marketing Standard’s People of Wisdom. Aw shucks.

Food Blogs

Food can be and do so much. If I do more of these “I Have a Crush” posts you’ll see food here again. This week I’m crushing on the macaroons at Cuisine Campagne. Last months banana chocolate macaroons made me want to take a bite, but last year’s apple caramel macaroons are beauoooootiful, like poetry for eating. If I only read French!

My other favorite food blog of the moment is Indian Food Rocks, which happens to be the creation of a fellow Cre8asite Forums member. This month she’s contributed two prizes to Menu For Hope, an annual fundraiser hosted by Pim Techamuanvivit, on her food blog Chez Pim.

Five years ago, the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia inspired me to find a way to help, and the very first Menu for Hope was born. The campaign has since become a yearly affair, raising funds to support worthy causes worldwide. In 2006, Menu for Hope raised US$62,925.12 to help the UN World Food Programme feed the hungry.
Menu For Hope 4

Here’s how it works:

  1. Food bloggers donate food related prizes.
  2. Supporters get virtual raffle tickets from the donation site at Firstgiving, where they select their first choices from the prizes, one choice per $10 raffle ticket.
  3. As this works like a raffle, winning is not guaranteed. Check Chez Pim for raffle results on Wednesday, January 9
  4. Winners contact the bloggers who sponsored the gifts so that shipping can be arranged.

Getting bogged down by how to make things happen can be so very easy. I admire the way web2.0 functionality is helping to power Menu For Hope. Viva la ping!

WordPress Themes

I like WordPress. Part of why I like it so much is how easy it is to theme. And then there’s the interconnectedness of blogging, which leads me to the community-connecting power of the Internet.

Once in a while my fascination for the nuts and bolts of online communities bubbles up against some specific aspect of WordPress. This week I’m doing the WordPress cheer for a theme called Structure, by Justin Adlock. Though it is described as a magazine style theme, I could easily see Structure or something very like it as the home of an online community.

Check out the sidebar tabs. Nice use of sidebar real estate, and oh so configurable.


I know, I know, it’s only a widget, but I do so get a thrill out of seeing the faces of people who come through my site, and some of them have even joined my community.

And a Quote

Paraphrased from an X-Files episode about a member of the baseball team Roswell Grays.

…do you believe that love can make a man shape-shift?”
I’m not talking about women. I’m talking about love. Passion.
…do you believe that that passion can change your very nature?