Sights and sounds at the VOA

I’ve had a goal to do more short video on my blog. I don’t know if you’ve tried to use video, and maybe I’m missing the shortcuts, but it seems there are a lot of steps involved:
1. Take the video
2. Upload or download (I can never figure out which is what) the video to my computer.
3. Open iMovie and start a new “event.”
4. Import the movie.
5. Start a new “project.”
6. Edit the movie by selecting segments, or clipping off bad ends, or whatever I can do with iMovie (which at this point isn’t all that much.)
7. Finalize the movie.
8. Share the movie (there is an option to share it directly to YouTube, but that didn’t seem to work for me so I exported it to my computer.)
9. Go to YouTube and download or upload (still haven’t got it) the movie.
10.Copy the movie’s URL and paste it into the “text” page of the WordPress new post editor.

Am I missing something? I suspect if I didn’t want to edit the movie first this process could be significantly shortcut. But I’m going to have to get a whole lot better at planning and shooting videos for that to happen.

I know I talked about this before, but I’m trying again. It’s one of those things that I think if I just do it enough times it will become second nature to me. What do you think?

Also, I vaguely remember seeing a post from WordPress about a new way of adding video that works better. I can’t find it now. I know I saved the email for a while, but I suspect it went the way of the recycle bin on a recent purge in an attempt to get my inbox once again below 50 messages.

That was just the lengthy introduction. Here’s the post.

It was a beautiful breezy day at the VOA this morning. I walk by these little chiming spoons every time I go there. I think it would be lovely to have lots of silverware chimes such as these hanging from the limbs of my trees. Not sure Mark will go for it.

This group of ducks caught my eye. I think they are mallards, but they don’t look quite right, so I’m wondering if they are a group of juvenile mallards. I also don’t know what they’re doing.

Are they practicing their swimming? Having a party? Diving for coins? You tell me.

I was going to show you photos of wildflowers from Leo’s Garden, but in the interest of time, and a desire to have an easy post for another day, (you didn’t hear that from me), I’ll end it here.

It’s still a beautiful day here. I hope you have nice weather to enjoy where you are.


In case you’re wondering

Thank you all for sharing your blog-following methods with me. I got a lot of good ideas from your comments.

My over-achiever tendencies kicked in and I decided to try it all.

1. I moved all the blogs I follow into my WordPress Reader. Thank you Nancy from Living the Seasons, and Beth Ann at It’s Just Life for the tip.

2. I subscribed to the blogs I’m most concerned about through an instant or daily email, and others I like to keep up with through a weekly digest from WordPress. Thanks Nancy from Spirit Lights the Way for the reminder about the weekly digest.

3. I visited each blog this morning, copied the URL and linked it onto a page on my blog I created. I made a simple graphic in Photoshop, put it in a widget in my sidebar and linked it to the Blogs I Follow page. I’m going to use the page on my blog to quickly get back to posts I want to reference.

4. While I still had the URL for a particular blog copied on my computer’s clipboard, I also pasted it into a Feedly reader account.  I’m going to use Feedly to read and keep up with the blogs I read. Thank you Hilary at Positive Letters-Inspirational Stories, Mara at Africa to Algarve, Linda at A Slice of Life Writing, and Norma at Beishir Books who all spoke highly of Feedly and convinced me to try it.

Here’s what I like so far about Feedly:

1. I can organize the blogs I follow into folders that I create. So I made folders for “friends,” “photography,” “writing,” etc. Some blogs I am more concerned about keeping up with than others, so I think this will help. (I’m pretty sure Feedly has other ways of helping organize and prioritize feeds, but I’m still learning.)

2. I can choose different options for displaying the blog feeds: a list, a list with a thumbnail (my preference), a cards view (like little index cards across and down the page), or a running stream of full posts.

3. I can visit each blog, read a list of the posts I’ve missed, and choose those I want to read. Then I can mark them all as “read.” (That’s one of the things I liked the best about Google Reader.)

I put a bookmark to Feedly in my toolbar so that will make it easy to find. (I deleted my Google Reader bookmark.)

I eventually hope to stop most, if not all, email subscriptions and get in the habit of checking Feedly daily.

And today I feel like I just did spring cleaning. Wonderful.

I may have missed a blog here or there and will keep revising both my “Blogs I Follow” page and Feedly account as I go. Please forgive me if I’ve missed yours. I’ll eventually figure it out.


How do you manage your blog subscriptions?

I know I should have figured this out by now.

When I first started blogging, I subscribed to a lot of blogs I wanted to follow through an email subscription. It didn’t take me long, or too many days of an overflowing email inbox, to see the error in my ways.

So I followed a fellow blogger’s advice and moved everything to Google Reader by using RSS feeds. Which worked well for a while. Until Google decided to discontinue the Google Reader effective in a few days.

Now I’m scrambling to move all the WordPress blogs I follow over to WordPress “follows” which puts them in a WordPress reader. This doesn’t solve the problem for the Blogger blogs or self-hosted blogs.

I know there are other RSS readers out there, but frankly, didn’t have the energy to deal with figuring it all out.

This morning I finished up visiting all the blogs I follow and am either following them through WordPress, through email subscriptions, or somehow on Blogger– I haven’t entirely figured that one out yet.

I’m missing my Google Reader already.

I’m worried the work I did this morning is going to result in email overload again. However, gmail has started using tabs, that I think I am going to like, that will sort my mail into “primary,” “social,” and “promotional.” So all the ads I get (solicited and un-) show up under the promotional tab which I can easily ignore for as long as I like. And the blog posts updates I get go under the social tab, keeping them conveniently in one place where I can read them at my leisure. Everything else goes under the primary tab.If you have gmail I’d like to hear how you feel about the new system.

I think what I will eventually do is what I should have done from the beginning, and create a page on my blog that lists (and links to) all the blogs I like to read either occasionally or everyday.

I’d love it if you could share with me how you manage the blogs you follow. Do you have a system that is working well for you?


Where do I go from here?

Where do I go from here?

When I decided to write about blogging, I did what I often do, I went online to find out what I could.

That’s not entirely honest. I googled it and check two links.

I found an article in New York magazine on line called The Early Years by Clive Thompson which was basically a timeline of the history of blogging. Did you know that the first blog, ever, was created by a college student in 1994? Almost twenty years ago.

Quite a few years ago my oldest son told me I should start writing a blog. I didn’t listen to him at the time, much to my chagrin. If I had maybe I could have proftted from being one of the early people in.

Did you know that people actually made money off of blogs? You probably did. I’m always the last to know.

But like so many other things, it helps to be popular if you are already famous. We like to follow people who have been proven to be well-liked by other people. The same goes for authors. We like to read authors who are the best sellers. They don’t have a problem getting an agent or a book contract. Same goes for famous people. Just check out the tables in your local B&N. But you already know that.

Clive Thompson talks all about it in Blogs to Riches: The Haves and Have-Nots of the Blogging Boom also published in New York magazine.

I never intended or expected to make money with my blog.

That’s probably a good thing, too.

I started the blog to encourage myself to write regularly, even every day, and to start creating an online presence. Just a little over two years ago on January 21, 2011, I started my blog with a short post, A New Start with Clean House, that mentioned both my mom and Arthur. Arthur is still with me. Mom is not. I still write about both.

My second post, Missed Opportunities, was about the red fox that I saw run through our yard, but failed to capture on camera. I still have missed opportunities, but now I keep my camera on a shelf in the kitchen where I am sometimes able to catch the wood ducks, the pileated woodpecker and the owl, the groundhogs, my most recent good catch – the scarlet tanager, and even a red fox.

I saw this female wood duck this morning. I think she was looking for her mate. They’re usually together.

01-Wood duck - 2013-05-01 _32.-500

My third post,  Fiddles radio broadcasts, signing off and iPads, was one of my all-time favorites. Very few people read it.

I tried to find the stats. I went to “all posts,” and then filtered for the date. I clicked on the miniature bar graph in the column that says “stats.” I had one “syndicated” view. I have no idea what that means, but it can’t be good. Truthfully, after rooting around a bit on my stats page, I don’t have any idea how many hits that page actually got.  I’m not going to obsess about it.

I continue to tell myself I shouldn’t be concerned with my stats anyway. I continue to not listen.

But a blogging acquaintance, compatriot, friend (what are we to each other anyway?) named Sue Dreamwalker commented on that post and continues to comment occasionally to this day. She has a nice post up today about May Day. So while some followers come and some go, she has stayed with me. I’d like to say thank you to Sue and all the rest of you who joined me early and have stuck around. Another shout out to Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way for lighting my way early on. And while I’m at it, I have to mention the amusing William at Speak of the Devil who continues to hold the esteemed position of being my number 1 commenter.

But I digress.

They say to have followers you have to be a follower. Which sounds a lot like friendship to me. And over the months, now years, that I’ve blogged, I continue to contemplate how this approach can possibly work unless you are satisfied with a static, relatively small, but loyal group of bloggers. A little blogging community. I’m not criticizing that, I’m just saying that if it becomes nothing more than a quid pro quo, your reach with your blog is limited to the amount of time you have to read and comment on others’ blogs. Which also depends on how long-winded your blogging friends are. You can see I will not fair very well in this system, because it becomes fairly obvious fairly early, that you can visit many photographers’ blogs in the time it takes you to read one lengthy, well-written or not, story on a writer’s blog.

This is a dilemma for me.

I started my blog when I was researching how to publish my memoir Dancing in Heaven.

After reading articles online, I realized that to publish a book, either by agent and traditional publisher or by myself, I needed an online presence. After I wrote Dancing in Heaven, I fully intended to seek an agent and publish it through traditional means. My mind changed. But the journey gave me a lot of fodder for my blog.

The advice I heeded was that I needed to build a platform, which at the time I read it was a completely foreign concept to me.

I started a blog.

I’ve read other advice more recently, that if you are a writer, you will serve your goals better by not spending time blogging, but writing instead. I think there is probably some truth in that position.

But I’ve also read that if you are a published author, you need to have a blog where your readers can learn more about you and communicate with you.

But then, I’ve read that if you want to have a successful blog, you need to  pick a topic, carve out your niche, and stick to it.

But that sounds kind of boring to me, and what would I do with my bird photos, garden updates, travel posts, and art series among other things?

If you’ve ever held a digital camera in your hands, running around a sunlit garden or walking through a park filled with birdsong, you already know that snapping photographs is a lot more fun than sitting at a desk doing the hard work of translating your thoughts from your brain through your fingers and the keyboard to a computer screen. Just saying. So maybe I get a little distracted at times.

I organize and generate pages, primarily for my own use, and simply because it feeds my OCD nature, but the occasional visitor finds them useful at times. Particularly the bilateral knee surgery documentation we did. People have thanked me for that one.

What I really think is that there is way too much advice out there on the web, well-meaning though it may be.  My head is spinning. Yours may be too after reading this disjointed post.

My solution is to do what I usually do in these cases. I trust myself. I trust my judgment. And I trust my heart. And thankfully I am married to an outstanding provider, so I am not obligated to make money from my writing in order to be able to feed myself. Which I should be doing a lot less of anyway if I want to listen to the advice about weight, health and nutrition.

I started blogging to force myself to write everyday. I’d grade myself at maybe a C on that one. Because, like I said, the photography has been enticing. And I don’t really consider my photography blogs “writing.”

The commaraderie and support that I received from followers, friends, and commenters I found invaluable as my family entered crisis control in the beginning of December with the diagnosis of my mom’s cancer and through the next intense weeks before both of my parents’ deaths in January.

I struggle with keeping up. I question what it’s all about. I wonder about the best use of my time.

My world was turned upside down when my parents died. I had devoted a lot of time and concern to their care. My foundation was badly shaken. And even though Mom and Dad were well past the days of doing anything of consequence to aid or assist me, they were two people in my life who always loved me no matter what, who always believed in me. And they were gone. That is a tremendous loss.

As I try to make meaning out of my life, I’m asking the question. Where do I go from here?


What’s blooming in my garden and in my galleries

I meant to throw these photos in yesterday, but the post got long, and my neck got tired, and you know how all that goes. So I’m going to try out a gallery or two. I’m not sure if I can put different galleries on the same page.

As you will see, our blooms right now consist of the daffodil and hyacinth bulbs, a few pansies we put on the deck, the Lenten Rose powerhorses that have done remarkably well this year, and the beginnings of the bleeding hearts. Those are one of my favorites. You’ll sweet woodruff near the bleeding hearts, it’s a pretty bright green color and will produce a lovely little white blossom.

This is a tiled-mosaic gallery. I had to delete a few pictures and add others to be somewhat satisfied. I don’t know if there is a way to choose exactly where the photos go, so it was trial and error. I would have liked to exchange the large deck picture with the smaller bleeding heart one. You might miss it altogether. If you find it I do hope you’ll click on it to see the bleeding hearts larger. They’re just coming out. Once you’ve clicked on a photo, you can scroll through them all if you want. And I could have used captions, but just got lazy.

The hyacinths are beautiful, but the best part is their fragrance. Arthur thinks so too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This is a slide show I did with just two photos. I was a little slow at the start-up, but I think I’m really going to like the fairly new galleries at WordPress. Question answered. Yes I can put different galleries into the same post. This may not be news to you, but I am in a remedial blogging class over here.

Have you made it out of winter yet and into spring in your neck of the woods?


Re-evaluating

I started this blog with the intention to post about whatever was on my mind when I woke up each morning. Our heater isn’t functioning well, and I woke up this morning not wanting to move from my warm cocoon of blankets into the cold morning air in our room. Then I thought of all those people on the east coast without electricity, perhaps without a home or bed with warm covers.

Life can change in a moment. You think you’ve made it through a storm, and then a dam breaks and you’re on your rooftop.

Now that I’m awake, wrapped in a warm robe, and sitting at my desk, I have a lot of thoughts running through my head, mostly about our children and our parents. It seems like we go along on status quo for some time, and then everybody shifts position. We have a child adjusting to a second baby, another contemplating a change of job entailing a move, a third needing involved dental work, and another looking for a co-op job in a saturated market. Mark’s mom needs a shoulder replacement, and you know how it goes with my parents.

The point I’m trying to make here is that I have a lot on my mind today, none of which I consider blog-worthy. Which brings me back around to one last thing I’ve been thinking about lately, Is it worth the time to continue blogging?

Last week I came across Lynn Spreen’s post on blog Any Shiny Thing where she answered that very question, Should you quit blogging?

It’s a good read, and I think you might appreciate it.

Do you ever question that yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.


The best blog award and a link to — One Morning Eleven Years Ago

I can’t recall exactly how Teepee12 arrived on my blogging sphere radar, but she did. And I’m glad. A few weeks ago she honored me with the Lovely Blogger Award. I know most of you have heard of that, but if you haven’t, you can follow the link to her site where she explains it.

After careful thought and consideration, over my vast blogging experience of a little more than a year and a half, I have instituted a personal award policy where I thank the grantor of the award, but decline the obligations. Kind of a having my cake and eating it too policy. But here’s where the story gets good.

Before I even had the chance to thank Teepee12, she posted about another award she had just received—a new one for me—the “Don’t do a damn thing award. I just like your blog.” I mean, does it get any better than this?

Being somewhat uncouth and ill-mannered, I asked Teepee12 if I could trade my Lovely Blogger Award for this new, and in my humble opinion, best blog award ever. She graciously agreed.

To Teepee12, I say a very sincere Thank You.

To my other readers, loyal fans, and drive-by glancers, I hope you will stop over and see Teepee12′s blog, Serendipity – pictures, stories, opinions and more where she discusses things near and dear to my heart with posts about nature, travel, animals, photography, writing, life, and much more.

Or in Teepee12′s own words regarding her blog:

This is about everything. And nothing. It’s life: whatever is on my mind, what’s happening to me and those around me. It’s about the valley where I live, the people in my world, and of course, the dogs.

“I offer you some memories, many thoughts, stories, and pictures. My pictures, mostly, but sometimes other’s pictures (always credited!) because I admire them. I also reblog postings that I think you will find interesting … or that I find interesting or funny or in some other way special.

“Welcome, whoever you are, wherever you are.

Her post in remembrance of 9-1-1,  One Morning Eleven Years Ago, is worth your time to read. I hope you’ll stop by.


Writing through the grief

Just a short note today. I’d like to invite you to read my guest post, How Memoir Writing Helped Me to Grieve My Loss, at Kathleen Pooler’s blog — Memoir Writer’s Journey. Kathleen is a writer and a retired family nurse practitioner. She is working on her own memoir about “the power of hope through my faith in God. Hope Matters” and believes “we are all enriched when we share our stories.” In the 2-1/2 years she’s been blogging, Kathleen  posts writing and publishing tips that have helped her along the way.

I initially found Kathleen on Twitter and when I realized she was a nurse practitioner, I asked her if she’d like to read Dancing in Heaven. Nurses have been among my best supporters. She subsequently read and reviewed Dancing in Heaven on Amazon and Goodreads.

I’d like to thank Kathleen, for the lovely reviews of Dancing in Heaven and for inviting me to be her guest today.

I hope you are able to take a minute to read my thoughts about writing through the grief.

How Memoir Writing Helped Me to Grieve My Loss~ A Guest Post by Christine Grote


Taking it to a table — a blogging tip

I’ve been working on my blog’s organization. First it was the drawers in the kitchen, then my clothes closet, and now my blog. I’m in one of those, as my daughter used to say when she was young, “organize it up” moods.

I’ve been working on my menu pages (tabs across the top), in particular on my “Places” page. The drop-down menu was getting too long and bulky so I categorized things into USA cities, International, and added a National Parks page.

My Yellowstone post was the first in what I hope eventually becomes my series of posts about the National Parks we have visited, and will visit in the future.

Do you have any you can recommend?

I’ve been using tables to  keep things organized. So I thought I’d share with you how to do that.

First you have to find and use the “text” tab on the edit post screen at the top of the menu bar. I explain this in n a post last year,  Fun with fonts.

For a table, this is all you need ( I keep it in a word document where I can copy it from and then paste it here. It’s just a lazy woman’s short cut.):

<table border=”1″>
<tbody>
<tr>
<td></td>
<td></td>
</tr>
</tbody>
</table>

Think of it as a symmetrical sandwich. Or paired parentheses. In html when you have a command or instruction, it is typically enclosed in <>. I talked about how to do this with fonts in  Fun with fonts.

Each command needs a closing command. So they come in pairs: an “<em>” will italicize the words that follow it, ad infinitum until you add the closing command “</em>”, which is simply the basic command preceded by a “/”. I explain this idea more thoroughly in Fun with fonts.

If you look at the html for a table, you see the “<table>” command at the top and it’s mate at the bottom “</table>”. (You also see a specification for the table border at the top). Then you have the table body “<tbody>”, the row “<tr>”, and the cell “<td>”. They all have closing commands that are nested together, like parentheses.

Right now I have only one row <tr> in the table. It has two cells <td>. And once I type (or paste) it in the “text” window, it will look like this (without the words):

 First cell in one row Second cell in one row

If I want more cells across the page, I just add “<td> </td>” inbetween the <tr> and </tr> in the code above.

<table border=”1″>
<tbody>
<tr>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
</tr>
</tbody>
</table>

cell one cell two cell three cell four

I typed the words that appear in each cell in between the <td> and </td> while I was working in the “text” editing window. But once you have the table set up, you can see the lines for it in your “visual” view. Then you can place your cursor inside a cell and type or place pictures as you please. My only caution about pictures in tables is that if they are too large, they will blow out the table borders and not work. I often use “thumbnail” or resize the photo to be 150, 200, or 250 pixels wide if I want to use one in a table. Read my post about putting pictures on WordPress.

If you want more rows, you add them with the number of cells you are using in between. So for the above table, if I wanted to add a row, I would need to add

<tr>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
</tr>

for each row I wanted. This all has to be before the closing </tbody> and </table> commands.

I have some good examples of multi-row, two-cell tables on my Birds and Deer pages under the Wildlife tab above.

I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know how it works. Feel free to send me your questions if you want to do this and get stumped.

Cheers.

   

From Yellowstone post. Click on picture to see larger image.


A hat trick week for Dancing in Heaven

I want to thank all of you who followed me around the blogosphere this week. First I had the kind invitation from Arlee Bird to guest post at Wrote by Rote. Then my dear blogging friend, Marion Driessen, from the Netherlands posted her amazing review of Dancing in Heaven on Figments of  a Dutchess. And now to end this incredible week, Kaity-Jane has posted a book-showcasing of Dancing in Heaven and a short interview at Reviews by Jane. If you can spare a minute today I hope you’ll stop over there.

A big thank you to Arlee, Marion, and Kaity-Jane. It’s been a great week.


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