Post-conference overwhelm (wrapped in simile)

This was me this past weekend at the amazing I_Blog Conference at the Historic Hotel Pattee in Perry Iowa.

absorbing all the great informationYes, I was a sponge, absorbing everything I could—ideas, information, names, URLs, (and food and beer). It was incredible.

But since returning home, instead of a sponge, I feel more like this guy:

Just lying there with my eyes open, staring out into the vastness of cyberspace. So much awesome information. So many amazing people.

Only so much room in my tiny brain.

So please bear with me while I, not unlike this lazy mandrill, work through my catatonic state.

The weird thing is, my hair doesn’t look much different from his either.

And I’m pretty sure we both smell.

I promise, I’ll recharge from my brain overload and post something of substance soon. (And, possibly, clean myself as well.)

Sponge Image by ratner

Mandrill image by Cholin

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Help me out?

Dear peeps,

Would you do me a favor? I need to start making some money on this whole blog gig, at least to pay for my hosting fees, so I need to come up with a media kit to seek out some advertisers . . . Here’s where YOU come in!

In order to put together a media kit, I need to disclose my demographics. That would be you all. So if you would be so kind as to click on the link below to take my super-duper easy-peasy survey, I would be eternally grateful.

[Click here for the Boogers & Burps survey]

You guys rock! Thanks!

Love,

P

Get Lost in the Interweb

When Husband and I started dating, his family introduced me to one of the most amazing family pastimes—playing “get lost in the country.” Basically, it’s where you start driving out of town and then take turns saying “left,” “right,” or “straight” when you come to an intersection. The goal is to see just how lost you can get—and if you can find your way home! Now, remember, this was BEFORE cars and phones were equipped with GPS navigation systems. We had to rely on our wits and occasionally a map. The craziest time was when we followed a gravel road as it turned into a dirt road, then a dirt path, then grass with barely perceptible tire ruts, and suddenly we were in the middle of corn. I wrote about how to play this with your family on Iowa Moms if you’d like to read in more detail.

Tonight I took a little different approach to “get lost in the country” since a) it’s just me and two boys home tonight; b) it’s snowing AGAIN; and c) I had enough excitement taking Boys #2 and 3 to a very generous but unprepared Dairy Queen tonight, who was offering 50% off EVERYTHING for their anniversary. Instead I decided to play “get lost in the Interweb.” I’d start with a new blog I’d just started following, and I’d choose another blog from that person’s blogroll, and so on.

I started with Gussy’s blog. I had been drooling over Gussy’s bags on etsy for months, so you can imagine how excited I was to run into Gussy, AKA Maggie Whitley, herself, at BlissDom. I daresay she is as cute and sweet as her pouches!

I decided to click on Joy’s Hope next, and I was struck by the sad but beautiful photos of her broken dishes and her struggle to not grieve over her earthly goods. What a great lesson for all of us to remember!

From Joy’s Hope, I clicked on Just Something I Made. Uh, yeah, I could possibly be in full stalking mode by the end of the weekend. She seems to be just like me, or at least just like the “me” I want to be, you know, if I had any artistic aptitude. She collects vintage measuring tapes, for crying out loud! I just bought a vintage measuring tape at the Salvation Army, just because I had to have it! Of course, I had no idea what to  actually do with it, unlike Cathe. She even created a free download that you can print to create your own growth chart. I almost cried when I saw that. Then I saw that she was at BlissDom with me! Dang, she’s one awesome woman I did not get the chance to meet, but don’t think I’m not going to stalk her down look her up next year!

I next traveled to Mitzi’s Collectibles and felt my dormant creativity stirring when I read through her Crafts Projects. Seriously, I can do these! And the fact that they incorporate vintage and upcycled materials makes the projects even more up my alley. I’ve always been drawn to things from the past, especially if they have some family meaning behind them. Even though I really have zero spare time, I may have to carve out some to try one or ten of these. (I mean, really, who needs to work, right? Paychecks are for sissies.)

A site that Mitzi lists in her “Places I Like to Visit” section is A Beautiful Mess. Well, of course I had to see what that was all about because I can identify with it (Well, at least the “Mess” part). After seeing a photo of Elsie Flannigan, however, I will go on the record to say that she definitely can pull off the “beautiful” part as well. Her blog is fun to read through, although her style is a bit more kitschy than my style. If only I were about 10 years younger, I think I could possibly pull it off. She also created RedVelvetArt.com, a handmade art store, where I spied an underwear necklace that called my name.

Scrolling down Elsie’s sidebar, I saw a button with the name All-Mighty—and cute little Boston Terriers on it. Of course, I HAD to click on that. If you don’t already know, my first baby was a Boston Terrier named Larry. I had to put him to sleep two years ago, when he was 11, and that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. But I know he’s prancing next to Jesus now and we’ll all be reunited one day. So needless to say, my family loves all-things Boston Terrier, although we prefer to refer to them as “Larry dogs.” When I clicked on the All-Mighty link, I was overcome with the cuteness of what I saw. The shop is actually called “All-Mighty—For the love of Boston Terriers and all things cute!” Seriously, I can barely make myself look because it’s all so stinkin’ adorable that it kind of makes my heart ache. Stuffed Larry dogs. Larry dog tote bags. T-shirts with Batman Larry dog on them. And the most adorable artistic representations of the Larry dogs. Warning: If you haven’t already had a Boston Terrier, you will be compelled to immediately Google “Boston Terrier breeders” after visiting this site. (But that’s a good thing. They really are the sweetest things. The dogs, not the breeders. Although I’m sure some of the breeders are very sweet as well.)

And because my mind is now full of Larry memories, I am going to conclude my travels for tonight and go to sleep counting Bostons jump the fence (which coincidentally, Larry did every chance he got). It’s been fun getting lost in the Interweb. I’ve definitely found some places that I will be frequenting, and I didn’t even end up in the middle of a cornfield.

What about you? Do you ever play Get Lost in the Interweb? What places have you discovered?

Photo copyright connect7
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A Tour of My New (Blog) Home

“I see your new site is up,” Dear Husband said to me this evening.

Yeah, it’s only been up for 24 hours now. He’s very observant.

But I kept my smartass to myself because I wanted to hear what he had to say. Eagerly anticipating his next comment, I leaned in, straining my ears so I didn’t miss the compliment that I was sure would be flowing from his lips next.

And then I heard it. Only for some reason the compliment sounded like this:

“I don’t like it.”

Weird way to word a compliment, I thought. And then it dawned on me: It wasn’t actually a compliment!

But in his defense, I think he felt bad after he said it, and although it DID hurt my fragile feelings for a moment, I actually do appreciate his honest feedback. Because, you know, I don’t want my blog to suck. The reason he gave for saying he didn’t like it is because he said it’s “confusing,” which is what I was a little afraid of. So allow me to show you around the place so you don’t get lost too.

First of all, you’ll probably notice my large feature gallery that changes every few seconds. Those are just some of the posts I’m featuring at the moment (usually the newest ones). You will see a little blurb about the post at the bottom of the photo. You can click right on the photo to go to that post and read it.

Another way to find the latest post is to go to the right of the feature gallery to the box that says “Recent Posts.” The newest one will always be listed first. Here, I even took a picture for Husband you so you don’t get confused.

Then you just click on the title to read the post.

Right above the feature gallery is a bar with a list of categories for my past posts. Right now I have them divided this way:

  • To Blog: Posts about blogging (Clever, yes, I know…)
  • To Do: Posts about family life or things you can make or do
  • To Laugh: Posts that are basically just humorous, about anything
  • To Share: Review and/or giveaway posts
  • To Think: Posts about “heavier” subjects, my Deep Thoughts moments (with Jack Handey)
  • To Thriftify: Posts about how to save money or live frugally

Oh, and I also have “Stuff That Doesn’t Belong Anywhere Else,” which I am trying to hide. That’s basically just everything. So ignore that.

Under the feature gallery are three boxes. Each contains posts from one category. This is just another place you can find posts in what I think are the most popular categories. Eventually I’ll probably do something different with these, but for now they are what they are.

Okay, now look right under the header (I hope you like it, by the way. I made it using Picnik, and it was really easy!). The bar right under the mustache lists my pages. The “Home” page is (duh) the front page. “About Paula” is a page with a little bio. “Blogs I *Heart*” is my blogroll. If you mouse over the name of the blog, you’ll see a little something I wrote about each one. These are the peeps I read and recommend you read too! “Paula’s Picks” and “Gift Guide for Boys” are pages I’m still working on, so don’t worry about those. Eventually I’ll have links to my favorite stores, brands, products, etc. as well as a Gift Guide for Boys (possibly in the form of an Amazon.com store) that people can use as a resource year-round.

Other than that, we have “See Me Tweet” in the sidebar, which just shows my most recent Twitter ramblings. I’m hoping to add some ads to my sidebar soon too. Apparently it’s not cool to just continue to spend money on a blog (and go to conferences for your blog) and never make any money on your blog. Well, when you’re in debt up to your eyeballs and only working part-time, that is. And your husband already has 2 full-time jobs. (Sheesh, how demanding is HE?!) So if anyone reading this would like to place an ad, just let me know. Prime real estate, this blog is…

Now that I’m on WordPress instead of Blogger, I can do a lot more with my blog (once I figure out how), and I hope you’ll like the changes. Same content, but hopefully more of it and with some enhancements and better organization (eventually, that is). Oh, and maybe someday I’ll also figure out how to display the correct date at the top of the site, instead of tomorrow’s date. (Maybe it automatically does that because I am soooo ahead of my time. Ya think?)

So come on in, and make yourself at home. Help yourself to whatever you can find in the fridge—but I’ve got dibs on that three-week-old ravioli. And don’t worry about taking your shoes off at the door. Seriously, dude, leave them on. You never know what you might step on.

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7 Takeaways from the Type-A Mom Conference

Last Thursday I got up at 2:45 AM so I could catch a plane to Asheville, North Carolina, for the first-annual Type A Mom Conference. Now, I wouldn’t get up at that ungodly hour for just any conference, mind you, so I was just hoping Type A Mom would deliver on my high expectations. The verdict? It was all I expected and more. I got so much out of it on so many different levels, and although it would be impossible for me to adequately express the overall awesomeness of it all, I’ll do my best to sum up my experience in the form of 7 takeaways.

Takeaway #1: Bloggers—even bloggers who are also moms—can’t be forced into a predetermined mold. Women who start blogs start them for many different reasons . . . to keep a journal of their children’s growth, to keep relatives up-to-date on family happenings, to express themselves creatively, to vent frustrations and shout joys, to make money, to connect with others, to practice the art of writing, and the list could go on. And just because a woman starts a blog for one reason doesn’t mean she doesn’t develop new aspirations as the blog evolves. We are mommy bloggers, bloggers who are also moms, bloggers who aren’t moms and don’t plan to be, writers, journalists, essayists, social media consultants, photo bloggers, travel bloggers, family historians, editors, and product reviewers. This leads me into Takeaway #2 . . .

Takeaway #2: We live in the greatest country in the world. Okay, I have to admit that I already knew this, but being in North Carolina this weekend only reinforced that for me because we live in a country that allows us to be whatever kind of blogger we want to be. No one can tell us what to call ourselves or what we can or cannot do with our blog. Now, this doesn’t mean that our choices won’t have repercussions or limit our future options, but ultimately we get to make that choice. How cool is that?

Takeaway #3: Content is king queen. Of course, design, platform, and the like are all important in attracting readers and securing advertisers or sponsors (if you so choose), but at the end of the day, it’s all about the quality of content. And not just if you can use big words and explain the entire conflict in the Middle East in one paragraph or less. But it’s ultimately about your voice and your ability to consistently maintain that voice. It’s about making your readers feel like they know you just by reading your blog. Whether you’re talking about politics or your son’s potty training, do your readers feel like they really know you?

Takeaway #4: In this age of social media and connectivity, it’s becoming easier than ever to know which companies truly value their customers or their mission. And, along with that increasing revelation comes the responsibility to support those businesses. We had some awesome sponsors at Type-A Mom, and it was evident that they were passionate about enhancing our lives and the world we live in. In a struggling economy, it’s important to help build up those who are trying to make a difference. So when I have the choice between Little Debbie snack cakes and other brand, I will grab the Little Debbies without a second thought. I’ll be using the Cozi Family organizer and telling others if it works for me. I’ve already looked up Sprig Toys on Amazon.com and will continue to buy Creative Memories products for myself and as gifts. I’ll also be giving our local dressbarn a try because they cared enough to help support what we love doing (Not to mention that their clothes at the fashion show were SO CUTE!) I can’t wait to get my first pair of Earth footwear and see if the Boiron products I got for my kids really help alleviate aches and pains more naturally. Weight Watchers frozen novelty bars? Yeah, you bet your diet I’ll be including those on my grocery list. There were more great sponsors, and I’m grateful for and impressed with all of them for making women in social media a priority.

Takeaway #5: Just because we are all different, that doesn’t mean we can’t show one another respect. I think that’s one reason I love blogging—I have bloggy friends who are all very different, but we can look past our differences to see what connects us. And if we do disagree about something, it can (and should) be handled with respect and courtesy. There was a bit of uncomfortable “calling out” of certain people at the Town Hall meeting we had on Saturday. Yes, I was just about to crawl under the table at one point because I cannot stand watching confrontation. But the part that bothered me wasn’t that people were disagreeing. This is going to happen and is even good for all of us in determining where we stand on certain issues. However, what bothered me is that the disagreement wasn’t handled respectfully. I know, sometimes we get caught up in our emotions, but it’s important to still remember that people have feelings and the majority of the time, you’re not going to change someone’s mind by being rude. In fact, you’re just going to get them to dig their heels deeper in the sand.

Takeaway #6: There may be more than one way to pack a suitcase, but someone else’s way might yield you twice as much space. I have to credit my dear friend Jody for rooming with me for the second time at Type A Mom. I am the Oscar to her Felix. Take for example our shoes. Here were hers, all lined up neatly in a row.

And here were mine, thrown haphazardly in my suitcase.

This is definitely a microcosm of our personalities. She’s very linear and organized, and I’m, well, not. As I was trying to pack my suitcase Saturday night for my early-morning flight, I could see Jody out of the corner of my eye, fidgeting a bit, obviously trying to hold it in. Finally, as I shoved sloppily folded clothes one on top of the other, she could hold it in no longer: “Okay, take it all out. Let me help you,” she said in her firm-but-caring tone. “Everything?” I asked. “Everything,” she emphasized. So I did. And I watched in awe as she rolled sweaters and jeans, tucked trinkets into shoes, and created twice as much space as I had before. I could’ve been defensive, I could’ve seen her offer to help an attack on my lackadaisical personality. But I didn’t. I recognized her strength in this area, stuck my pride in my back pocket, and deferred to her. And Sunday morning when I wasn’t struggling to shove my pajamas and toiletries into a bulging suitcase and strong-arm an uncooperative zipper, I was so glad I had. As I told her that night: “This is why God wants us to be friends.”

Takeaway #7: Meaningful conversation is my drug of choice. Okay, let me clarify: It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the glasses of wine from the Biltmore Estates or the grapefruity goodness of the drinks I had at The Market Place on Wall Street in Asheville. Mmmm, very yummy. But the biggest high of the weekend was engaging in real, meaningful conversations with other women (and some men). When I was growing up, we used to call it “visiting.” (I’m pretty sure that’s what my mom and dad still call it.) We are so hyper-involved in so many different activities today that we rarely have the opportunity to slow down and just visit. It’s not only good for bloggers to do, but for all of us as social creatures. When was the last time you invited someone over just to talk? I strongly believe that we all need to make meaningful connections with others; it’s how we were designed, and without it we won’t feel complete. I got my fill of conversation this weekend, but it’s only made me eager for more.

I’d like to thank Dr. Heather Manley, N.D., for helping me get to the conference. I’m so excited to make some great connections for her with her series The Human Body Detectives. And on that note, I’d like to finally announce the winner of last week’s contest for a copy of The Lucky Escape, the first audibook and workbook in the series. (The second, The Battle with the Bugs, is coming out this month. I had the chance to preview it last night and I was SOOO impressed! Great timing, too, with all the viruses going around!)

The winner is (through random number generator) . . . LISA! Who said:

Hey Paula! I think my kids would love that in a couple years … I’ll keep an eye on what she’s doing, even if I don’t win :). But I hope I win.

Congratulations, Lisa! Email me your new address and I’ll get you the copy of The Lucky Escape!

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I_Blog . . . Do U?

What are you doing November 14–15? Did you say, “Attending the inaugural I_Blog conference at the Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa“? That’s what I thought you said!

You know my friend, Jody, the one I attended Blissdom 09 with, the one I’m attending the Type-A Mom Conference with next week (eek!), the one who coordinated and hosted my kickin’ garage sale? Well, apparently she doesn’t have enough to do, so she’s taken it upon herself to organize the first ever Iowa blogging conference!

Here’s what Jody says about why she decided to spearhead this event:

I_Blog came about as I was pondering why Iowa had no blog conferences. While I’ll admit it is not a destination there are so many wonderful places within the state. With that simple thought, coupled with building a community of Midwest bloggers, I_Blog was born. While I don’t envision I_Blog becoming a big conference I do want it to be a gathering for Midwest bloggers to learn and have fun- with an emphasis on the fun.

The I_Blog conference will be held on Nov. 14–15 at the historic Hotel Pattee, which is AMAZING! The cost is $75, plus $99 for a room (half if you get a roomie). The registration includes several meals and great speakers. It’s going to be a super-fun weekend of meeting new people, learning more about social networking, and relaxing!

So whether you currently have a blog or are just thinking about getting into social networking someday, register for I_Blog and mark it on your calendar. I’d love to see you there!

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