Free WordPress Logo Cross Stitch Pattern

I’ve become completely enamored with the really fun, modern, eclectic, and trendy cross-stitch patterns on Etsy. I even have a favorite cross stitch store! (Go check her stuff out – if you love design, you’ll love her work!)

Being the complete nerd that I am, I just had to know how people were creating their own cross stitch designs. I did some digging, downloaded some software, imported the WordPress Logo and got to work! This was the perfect design to start playing with, it only took me about an hour to clean up from the import. I haven’t gone through pixel by pixel to make sure it’s 100% perfect yet and I probably won’t because …I mean really do I really need to justify that?

WordPress Logo Cross Stitched
Click to download the PDF file!

BUT – if you have been waiting for the day you could cross stitch the WordPress logo onto a piece of 14-count white Aida cloth with a single monochrome color and a simple single stitch…. well have I got news for you!!

You can download this WordPress Logo CrossStitch Pattern for free! Just click the link, download the PDF file, print, and then stitch ’till you ditch (it)!

Oh Love, That Will Not Let Me Go

Death is, for me, a consecrated moment in time. A deeply spiritual event that I can’t fully articulate. For me, there is only one way to experience death – and that is to be present in it. To feel the weight of every aspect of life – good and bad. To be open to what is happening – what will happen.

I learned the hard lesson of being closed off to life and death when my Grampa died. I remember hearing “Stage 4 Lung Cancer….Nothing else we can do.” and yet I was completely baffled when he died two weeks later. I remember being blindsided by the entire event. Unable to grasp what was happening. Unable to say goodbye. Unable to really allow myself to be present.

I wish I had been able to understand. I don’t have many regrets but not saying goodbye to my Grampa is one of them.I fully remember, and to this day feel, the heavy weight of regret that came from not telling him goodbye. I was his little Rose – and yet – I couldn’t figure out how to allow myself to sit near him. To hold his hand. To tell him I loved him. And to be there for him. With him. When I feel emotionally vulnerable, I shut down. I wall up. I close off. And that’s kind of what I did when my Grampa was dying.

When my Gramma died – I didn’t want that regret. So no matter how painful it was – I forced myself to feel it. To experience it. To stay open.

It was a few years after Grampa’s death when I received a strange call from my Gramma.  She spoke of her love for Jesus and how excited she was to see Grampa again. I couldn’t begin to grasp what she was trying to tell me. I called my Mom and said, “Gramma and I just had the weirdest conversation….”  My Mom explained that my Gramma was saying goodbye. Heartbroken, I cried.

About a month later my Gramma lay in a hospital bed, weakened from a stroke. It was January 2005. She was hanging on for dear life. But her spirit was as strong as any healthy body. I felt it when I walked into the hospital room. She couldn’t open her eyes, so I opened them for her. She looked at me. My tears fell. I closed her eyes and I grabbed her hand. I held her hand for hours. For the short second I let go of her hand to stretch my fingers, she reached for me. I sat at her bedside for almost 12 hours that night. Holding her hand.

Between the time I arrived at the hospital and when she left us through death, I made a personal commitment to be present. To be vulnerable. To let myself feel the pain of this loss. To acknowledge what was happening. To stand and watch. To be open. To hear. To feel. To see. To sense this. To know this. To understand this. When the moment came for my Gramma to let go of her last breath, there was such a sense of peace. As a family we gathered around my Grandma – ushering her out of this life with hymns, prayers, and peace. There was heart ache and a deep, sad, grief. But peace.

My Gramma and Grampa were absolutely instrumental in my life. If not for them – there’s no telling where I would be today. I’m so grateful my Mom worked so hard to have them in our lives. And I’m genuinely sad they’re really gone. I never imagined a life without them. They really weren’t that old when they both died.

I wrote this post tonight after shedding tears over the upcoming loss of Scott. He will be leaving this world soon. His brain cancer is growing and things are changing almost daily. It was just a few months ago when Scott was all smiles because his brain tumor was in remission. But then it came back, with a vengeance.

Scott and his family are known to me by the internet. I met Scott on Twitter a few years ago and sent him some geeky “Movember” stickers I had picked up at WordCamp Austin in 2013. Over the last two years I’ve grown to really admire Scott and his family – especially in the way they have managed this completely unfair curveball.

So to my sweet friends who are preparing their precious family for Scott, an amazing husband and father of four young children, to leave this life:  the weight of what you must face, walk through, and endure is heavy – but you are not alone. You are not alone. I love that you are sharing this journey with all of us on Instagram and Twitter. I love the way you are allowing your children to be a part of this chapter of your lives together. I have no real practical advice except to push yourself to stay open. Stay present. Stay ready. Accept this as the consecrated time in your lives that it is. And remember the love you have for Scott will never leave you. It will always be with you. It will never let you go. And that’s a beautiful thing.

I sing this song to myself often. It heals me. It soothes my soul on weary days. On long days. On heavy days. It reminds me of my Gramma, whom I could always call and ask her to pray for me. And I would find out she had already been praying for me, having woken up from a dream about me.

I hope it offers healing for you as well in this time of grief, bewilderment, and loss. It is my prayer for you all.

Content Wrangling 101, Lesson 1

If you’ve ever sat back and thought to yourself, “Gee, I really wonder what goes into getting a website’s content from a hot mess to an elegant experience for the reader…”  Well – have I got a doozy of a blog post for you!

Let the Content Wrangling Begin!

Content management and strategy are no small feats. Managing your content has become as vitally important for scaling your online website as managing your codebase. If you have ever worked in web development, you know how convoluted and messy a codebase can become; well, content is similar. If not wrangled in, it will become an unyielding force to reckon with!

When you find yourself in this position (you know, when you DREAD the idea of even looking at your actual front end content of your CMS) it’s time for Content Overhaul.

How to Approach a Content Overhaul

1) Determine the Purpose for Site Content

Know your audience. Know your users. Know your software/product/market. Simple enough, right?

Not really. Depending on your market, your users could range from complete newbies to seasoned professionals. And surprisingly enough, most of your users are not on your website because your awesome header font drew them in. They are there to consume information. And it’s to your advantage to make that as easy as possible for them.

That should be the overarching purpose of all site content: to help your users, your community, your readers, your customers, your clients, etc. That’s not to say every piece of content has to be technical, boring, or dry. There are different types of content and they are used for different site purposes.  Point is: all your communication should purpose, and it should support the mission of your organization.

2) Create User Personas

To arrive at this end you must spend time talking about your users. Sketching out formal User Personas is a critical step for any major content overhaul; especially if you happen to be working with a client to complete a formal content review, audit and upgrade where in you might not necessarily BE the end user. Taking the time to streamline who your users are, what they need, and how your site will serve them will make a huge difference when it comes time to divide and conquer existing content – or setting up a content strategy for future communication (posts, pages, social media.)

Usability.gov has one of the most straightforward How-To’s on creating user personas. 

3) Perform a Systematic Review

Anytime I start a new content overhaul, I open my saved links, review info, and make sure my understanding of the steps at hand are consistent with any current standards for content planning, strategy, etc. Web standards change often for code & they change for content as well.

I have quite a few resources booked, but the following are what I consider the best authority sources regarding Content Inventories, Content Audits and Content Strategy:

These resources are not WordPress specific – just high level “Holy cow we have a lot of content, where do we even start!?” level work.

4) Perform a Thorough Analytical Review

Your deliverables from step 3 will tell you a lot about what kind of content you are dealing with. Now you need to know how existing content is performing on your website. And, you need to know how users are interacting with your existing content. There are so many tools you can pick from (and pay) for this, but personally I find that the combination of data from Google Analytics and JetPack Stats reveals enough information.

  • Google Analytics and/or JetPack Stats
    You can glean a LOT from your JetPack stats if you are running a WordPress site. Combine JetPack with your GA and you’ve got most of the quantifiable data you’ll ever want for pretty much anything you need to do with your content.
  • Inbound Traffic
    –Found in GA or JetPack Stats
  • Social Media Shares
  • Outbound Clicks

Basically – how are users finding your site, what are they doing with the content, where are they going when they leave. If you approach your analytics review by filtering all the information you will have into one of those three categories (How, What, Where) you’ll be off to a good start.

Yes, this step can become very granular and tedious – but don’t get lost in the forest because of the trees. Approach this from a high level view (the 3 categories) and you’ll be able to navigate your way through it all.

5) Research Your Competitors

This is important, but shouldn’t be a huge time suck. Check out your competitor’s sites and look at how they are using their content. Just spend enough time on each section of these sites to get a high level overview/feel for your competitors. Too much time, and their content/site could be counterproductive – your imposter syndrome might set in! Just take a quick look at their site, navigate it as a user, and write down what you love/hate about it all. Then move on!

6) Now – Put the Content to the Test!

After you have gone through the steps above, you can start digesting your existing content. This step is a little time consuming if you have a lot of content but it’s vital. You are going to decide what content stays, and what content goes! (Yes, you will end up deleting content in this process.) You can use the following four questions to help keep the process moving:

  1. Does this content help or hinder the user? (Which user?! You should have several.)
  2. Does this content leave the user ready to take action or left wondering what’s next?
  3. Does this content help build our company team?
  4. Does this content help build our community?

If yes – then the content stays (somewhere) on the site. If no – ditch it.

So, Now What?

Once you have all this in place, you’re ready to move on to the next phase of a content overhaul – preparing to deal with the words and writers that make up the actual content. Up until this point all you’ve done is gather your information.

Did you just think to yourself, “Ugh, I’ll just skip all this…. who needs all the prep work… all I really need to do is [insert a component from what will be Lesson 3].”

I’m going to give you some more free (sage) advice – Don’t Do It! The end result will be a sloppy pile of content that will require even more work later on. Just trust me…if you’re going to take the time to do it, you might as well do it right.

 

 

 

Most Online Marketers are Crooks

social media marketing

Before you buy an online platform for website services or social media services, ask around. Talk to your friends who you know work in these fields. Even if you only have one friend who builds software – I would bet money on it that he knows a guy who knows a gal who knows a professional who can legitimately help you.

I can’t tell you how frustrated I get for my small business owners who are paying out the wazoo for crap services. I don’t mean qualified professionals helping small business owners with their marketing needs. I’m talking about small business owners being taken advantage of by companies who prey on their naïveté. What happens:  small business owner gets an offer from a social media / website management company to help with their marketing. It’s $500/mo. Or less. And this seems like a great deal. But, what happens is, the marketing company owns all your online real estate. The small business owner doesn’t. And this is a problem.

For example: if your Facebook page isn’t owned by and controlled by you – you don’t own or control the content, the data, the images, etc. You are responsible for all of it, you just don’t have any actual control over any of it. All the responsibility and none of the authority. That’s not ok. That’s now how you run your brick and mortar business. You wouldn’t just hand the keys to your office to anyone off the street without making sure that at the end of the day you had a way to lock them out of your office. Same thing for your website. Your Twitter account. Facebook account. The list goes on and on.

This is not a small problem. This is your brand. Your business. And online/email marketing IS the heart of all marketing in 2015. Protecting your brand online shouldn’t be a secondary consideration. There’s a huge knowledge gap between online marketers vs. brick and mortar small business owners. And, from what I’ve seen first hand, most small business owners are not being taken care of – they are being exploited.

Brand Protection is the most important thing you will do for your business. Know your marketing company. If you need a list of companies to reach out to, who will help you take your business to the next level with professional grade marketing and branding, here’s my list of go-to talent:

I’m sure I have more contacts I could list, but this is a quick post before I dive off into a podcast! The people above are personally known to me and provide really amazing work at valuable price points. Just remember – you get what you pay for and most of the time you don’t even know what risks you’re accepting when you sign a contract for website, social media, and email marketing agreements. Time to write some more posts! :)

Ok – off my soapbox and onto my podcast!

Current Status: Life with Teens at 330am

I love my teenagers but they’ve had me up since 2am. That’s ok. I am awake. I could have a few quiet hours in the house to get work done. Quietly. Because 90% of my work-at-home is intellectual and requires absolute quiet and without interruption in order to pull it off as expertly as I prefer. I can’t stand half-assed work. Even if it’s just writing a newsletter, QA’ing a website, or scheduling social media messages for clients. If I’m being paid for it, I want to deliver exceptional work.

Summer Will Be Over Soon, Right?

But it’s been weeks. Actually MONTHS ON END of dealing with constant interruptions. Whenever I am awake, someone is talking to me. If it’s not the kids. It’s John. If it’s not John needing my attn it’s the cats. If not the cats, it’s the dog who didn’t get fed because I didn’t tell anyone to feed the dog. And I just don’t understand how teenagers can be so independent and SO NEEDY at the same time. It’s absolutely frustrating.

mom_tantrum

Please don’t tell me to put a sign on my door and train them to leave me alone better or to observe bed time better or do anything better or different. Don’t give me all your tips for managing your family life while working at home. Please, I’ve been doing this for almost 20yrs and I’m doing my best. And it’s not like fellow parents-who-work-at-home don’t have these same frustrations and issues. It’s tempting to share with me how you do it perfectly but I don’t really care b/c I know that if you tell me you don’t have the issue of constant interruptions by your teens/children/partners then I know you are either lying or your relationship with your kids/partner just isn’t as good as mine. HAHA Let’s just be real for a minute ok, folks?

And don’t tell me to close myself off in a quiet room. It’s 330am – and I don’t want to sit in the hole that is my bedroom/office with the door shut.

  1.  I’m in there ALL the time trying to work.
  2. John is asleep and he’ll be all grumpy about the noise I make when I’m typing quietly and listening to music via headphones. /sarcasm.
  3. My desk is a mess and I don’t want to move things around to get to my desk.
  4. I want to be close to the coffee pot.
  5. I want to sit in the kitchen. It’s my house. I pay for it. So I should be able to sit where I want.

/mom_tantrum

For Example:

While I’m typing this, Adri is literally standing in front of me telling me all about the TV show he’s binge watching in his room. He came out to get some water. That’s NOT a crime. And I’m glad he wants to visit with me. I love having him home again. But, Adri is very detailed in his storytelling. And long winded. (Wonder where he gets that from…)

Now, as long as I sit here smiling at him and laughing and responding appropriately to the pauses in his story, he keeps talking. And he thinks I’m paying attention and enjoying this interaction. And don’t get me wrong – I am. It’s just shrouded with a cloak of mom-frustration.

I am literally looking him in the eye and laughing and smiling and typing this blog post all at the same time. He doesn’t know I’m venting online right now. He thinks I’m working. But I can’t focus on work while listening to him ramble on about a show he’s watching.

And This is the Bane of Life with Teenagers.

claire straws
Remember this? She did this at the Dentist office for fun…then almost punctured her ear drum when she removed the straws from her ears, resulting in a very long day of Dr. appointments on what was to have been a simple 30m dental cleaning appointment. Because Teens.

My teenagers are good kids. They aren’t in trouble constantly. They do their chores when told – and when not. They don’t typically lie, cheat, steal. They are not even rebellious. We don’t deal with 1/4th of the crap most of my friends with teens deal with. I attribute this to a few things (specifically John is an awesome AWESOME co-parent!) but mostly – I’ve always been fully available to them. Someone told me when I was a young mother -and I saw it for my own eyes with her really awesome kids – teenagers just want you around and they want you available when they want you available. And the best thing you will ever do for your children is to be available. I’ve structured every aspect of my life around this core belief. And now that I’m 18yrs into parenting, I am seeing the fruits of it.

And I’m not about to write a disclaimer about how I hope I don’t offend people who work outside of the home. That is NOT what this is about. You very much can work outside of the home AND be fully available for your children. SO please… just staaaahhhp before you ever start w/that train of thought/comment. There are plenty of stay at home mom’s who are never available for their children. So that is 100% beside the point.

But fruits can come with frustrations when you need to put food on the table and that requires your to attend to other matters. And it’s ok for kids to NOT have my attention 24/7. I’m just saying, you know, my kids really love to hang out with me. ALL THE TIME.

Even at 330am when I was really looking forward to just sinking into scheduling tweets for a WordCamp.

One Day I’ll Miss All This, Right? 

mom lifeLet’s just go back to the river. This will be me on the first day the kids return to public school. I’m taking a day off from work, from life, from everyone and I’m going to go float a river. I’d invite some friends to join me but then I’d have to talk to you and my introverted self is screaming for peace and quiet. HAHAHA

On the Value of Judgement – @ASmartBear – WP Engine

Such a great post from Jason! There are so many reasons I love WPEngine – but mostly – their leadership is ON POINT!

Rather than avoid judgement as a sin, we should invest in it as a skill. Rather than damn the act of judgement for the sake of avoiding incorrect judgments, we should celebrate the component skills of great judgement such as bias-avoidance, clarifying the essential, combining data with vision, reasoning from first-principals, and prioritization of apparently uncomparable options.

via On the value of Judgement – @ASmartBear – WP Engine.

From Buffer > New Research: The Best Time to Tweet for Clicks, Retweets, and Replies

The team at BufferApp.com did a spectacular job drilling down data from the tweets sent from their user base. I love data. Even though I had to slow down to digest it all!

Do you leverage social media for your marketing? If so – this is a must read!

With a big hand from our data team, we analyzed over 4.8 million tweets across 10,000 profiles, pulling the stats on how clicks and engagement and timing occur throughout the day and in different time zones. We’d love to share with you what we found!

via New Research: The Best Time to Tweet for Clicks, Retweets, and Replies.