Heads Up! A Great Free Online Event is Coming!

Last March, we had a pretty new rambunctious puppy, and a scary, uncertain reality bearing down on us. We were newly locked down, and I thought I’d be back at work any day, any week. I set up my office in our kitchen, to contain Charley puppy, and I called it the bunker. Time passed pretty slowly in the bunker. Every morning when I turned on my computer, numbers flashed across my screen – new infections, deaths, number of days in lockdown. I reviewed the same files repeatedly, I wrote letters to the outside world, but some days, I just sat on the floor and threw a ball for Charley and Olive. They were in heaven in our cramped corner of the kitchen. I was losing my mind, a teeny bit.

I started playing around with my art supplies, and doodling in my sketchbook. And in some email from some artist who I had signed up on their mailing list, I got a link for a free online event, The Sketchbook Revival, and I signed up. And then, every week for two weeks, I got a spark of inspiration in my email box.

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Chic Sparrow Over Foxy Fix for the Win – the Rest of the 2019 Line Up

Not too big a stack right?  Very focused!

On top is my everyday carry.  It’s not even a journal really, it’s a date book, I guess a planner.  I shouldn’t treat planner like a dirty word, but I’ve been down that road of decorating rather than planning, and I’ve really decided that decorating is for memory keeping, and my carry around thing has to look at least semi-professional.  Oh, so what is it?  It’s a Hobonichi Weeks, housed in a Chic Sparrow Weeks cover in Golden Maverick leather.

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Journal No. 2 for 2019, My Not A Bullet Journal Journal

Back in 2016 through 2017, I kept a bullet journal. A real bullet journal. Bullet journaling is a an analogue planning system created by Ryder Carrol. I haven’t been to his blog lately, or read his new book, but back when he started this analogue system of not quite list making/not quite traditional planning, there were no monthly calendars, no doodling, no elaborate spreads of goals, or habit tracking, or anything like that. Rather, it was a system of rapid logging, of daily tasks/items/appointments that were checked off when completed, or migrated to a date in the future. The first page was a vertical list of dates, and you logged your appointments. The next page was a future log, and I used it for items I was waiting for, an appointments for the month. Then, you just started in on logging items daily. For instance, you wrote down Monday, and you made a list of your to dos, your appointments, your tasks, things to remember. You checked them off when there were down, or you drew an arrow to indicate you were migrating it to later in the week or month or whatever. If you wanted to create a list, of say books to read, or goals, or something like that, where ever you were in your journal, you titled your collection, and started listing, and you noted the page of the collection in the index. And, that was it.

That’s a traditional bullet journal.

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A Weekender for Every Day of the Week

I’ll admit it – I’m a bandwagon girl. Or, more accurately, if there’s a sweater parade going by, I’m definitely in the crowd watching, and, it doesn’t take much for me to hop on the float, and cast on the sweater du jour. When everyone started knitting this sweater, the Weekender by Andrea Mowry, I certainly put it in my Ravelry queue, and I kept my eye on photos of completed projects. I didn’t cast on immediately though, because I was concerned about the drop shoulder. A drop shoulder on an oversized sweater with no shaping definitely runs the risk of looking like a trash bag with a hole for your head.

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A Star is Born – Again

I saw a Star is Born on Sunday but I waited a few days to write about it.  If I had written the review right after the movie, it would have been ungenerous and unkind.  In the theater where I saw the movie, there were people sobbing in their seats, audibly, and I was struck more by their emotion than by the movie.  With that kind of tangible evidence, I certainly can’t argue with the gut punch effect of the movie.  And, I can’t say anyone was manipulated into crocodile tears, because it certainly wasn’t a secret that this was going to be tragic love story told with all of the trappings of traditional melodrama.  People weren’t manipulated into emotional reactions – they went there for that sole purpose.  There’s a scene right in the beginning of the movie, where Lady Gaga’s character, Ally, dumps her boyfriend while she’s on a break from work.  She’s hiding in a bathroom stall having this difficult conversation with the guy, and after she abruptly hangs up on him, she walks out of the stall, stares into the mirror, drops her head, stomps her feet, and let’s out a primal scream, followed by “fucking men!”  Go ahead and scream, and cry and let it all out, friends, Lady Gaga has not only given you permission, she has shown you the way.

So, why didn’t I take her hand, just go with it, into the cathartic tears and the emotional release that the movie guaranteed?  I certainly did in the second remake of  A Star is Born, with Judy Garland and James Mason.  When James Mason walks into the ocean, and the music swells, and later Judy is sobbing over her lipstick on the wall at Gruman’s Chinese Theater, I sat in my bed crumpling tissue after tissue.  It’s the same story, after all, it should have gotten me.  And, it wasn’t the fact that I knew how it was going to end – I’ve seen the Judy Star is Born at least five times, and I react the same way every time.  It’s certainly not a talent thing – Lady Gaga has the pipes, and she’s a talented song writer.    And this A Star is Born has been updated, as it’s certainly a more accurate portrayal of addiction.  It should have spoken to me, right?

And, I think that it’s for those very reasons, that it doesn’t work for me.  First, Ally is a more modern woman than the previous stars’ incarnations, but at the end of the movie, I still don’t know if she sold out by becoming a pop star, having been manipulated by her slimey manager, or if she is exercising her own agency, this pop star is the star she wants to be.  I just don’t know. And, based on the set up of Ally’s character, the foot stomping in the bathroom, the punching of an off duty cop to protect Bradley Cooper’s famous rock star character, Jackson Maine, from an intrusion into his private time, the impulsive quitting of her job to not just run after a rock star, but run after something better for herself, I could only believe that a girl who’s going to belt a cop is not a girl who is going to be like, yeah, ok, you drink, I’m not going to try to change you, except to say once in awhile “that’s not ok,” and “this is the last time.”  It’s more than hinted that her character has dealt with alcoholism before with her father, and therefore, she, unlike Judy Garland’s Esther Blodgett, absolutely knows that her love alone is not going to make him better. When she visits him in rehab towards the end of the film, and she tells him that his actions aren’t embarrassing, that he has a disease, she has known that this is a disease all along, yet, all we see her do to confront this illness is tell him, I won’t get on a bike with you when you’ve been drinking, I won’t come get you from the side of the road again.  And, after she makes that little speech, she marries him – not even an hour later.  He’s had a good talking to by Dave Chappelle so he’s cured?  I don’t believe her character is that naïve.

And, I don’t think she’s that much in love either.  Jackson Maine is an asshole.  He’s disgusting.  The first time she goes back to his hotel room, they’re making out, and he’s wasted, sweaty and  the thought of the smell of him was enough to ruin my popcorn.  He passes out, and his brother emerges out of nowhere to put him to bed.  And then, after the brother leaves, Ally gets into bed with him – and waits for him to wake up so they can consummate this whatever it is.  This is not romance, or love.  This is just fear – she’s afraid of what will happen if she leaves.  She just ditched her job, everything, to be with this guy, and now what?  And that fear dictates her behavior the rest of the movie.  She doesn’t trust her voice, she doesn’t trust her beauty, and she doesn’t trust she can make it without her creepy manager, and her verbally abusive, downright mean husband.  And, she certainly doesn’t love him enough to try to help him.  There’s never a moment in this movie when she acknowledges just how sick he is, or that he needs serious mental health treatment, and a lifetime of therapy.  And the last thing she does do is lie to him, and she doesn’t even recognize what the lie is – the truth is, her creepy manager was never going to let her cancel that tour, and she didn’t really know what their future was going to be.

And in giving Jackson Maine a back story to his addiction, and making his drinking more about self-medication than over indulging in the rock and roll life style and the trappings of stardom, the movie introduces a mental health component to his addiction beyond alcoholism as a DSM V disease.   This guy is not just suffering from alcoholism; he is clinically depressed, perhaps bi-polar, and he definitely has PTSD.  His first suicide attempt was at 13.  Suicidal ideation doesn’t just go away.  He suffers from tinnitus – he’s not just trying to escape the noise of the crowd – he lives with a deafening noise in his head all the time.  Everyone in the film kind of shrugs and says, he drinks too much.  But, that’s not really what’s at the heart of this guy – it’s the agony he’s suffered since he was child – a child who tried to string himself up just to get the attention of an abusive father.  So, when his brother, at the end of the movie, tells Ally that it was no one’s fault but Jackson’s, I think, well, yeah, but . . . instead of telling him “you drink too much,” you could have said, “I think medication and therapy might go a long way here.” Look, I don’t think anyone owed this Jackson Maine anything, but maybe I would have felt more if she had tried to help him before he ruined her Grammy night.

So, they cling to each other, she rises, he falls.   She calls his cellphone a lot. And in between?  There’s just no joy in this relationship, ever. I never for a second in this movie ever felt any happiness between the two of them.  Nor did I ever enjoy being with them.  Sure, there’s magic onstage, but that’s performance, not intimacy.  When James Mason walks into the ocean, I felt like he was taking Judy with him.  When Jackson commits suicide, I felt bad for the dog.

I started off by saying, that if I had written this right after I had seen the movie, I would have been ungenerous and unkind, and now that I’ve read this over, maybe I have been anyway, but I only meant my criticisms towards the movie itself.  I certainly don’t want to be ungenerous and unkind to the people who were moved when they saw this movie.  Just because I had problems with this movie, I can understand why someone else wouldn’t.  A tragedy is a tragedy, who cares if it’s tragedy a or tragedy b.  It was better than the Barbra Streisand version, so there is that. There are a lot of good things about this movie – I believed Bradley Cooper as a rock star, I liked Lady Gaga, the music is great, as are the concert scenes.  I just wish they had just gone on tour together, instead of remaking one of my favorite movies of all time.

So, if you too go to a Star is Born looking for that promised emotional release, and instead you get disappointing popcorn because you can’t stop thinking about stinky Bradley Cooper, I’ll give you an alternative- Tracy Dogs Adoption Day.  Tracy Dogs is an dog rescue in Texas, that saves dogs from high kill border shelters.  After an online adoption process, the dogs board a bus, and go off to their new forever homes, that begin in a PetSmart parking lot.  The bus parks, the new dog parents anxiously wait, and one by one, they bring the dogs off the bus, and into the arms of their new doggie parents.  Every month there’s a live video.  Sometimes like on Saturday, I caught it live, sometimes I watch the replay.  And boy, do I cry those big crocodile tears of joy for these sweet puts.  Time well spent, definitely!

When You Know Nothing, How to Build a Website

One of the reasons the blog got a makeover truly was the yadda yadda of yesterday – writing, word recovery, all that cerebral stuff.  But, there’s another reason.  I’m a nerd, I like techy things, and I actually like fiddling around with web design.  So, when my brother posted on Facebook that he was looking for an easy, cheap website solution for his wedding/event band, I raised my hand, and he “hired” me – i.e., I owed him money (not much, just my half of mom’s bday present), and it was a good way to wipe the slate clean.  He was skeptical, and doubted my English major/lawyering  skills would translate into web design, but little did he know . . . I am addicted to DIY tutorials.  And, if you can DIY the curtains in your bathroom, you can DIY a website.

Are you the Jon Snow of website creation and design?  You know nothing?  Well, after a few hours on youtube, you will know enough to get yourself started.

First, you need to find a web hosting service, which should provide you with a domain name registration, domain hosting, and WordPress installation.  I use Dreamhost, my brother uses StartLogic.  Does it matter?  Sure, it does – if you’re a professional working for a client, stuff like memory, and databases and ftp and all of that stuff come into play, and you need to know what makes your website run, not just your WordPress install.  But, if you’re just building a personal website with WordPress, the most important thing is customer service.  Because you must accept from the outset that things are going to go wrong, either with your WordPress install, or with memory limits when you first start using your site, or any number of things.  I’ve only had to call Dreamhost once about my website.  Startlogic, well, I was on the phone with them for hours for three days getting the WordPress install to function.  I can’t really tell you whose fault that was – my brother, in his attempt to manage his own domains, had so much guck in there (I could explain what all that guck was, but it’s no worries for you really) that I can’t fault Startlogic, and the technicians I spoke to were very helpful, and understood the importance of a small business being online, now.  The takeaway from the guck is that starting fresh is the easiest way to go, and once you start overwriting something existing, life gets more difficult, and that customer service is important.

So, step 1.  Get web hosting, 2. register your domain name, 3.  install WordPress.  Do you have to use WordPress – of course not.  There’s Wix out there, and Squarespace.  There’s building your own code.  But, we were on a budget, and there really isn’t a cheaper way to go than WordPress.  With Startlogic, for instance, web hosting is $2.50 a month (I think), the domain name and registration are free, WordPress is free.  Everything else on top of that is decoration – so you have to decide if you want a Home Depot Christmas tree for your website, or a Martha Stewart decorated forest.  For instance, StartLogic partners with Mojomarketplace, and for additional fees ($99 and up) you can purchase a custom theme, professional installation and customization.  If I had failed, that probably would have been the way my brother would have gone.  But, since I figured it out, we stayed in budget – which was the Home Depot Hanukkah bush.

So, this is what WordPress looks like –


WordPress is the house for your site.  It’s a container.  Your theme is your framework, and works like your basement and the shell of your house, it powers your house, and gives your site it’s organizational structure.  It is the backend, what your guests never see.  All you will have to do on the backend is set up the organization of your website – things like menu structure.  The living area, the thing that makes your home pretty and livable, is the front end – what people see when they hit your site, and customization is based on visualization.  I don’t know anything about backend creation – I trust the theme, and follow the instructions.  The front end, on the other hand, is easy peasy now that there are drop and drag page editors out there.  That’s what I mean by visualization – you want a photo – you drop it on the page.  You want some space between a text block and an image, you drag a spacer on the page.  You want to change your font, you click on the font, and you can change it.  There are many drop and drag page builders out there, but I went with Elementor – it’s free, and it’s easy, and there are so many youtube tutorials for you to watch that can take you through your website creation, step by step.  If you want to spend some money, you may want to think about Divi, which is a combination Theme/Page Builder, which requires a subscription fee to Elegant Themes, which if you’re looking to build more than one website, might be the way to go for you.

So, Elementor is your front end editor – the visual design.  But, we can’t forget about that basement – and Elementor is not fully compatible with every theme.  Based on the tutorials I watched, and the ones I’m going to recommend in a second, I used this theme – OceanWp.  From that theme, I made this website – Main Line Affair.  Think of OceanWP as your sketch, and Elementor (a plugin, i.e., a tool for your website) as your paint.  OceanWP gives you your structure, Elementor gives you your design.

So this is the theme customizer (this is this website’s theme – Essence – not OceanWp – I didn’t feel like heading over to my brother’s site to take a screenshot.  It looks very much the same, but more options, which is why OceanWP works so well with Elementor – many many customization choices) – lots of settings for the way your site works, not how it looks (other than to tell wordpress where to put stuff, like your menus,headers, and footers) – it’s your framework.

And, Elementor – on the front end –

See the box that says drag widget here?  The two columns on the left are widgets – you drag the widget box onto your page, and voila!  That’s it.  Or see that little folder?  You click on that, and it will bring up a template library – more on that below.

Are you scratching your head, what’s a widget?  So, if WordPress is your house, and your theme is your framework, plugins are your lightswitches, and widgets are your furniture.  Plugins are tools you install to give your website more functionality.  Widgets are areas of information that provide visual content for your blog.  Widgets are often, but not always, powered by Plugins.  So, the plugin is the lightswitch, the widget is the lamp.  So, if you look at the side bar if this blog, you’ll see three fields – About Me, Recent Posts, and Instagram – all three of these content areas (widgets) are configured and powered by plugins.  Anyway, you can google all of this terminology and you’ll probably get better definitions than my Good Housekeeping version of website design.  This house analogy works for me, and maybe it’ll help you conceptualize how all of these things work together.  If not, forget I said, and use whatever methodology works for you.

So, I’m not going to go through the steps to customize OceanWP with Elementor – I’m just going to link to the videos I watched.

First, I watched Tyler Moore‘s How to Make a WordPress Website in 24 Steps.  In this video, he talks about all of the things I glossed over – web hosting, WordPress installation, theme installation, and theme customization.  I pretty much followed this step by step when I made my brother’s site.  I watched a part of the video, paused it, did a step, moved to the next.  I was amazed at how easy it is to have a functional website up and running in a matter of hours.  One of the best little nuggets from this tutorial is templates – there’s no need to reinvent the wheel anymore.  You can just drop an entire Elementor template onto your WordPress page – and voila! A working website.  Of course, you don’t want a cookie cutter website, but it’s a good outline – use what you like, delete what you don’t.  Mix up your templates.  Make it your own.  Not only are there templates included with the free Elementor plugin (you can go Pro, pay and get more, as well as more drop and drag features), but there are other template resources out there.  Free?  Go to Tyler’s website, and he has a bunch of nice free ones.  Want more options, and are willing to pay – try the subscription service Crocoblock, which Darrell Wilson talks about in his similar tutorial, How to Make a WordPress Website – 2018 – Easy and Fast!  This video is a lot of the same steps/information from the first video, but it’s the repetition that makes the information sink in, and gets you more comfortable with what you’re doing.  Darrell Wilson also has a Skillshare class that has a three hour version of this tutorial.  I didn’t watch that.  I felt like I had the hang of it.

So, here it is in a nutshell –

  1. Find a webhost
  2. Register your domain name
  3. Install WordPress
  4. Install OceanWP from the WordPress dashboard
  5. Install Elementor from the WordPress dashboard
  6. Customize your site, from an organizational stand point with OceanWP’s customize menu, and from a visual design perspective, with Elementor’s drop and drag functionality.

Now, you can add your bells and whistles.  Darrell Wilson recommended Logomakr.com to make a logo.  I used this free service for this blog (although it was something I easily could have done on my own in Photoshop, but since I wasn’t at home I used it.  It’s easy, slick and there are lots of design options – all for free!).  The only money I plunked down to finish the site off was $25 for Slider Revolution, which creates animated sliders.  I watched this tutorial from NYC Tech Club, How to Use the Revolution Slider Plugin.  This is a really long tutorial, but in it, he walks you through the creation of four or five sliders, and in doing so, you get a good overall lesson on how to use the Interface, and the plugin’s capabilities.  And, again, the key take away was templates.  You don’t need to recreate the wheel, you can just import a slide from a template, switch out the template content for your own, and voila!  Your website now has movement.

More decoration?  Not a photographer and need photos – in the more info section of Darrell’s video he provides links to a bunch of photo sources.  I’ve used Pixabay for digital art journaling, and it’s easy to use.  The only danger in using stock photography is that inevitably, someone else has used it on their website as well.  With my brother’s website I thought about using wedding photos from Pixabay, since it is a wedding/event band, but since the band is an east coast entity, I went with a Philadelphia theme instead, and used my own photos.

If you don’t want a full blown website, and you just want to blog – just install WordPress on your domain, pick a theme, and write!  That’s it.  If you want more control about how your blog looks, every theme has some kind of customization available – and you can use it, or not.  As I mentioned in my last post, I installed a new theme, and I totally cheated. I splurged with $20ish, and bought this theme, Essence, from Lucid Themes on Etsy.  Why did I do this instead of going the OceanWp and Elementor route?  Pretty much because to get the blog layout I wanted, I would have had to upgrade to Elementor pro (different drop and drag blog layouts are only available in the pro version), and it was cheaper just to buy a template that did it for me.

So, that’s the bare bones version of creating your website.  Once it’s functioning, there are other things to explore – newsletter services, SEO customization, pop ups, testimonials – so many things.  And, in this day and age, there’s a youtube tutorial for every single one.  And the good thing about these youtube tutorials is they are directed at the know nothings, like me.  Professionals don’t need these videos, they’ve got certifications, and real world experiences, etc.  These tutorials are designed to for the beginner who needs help, and are designed so that you land on the creators web page, and seek out his/her services in some way.  Youtube is just more marketing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an educational opportunity as well.  Just know that when you watch these videos, you are watching a commercial.  And, you can take it that way, go down the link rabbit hole, and buy products, or just use them to learn how to DIY, just like your curtains, or your bookcases, or you sweaters, or whatever.

And there you have it.

Go forth and create my friend.  And if it doesn’t work out, no worries!  There are a gazillion resources out there for you.


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