Just Heather

If there’s one session I was completely required to take, it’s this one! I have trouble balancing work and home life. Something always gets pushed aside. Lately, it’s been my poor family. They’ve suffered through finishing college, launching a new business and my personal obsession with social media. This is a live blog, which means it’s completely unedited. I’m simply taking notes through the session.


Christine Koh, @bostonmamas
Deb Rox, @debontherocks
Megan Jordan, @velveteenmind
Carmen Stacier, @mttsm

How has balance come to you? (Speaker Stories)
Deb: “I’ve burnt out of a lot of careers because I didn’t have a real balance.”
Megan: What matters will be there, when you come back. “I’m willing to lose if it means I can play by my own rules.” Sometimes that means not worrying about missing opportunities, not getting to take the trips, not being on the Top 50 Mom Blogger lists. Do the things that are important to you, and let the rest go.
Carmen: Stop comparing your insides to someone else’s outsides. “Maybe I don’t make everybody else’s Top 50 lists, but I make my kids’ lists.”
Christine: “Remember. Opportunity can be dangerous. It’s not always the right thing.” Every path brings you to the next, even if you turn things down. There’s a real feeling of needing to always be connected so you don’t miss anything, but it’s okay if you do.

After sharing their initial stories, the panel deferred the rest of the discussion to the audience Q&A. I didn’t always catch the questions, but I tried to jot relevant info out of the responses.

Megan: “I have ‘just a seconded’ my kids out of an entire day.” Social media is fast paced and competitive, but you don’t have to do it all.
Christine: If you are feeling anxious, figure out why. If it’s simply because you are worried about missing something, it might not be the right thing. Go with the things that you want to do because you want to do it, not because you want a gold star.
Deb: We want to be present but we aren’t taking a role in making it happen. “If you’re passive, if you wait, the game will win.”

Megan: Focus on doing a few things really well, rather than doing everything halfway. “How about I just do my current projects really well?”
Deb: “If you do everything just to get the gold star, the first ones will be tarnished before you get the last. Do you really want everything if it means you have to clean it?”
Carmen: Saying yes to everything made everyone else happy except me. Don’t say yes—say, “Can I get back to you?” You aren’t liked because you say yes; you’re liked because of who you are.

Megan: “By not asking for help, you’re depriving others of an opportunity.” Asking for help isn’t showing a weakness.
Carmen: Your way isn’t always the right way. Don’t deprive your family of the opportunity to find their own way.

On scheduling specific blocks of time: Christine carves out time during the school day. When it’s time for one thing, shut everything else off.

“You can have it all, just not at the same time.”

Deb: It’s not just that you can’t do everything yourself; it’s that you don’t have to. There are others with expertise you can tap into.

I’m thrilled to hear about developing real community with my readers, from fabulous gals who got it way right, from the start. One of my favorite old school bloggers is on the panel—meeting Mindy in person was such a blessing. Real life hugs, finally! This is a live blog so you’re reading my unedited notes from the session. I promise to come back later to correct grammar & spelling errors.


Laurie Turk, @TipJunkie
Amy Clark, @momadvice
Stephanie Precourt, @babysteph
Mindy Roberts, @themommyblog

Amy: It’s about writing authentically. “People like to know you’re a real person.” People stick around because they get to know you.
Stephanie: Figure out your niche, what your readers are interested in. It doesn’t always have to be *about* that specific niche, but it’s a good common thread to build community. Your readers can start forming their own relationships too.
Laurie: Blogroll on her sidebar – “Find other creative women”

The Golden Blog Rule:
Stephanie: Be generous, genuine and respectful. To get to know my readers, I read their blogs and leave comments. If it’s always getting comments and not giving back. Don’t leave generic comments; find something relevant to connect with.
Laurie: Be your true self on Twitter & Facebook.

Sharing Your Full Experience:
Mindy: “I write the same way I speak.” It lets people know they aren’t alone. Create triumph out of your trials—if you post about things that you wouldn’t necessarily talk about it person, it resonates with people.
Laurie: People want to be invested in you.
Mindy: Get to know your readers and continue conversations by email. It can develop real friendships.

Building a Blog Alliance:
Laurie: It can really unite all of your communities. “We don’t have to compete with each other because there’s enough to go around.” Collaborate with “competitors” on separate projects. Feature your top 10 referrers—they already love you, but give them a little link love back and say thank you.
Mindy: Email people who send you a lot of traffic.

Landing Page:
Amy: When you are featured in anything—a newspaper, magazine, television show—create a landing page for new visitors who found you through them. Include your favorite links, posts you’re most proud of, info on how to subscribe. Top 10 list at the end of each month—top referrers, best posts, etc.
Laurie: Google already likes your top 10 posts. Featuring your top posts also helps your readers connect.
Mindy: Has started featuring “On this day in…” posts on her sidebar.

Community Tools:
Handout available on Blissdom Conference website
Laurie: Have a Facebook fan page for your blog
Amy: Join every single community that is relevant to you, not necessarily your blog.
Laurie recommends Link Within but I find it to be very, very tough on your database. I use YARPP—Yet Another Related Post Plugin instead.

Engaging Readers:
Amy: The Notebook—features cool things from people in her niche each week.
Stephanie: Do something you enjoy, create linkups. Be original, but establish yourself first. You can’t create an awesome linkup and expect people to participate if you don’t have readers.
Laurie: Email is a great way to establish relationships.

How Your Community Affects the “Business of Blogging”
Stephanie: Your readers know you and pay attention when your ads & revenue are conflicting. Cloth diapers her kids so it wouldn’t make sense to display disposable diapers ads or take a trip sponsored by a large diaper company.
Mindy: Keep your integrity when you write product reviews.
Amy: Really read the pitches you get very carefully.
Mindy: Doesn’t use everything she receives and will only talk about items that she personally uses in her life.

This is a live blog, which means it is my unedited notes as the session progresses. It’s hard to live blog a keynote because, while they are fascinating & often inspiring, there is very little solid information to take notes. Kevin Carroll tells the story of his background, the life of growing up with 2 addict parents. He is a storyteller—funny, captivating and full of anecdotes from his childhood. Kevin is well-dressed, with awesome shoes. (And, a purple tie—sold!)

“You have to find a way to blur the lines between work and play.”

Turn ideas into reality—passion, purpose & intention. Work can be your play if you know what you’re doing. “You can’t talk about it, you have to be about it.”

The story of how he met his wife might be my favorite part. His stepdaughter connived to set him up with her mother after hearing Kevin speak at a take your daughter to work day. Oh, how I love children!

The power of a ball: We need to recognize the role of play in our lives. Children third world countries don’t just need books—they need balls.

It has to be not about us, but about the greater movement. {Enter the bouncy balls! So. Much. Fun.} What’s your red rubber ball? What gets you excited about your day?

How’s your “want to”? You gotta want to seek your dreams. You can’t do anything without a want to.

Sometimes, you should tender your resignation as a grownup. “I believe M&Ms are better than money because you can eat them.” Tag, you’re it!

“A closed mouth don’t get fed.” Open your mouth and let people know what your dreams and hopes are. You never know what might be around you to assist in encouraging you to turn your idea into reality.

Expect and respect the unexpected. Eyes of a child, eyes of wonder, will help you.

86,400 seconds in a day—86,400 opportunities to make a difference. “What are you going to do with this day? It’s a gift!”

Rules of the Red Rubber Ball: Find and Sustain Your Life’s Work

What’s Your Red Rubber Ball?

The Red Rubber Ball at Work: Elevate Your Game Through the Hidden Power of Play

Think Outside Your Blocks: Breakthrough Thinking Techniques To Help You Solve Problems And Ignite Ideas.

What’s Your Hook?: How to Make Your Message Memorable

I only had the budget to attend 1 Wisdom Workshop, and this was on my short list. Then, Hallmark sponsored the session—making it free! It became the obvious choice. I considered tackling one of the others on my list too, but in an effort to truly live inexpensively, it is still my one and only session today. This is a live blog, which means it is my unedited notes as the session progresses.


Sarah Mueller – @HallmarkSarah
Casey Mullins – @MooshinIndy
Molly Wigand – @hmkmollyw
Stephanie Precourt – @babysteph

What writing inspires you?
Casey: Writing that makes you feel like you’re being let in on a secret.
Molly: Being authentic & real. “The thing that you’re afraid to write, is the thing that you must write.” ~Katherine Patterson’s editor on Bridge to Terabithia
Stephanie: Admitting secrets & being real. “If you co-sleep, you get enough flak and you can’t admit that it’s hard or has pitfalls.” Her favorite inspiring post of hers was the one where she admitted that “sometimes it sucks.”

From scrap pile to post? Give an example of one really compelling piece of work that started out not so compelling.”
Sarah: The rule is, you have to throw in your stupid ideas. Try not to self-edit as much. When you write freely, good things can happen.
Casey: “My first honest post was about my overdose when I was 7 months pregnant.” I never told anyone, but it was a post that needed to be said. It was hard to hit publish but it has helped so many people.
Molly: Trash It: taking something destined for the darkside and turn it into something inspirational. “What is the emotional essence of a booger?”
Stephanie: It’s Too Shirty—writing about trials, moments that don’t always inspire you. (“I’m very inspired by my kids.”) Sometimes you write, and write and write but you finally get to the one point. Sometimes? Delete the rest. Short & sweet is sometimes really good. You can write to get the point but you don’t have to publish everything that got you there.
Casey: Sometimes I’ll write 1000 words, then delete down to 2 sentences and add a picture.

Should you write with someone specific in mind? How do you write for a mass audience but make it feel personal to one reader?
Sarah: As card writers, you are writing something that (hopefully) thousands will read & send, but it has to feel like it’s just for the person who gets it. Think about who you want to read it, and write to that person. The exercise of imagining yourself in a specific situation helps.
Casey: The Superpowers of Motherhood—she wrote that about her neighbor, knowing that she wouldn’t hear the words in her current situation, but someday she would get it.
Molly: There’s a good chance if there’s something you love a lot, someone else does too. “The Universal Specific”—when you write something intensely personal, it can strike the heart strings of a lot of people.
Stephanie: “I try to write like no one is ever going to read it.” If I write for someone specific, I’m so non-confrontational that no one would ever know it. You can be real & vague at the same time.

How do you channel your thoughts?
Sarah: There are times when what you write will be taken the other way. There are also times when you will fail—something you think is inspirational falls flat.
Casey: There’s being passionate, and there’s being impulsive. If you’re too impulsive, you can hurt people and inspire them not to like you.
Molly: “Linda Barry, the cartoonist, is my writing hero.” (What It Is: Do You Wish You Could Write?) She does all her writing with Chinese ink brushes on yellow legal pad, then won’t touch it for 3 days. Have a mission statement (even if you hate that word) as a guiding force.
Stephanie: “Sometimes, I delete too much.” Try to copy & paste the cut sections into another draft to retouch later. You don’t have to have a consistent writing style for every. single. post. Occasionally, take the last line of a paragraph and put it in it’s own line—your thoughts aren’t always grammatically correct. Let writing flow how you think.
Casey: “If you try to put too many deep thoughts into one post, people’s brains implode.” Pay attention to how you read blog posts. If the first sentence doesn’t hook when you read, many will move on. Sometimes, the last line of a post can spark a conversation. Write so other people can read it.

Where do you find inspiration? How do you handle stumbling blocks?
Sarah: Sometimes, you have to leave to let things flow. It’s a little like bread—it just needs time to rise.
Casey: “Shut up and look around.” Notice little moments, watch people talk.
Molly: Find the joyful, intense parts of life and discover how they affect you. You can be inspired by another writer. We can all learn from one another.
Stephanie: “I learn so much about being an adult from my kids.” They can teach you way more than you can ever teach them. When you have stumbling blocks or don’t know what to write, sometimes it’s okay to not write.

How do you stay on top of what’s relevant in people’s lives? How do you know anyone will relate?
Sarah: Benevolent stalking is good—we should all do it. Intense curiosity about other people—”I read my niece & nephew’s Facebook conversations all the time.”
Casey: Google “orgasm on a treadmill” and her post is the 1st result. Be real, talk about what’s really going on.
Molly: Laughter, getting out with friends, be interested—people like to talk about themselves. Even if you aren’t specifically inspired by someone, it enriches your life & experiences. “If you’re too comfortable in a situation, you probably aren’t doing it right.”
Stephanie: Pay attention to your readers, visit other blogs, stay involved on Twitter. Know who’s reading you and make choices that fit them. We’re all giving, taking and affecting one another. Stay real and write what you know.

On the day of our vow renewal, I got a call from my cousin, asking if I had cold feet. I was happy to have someone playing along with our whole 2nd wedding thing and even more thrilled it happened to be her. We had forgotten to plan past the ceremony to our evening in Vegas, and Allison had recently lived there. I knew she’d have great suggestions for dinner, and she did not disappoint!

J is for Just Married (Again), and I fully intended to enjoy a night of having the hubby all dressed up. Our limo returned us to the hotel, where we dropped off our wedding DVD and the kitschy bride & groom champagne flutes I’d purchased. From there, we walked the Vegas strip in our fancy clothes, headed towards Smith & Wolensky’s for our dinner reservation, as recommended.

Along the way, we had a planned stop at the Bellagio. I could think of nothing more romantic than watching the fountains with my “new” hubby.

We got a lot of comments about our hats as we walked—I just knew they were made for Vegas! It was our first time on the strip, and I’m so glad we were dressed for the occasion. You really see a little of everything in Las Vegas, but I loved the feeling of being well dressed while we were out & about among the lights. We arrived at dinner a few minutes early, and took some time to wander into a sports shop. They had collector’s items, photos and autographed merchandise. My favorite part? Seeing Colts stuff at 4 times the price we’d pay here in Indy.

Dinner was Fab.U.Lous. For real. I had, as per usual, steak & baked potato. The hubby had some sort of disgusting seafood platter, but he seemed pleased. I also ordered a Cosmo—it might be my favorite cocktail EVER. I’ve discovered Absolut vodka is not gluten free, though, so I have to be careful when ordering them out. Our server assured us they had a few potato vodkas to choose from and proceeded to bring me the greatest Cosmo I have ever tasted.

When he stopped by to see how I was enjoying it, I asked for the name of the Vodka. He couldn’t remember and offered to go check. I told him he could check on it while he fetched me another one—yum! The 2nd Cosmo was my last drink of the evening, but I will definitely be buying Glacier sometime soon. Um, not too soon, though. MFJ and I are currently in the middle of a drink-from-your-pantry challenge since we had gotten into the habit of buying whatever we wanted every girls’ night.

But this is a story about our wedding night. Er, most of it. It truly was a magical day, and I’m so glad we decided to renew our vows. It was important to celebrate the progress we’ve made and the steps we’re taking to be a stronger couple.

PhotobucketI was very excited to have the opportunity to review the latest CD from indie artist Ross King. The hubby kinda has a thing for music. He is constantly finding new artists, both for himself and the girls. He especially enjoys eMusic for their huge database of independent music. We like to support the little guy, yo.

Words That Rhyme with Orange is a children’s music CD. It has a listed age of 2-12 but my oldest was much more interested in retreating to her room with Radio Disney than listening to the CD with our other girls. I don’t know where we went wrong with that child. The songs are a lot of fun, but I think it would most appeal to the preschool set. “If I Wasn’t So Cute” was clearly written about my preschooler!

This CD is independent and self-produced so you won’t find it in stores. It retails for around $12 and can be purchased atRoss King Music, through iTunes or on Amazon. You can also hear a sample of 4 different tracks at RossKingMusic.com, including Lorelai’s favorite—Juicebox. The full track list includes:

1. Happy to Be Me
2. Juicebox
3. If I Wasn’t So Cute
4. Lionmonkeyacondonkey
5. More
6. Learning My Alphabet
7. The Food Trying Song
8. Afrikiddo Romp
9. The Sound of Whining
10. I Like to Play Outside
11. Don’t Do It
12. Sleepyhead
13. Naomi’s Lullabye

This is a Mama Buzz review. The CD was provided by Ross King for this review.