Just Heather

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.

Kim & HeatherLast week’s Vegas trip wasn’t all fun and games. I attended Affiliate Summit West for the first time to learn a little more about marketing at Inexpensively. As it turns out, I learned way too much for just one site! I have multiple projects underway right now, including one I purchased a domain name for several years ago. I like the direction Just Heather has taken since its relaunch last spring. This is where I will be sharing our marriage journey, crossing off my 40×40“>Someday lists and reporting progress on learning to be a grown-up.

Other parts of my life will be shared elsewhere through niche projects. The first of my new ventures launched last night—I am super excited to finally have an outlet for the sports fan in me. My commentary and Go Team! excitement never really fit on my other sites. Colts Stuff will give me a chance to not only earn a little extra money but finally have somewhere to share my love of the boys in blue. I learned a ton from Tricia’s case study in her session.

We have also been working hard to implement several new ideas at Inexpensively. Many of them have been in the works for quite some time, but I’m thankful to Jim Kukral for giving me the kick in the pants I needed to just do it, already! Probably, I’m going to need to order his upcoming book. Very smart guy, tons of fun and completely casual—Spencer and I bowled (for boobies) with him without having any idea who he was or that I would be attending his session.

I think the biggest thing I got out of Affiliate Summit was all the connections—new friends, great mentors and businesses I’ve already started partnering with. Plus, Peter Shankman liked my boobs! That was actually the very same session in which I met the affiliate manager for PokenZoo. Everyone was clamoring to Poken with Peter, and I was completely clueless! I have since learned it’s like a digital business card with 1-click uploading to your social networking sites—how cool is that?

pokenzoo-poken-ninjaPlus, they looked super fun. The hubby wants this Ninja, although I kind of expected him to eye the RockStar. Yesterday, I received a Poken Pulse from ConAgra in my free Blissdom pre-conference gift pack—I guess it’s supposed to be more “businesslike” or “grown-up” but that’s clearly overrated. Ninja Poken! Poken Alien! In pink! I could see these being a huge hit with our girls—if I were willing to let them swap information with people. I can’t wait to try it out at my next conference.

I just hope I finish processing everything I learned at Affiliate Summit before I cram my head full again. On the other hand, this is a different kind of conference. Sure, there’s learning to be had but it appears a bit more relaxed. I’m looking forward to some girl time and meeting several gals on Team Inexpensively in person. More than half the team will be there, and I can’t wait to get to know them better. We also get to meet Harry Connick Jr.!!! (Do you need a few more exclamation points?! Harry! Connick! Jr.!) Meeting a celebrity has been on my 40×40 list so I am beyond excited. Plus, it’s Harry Connick Jr.!

Do you think he’ll Poken with me?

Pro-Mom or Pro-Blogger? Why do we have to choose? I think I can be a great mother, and still run a blog as a professional business. Maybe the issue comes up because many women bloggers started as stay-at-home moms who just wanted contact with the outside world, unaware of where it could lead. However, I specifically created Feedindy (now Inexpensively) as a business. It takes a lot of time & effort to organize sales, write daily articles and track deals. I love what I do, and I love helping people, but it takes way too much time to do it for free.

I am comfortable with my work-at-home title. I get to be here, present in my children’s lives, free to create flex time in my work schedule to attend field trips, assist with class parties and accompany my youngest on playdates & library events. I work in the mornings, in between playing Barbies, refereeing board games and donning my own tiara for the fashion show. I work in the afternoons during the ever-decreasing naptime, and I work at night after the children are tucked into bed.

I work less than 8 hours per day, plus I get to fit my time into our schedule. The saying “You can have it all, just not at the same time.” is partly true. It’s important to find a good balance—I have high hopes that the Blissdom schedule is going to help me get better at that! It is also important to know what your goal is with blogging. Do you blog for fun, connection, a desire to help others or for the freebies & income it could provide? Of course, we can all use a little extra cash but if that wasn’t the motivation for your blog, then don’t get sidetracked trying to make it happen.

Every person, business and even blog should have a mission statement. Define who you are, what you will do and how you plan to accomplish it. Define three, specific things you plan to do with your blog, then concisely state how you will get them done. For example, I am a married mother of three beautiful, active girls who have created in me a Montessori mom, Scout mom, allergy mom and avid coupon clipper. I share deals and tips at Inexpensively and report progress on learning to be a grown-up here at Just Heather. I’ll tell my darkest secrets, share my hopes and dreams and dish on my favorite things, but I promise to tell you no lies. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, and I’m hoping, in the end, we’ll be friends.

You now know exactly who I am, and I’ve told you that on this blog you’ll learn my hopes & dreams, find the occasional product review and that I’m looking to make friends. Of course, the mission statement for this blog leaves it wide open—and that’s exactly the point! Just Heather is a personal blog, a journal of sorts. It’s been various things over the last 6 years, but mostly it’s just my little corner of the web to scrapbook my life. The content may change as my life does, but the purpose of my blog is still clearly defined. Inexpensively also has a definitive mission statement, but it’s completely different because its goals and motivation are completely different.

The Inexpensively network provides a whole lifestyle concept for savings. We compile weekly lists for grocery store deals, suggest ideas on living your life for less, offer tips on finding the best savings and encourage our community to be charitable even on a budget. We connect a network of individuals from around the country to provide families with the most up to date and accurate savings tools in their own communities. In short, we encourage families to maximize their budgets so they can use some of their savings to help improve their neighborhood.

I challenge you to create a mission statement for your blog. Use it in your bio, showcase it on your Facebook Page and come back here to share it with me—but, most importantly, let it help you decide if what you’re doing with your blog is what you should be doing! If an opportunity, article or topic comes up that doesn’t fit into your mission statement, it probably doesn’t belong on your blog.

Because I just don’t have enough to do, I’ve added a few new writing gigs to my weekly schedule. Of course, you already know I share my money-saving tips daily at Inexpensively. I’ve joined forces with a great group of frugal gals to help people live their lives for less—including a few fabulous ladies I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person.

Now, I’m teaming up with the beautiful ladies at Blissfully Domestic. I’ll be regularly sharing my deals & tips on Financial Bliss. I can’t wait for the chance to meet them at Blissdom in February. (Who else will be there?!) I’ve already contributed a few articles and I’m honored to be a part of the team.

Today was my debut at Mom’s Marbles. I guest posted for these smart gals earlier this year. It is exciting to be joining them regularly for Money-Saving Mondays. At least one of the marbles behind the madness lives just around the corner so I hope we’ll be able to get together soon.

Don’t worry, though—I’ll still be here! You can’t get rid of me that easily. Only now, the blogosphere has even more Just Heather!

My friend Liz participates in Friday Fragments hosted by Mrs.4444—it sounds a lot like an old school backlog bulletfest, but I’m giving it a try today. I started out with the intention of random bullet points, but it turned into more of a free write a la Ordinary & Awesome. I’m going with it, partly because I’m too sick to think of anything better and partly because it gives me something to do while I procrastinate the laundry.

  • We leave today for 3 days in my hometown. I’m part excited, part ambivalent and part dreading it. It will be a tight squeeze at my parents’ house with all the sibs in town, but that’s the part I’m excited about—it’s been awhile since all 4 of us were in town at the same time. There’s a big extended family shindig, though, and I’m not so excited about that. I think there comes a time when you have to realize your extended family is now your siblings, their spouses and children—not the aunts, uncles, cousins and numerous other people you barely recognize anymore. Those are better relegated to a once per year family reunion.
  • On the other hand, I couldn’t be more excited about the family reunion I’m planning for my other extended family. Maybe that’s because I really haven’t seen some of them in yeas (love you, girl—can’t wait to meet your kids!) or maybe it’s just because I like them better. Or, maybe I like them better because I’m not forced to give up my rare weekends home to spend time with the whole lot every visit. Regardless, the family reunion will be fun and my brother, who claimed he wasn’t coming, is being forced to attend my his wife (loving my SIL more and more each year!).
  • It is apparently the season for extended family get togethers. In October, we’ll be heading to North Carolina for a weekend wedding. My in-law issues are no secret so I’m sure it is not surprise to anyone that I am dreading this trip. Not only do I have to stay the weekend in my mother-in-law’s town, but I have to spend a fortune for a trip that won’t be the least bit enjoyable. If I’m going to get in a car, drive 8 hours with 3 kids and spend money on a hotel, there should be some semblance of vacation. Instead, we’ll arrive at our hotel just in time for bedtime, spend Saturday dealing with the wedding and—Lord help me—his mother, then spend Sunday at yet another family thing before heading home because Spencer has crappy vacation time.
  • I dream of a family vacation that I know will never happen. We don’t have the money, we don’t have the time and we don’t have the same goals if we ever crossed those two barriers. I want to see my little girls face light up at Cinderella’s castle before she’s too old to appreciate the magic. I want to see my princess decked out for a dinner inside that same castle. I want to spend some time with my preteen before she’s too cool to enjoy family vacations. I worry the time has already passed us by. Our last vacation was 5 years and 1 kid ago, spent with my family and paid for by my mother. The one before that was split half at Disney and half with my parents at the beach—because it was all we could afford. Never have we taken off, just the 5 of us, and enjoyed even a weekend away.
  • This free write took a much different turn than I had anticipated and I now sit here in tears. It’s all slipping by me faster than I can enjoy it. We’re always so caught up in getting through the days that there seem to be very few memories to catalog in the scrapbook. Where is the extraordinary for my children to look back on and say “Remember when we…?” Will they understand and appreciate that we gave it all up to pay for their education instead? Or will they resent us for working so hard that they have no summer vacation stories to report on the first day of school?
  • I don’t regret my decision in the least. There are no other educational options for my girls. The public school isn’t healthy for them, I would not make a good teacher to them and parochial options are just not something we’d consider. They are where they need to be, but the sacrifice is great. We don’t take vacations, we don’t eat out and can barely afford the month date night needed to maintain our marriage. Part of it is a lack of planning. We weren’t so good with money when we first got together and we still pay for our mistakes. We’re learning to budget better, making hard choices about what is and isn’t important and trying to establish some actual financial goals.
  • I’m also building a business, making an effort to increase our income but spending money along the way. I think we’re doing fabulous things there. It has great potential. It’s just going to take time to build the traffic we need for people to see how truly awesome it is. Time—isn’t that what everything needs? Just a little more time, a little more patience. Patience is not one of my virtues!

In the small town where I grew up, Friday nights were spent at the football field in the fall, the basketball court in the winter and the baseball diamond the rest of the year. You might think that were responsible for my love of sports, but it’s really not. Sports from my childhood through high school was all about the social experience. I played on little league teams because my friends did (because we all know it had nothing to do with athletic skill), I sat through swim & track meets to chat with friends and went to ballgames to flirt with boys.

In college, the game was pretty much the same. Only I was older, wiser and learned that if I really wanted to attract the boys’ attention I should probably learn how the game was played. I went to volleyball games, basketball games and football—which was the only one I just couldn’t seem to get. That was a really large field and I kept getting distracted yet again by the crowd in the stands. I did appreciate more of the excitement around the game. I may not have heard of a play action or known what a running back was, but I knew the incredible feeling of watching my favorite team score a touchdown.

Once I set my mind to learning, it didn’t really take long. I am lucky enough to have a very patient hubby who could see the long term value in ruining an entire season to teach me. (Though, I guess having your favorite team go 3-13 means it was probably ruined already.) Now that I’ve spent a few years following not only the Colts but most of the league, I’m ready to try my hand at fantasy football. My new friend Queen of Free is putting together a Twitter Babes Fantasy league. I’m super excited to be playing with some of my very favorite online gals and make a few new friends along the way.

I’m thrilled that my first fantasy sports experience is with fellow females. I love sports, but I am still a girl. I will occasionally select my favorite players based on looks and giggle when they say tight end (btw, Dallas Clark is great at both. And, he has dimples!) Thus, a large part of my sports experience will always focus on this:

Photo by Angie Six

Photo by Angie Six of Just Like the Number

(Although my tastes run more to number 87 than 18—Angie can keep him!)