Clutter

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A few weeks ago, we threw out a ton of stuff. I don’t mean we threw out a lot of stuff. I mean we threw out 1 Ton of stuff. The Big Guy and I filled a one ton container with odds and ends we’d collected over our seventeen years together, and, I’m ashamed to say, we’ll probably be able to do it again in another month. I don’t mean to imply that our house is filled with trash, but the purge was a stark reminder that I need to look before I leap more often.

A week earlier, I had queried my writing group as to whether or not I should put some of my doodles on T-Shirts. I had an idea, not just to make money off my work, but for a line of fitness wear and T’s for plus-size women (google “plus size fitnesswear” and you’ll see there’s a market there for someone). This particular leap was inspired a sour grapes moment that resulted in my own fruitless search for running wear, and the first few responses were encouraging.

The Big Guy is always encouraging, and I began researching ‘how to print your own T-shirts’. When I the writing group page later in the day, however, a-look-before-the-leap had appeared. It was from our group’s fearless leader:

“I would finish your stories,” it said. “Then move on to other projects”

I was still determined to have something fun and different for my first race in 3 years, and I had a few pieces of T-shirt iron-on paper, but the words “Finish your stories” stayed in my head the rest of the day and the rest of the weekend.

I made my T-shirt and put a few up on CafePress (just for fun), but with the race behind me, and pre-holiday fall cleaning in front of us, I knew the last thing I needed was one more project or hobby – however good an idea it might seem. Filling that one ton container was suddenly more than a way to de-clutter our house. It was a reminder that to win the important battles, I needed to stop collecting projects and just finish the ones that matter.

The Real World

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“Watch this one, Mom!” Six-year-old Thing2 leapt from one end of the kitchen, contorting his body in ways that could land him a wildcard spot on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’.

I had only intended to watch for a few seconds, but his spinning leaps kept my attention through the rest of the song as I ignored the growing collection of unanswered emails in my inbox. When the song ended, I did not return to my email but opened a new tab in my browser and navigated to the Hubbard Hall website in search of autumn dance classes for younger artists. A weekend class would be ideal, I thought, and found an offering that started late enough in the day to let us get from soccer practice to the restored opera house with 2 minutes to spare.

“Would you like to take a dance class at Hubbard Hall?” I asked, knowing that Thing2 would say yes to any workshop sponsored by the community theatre and art center in the one-traffic light town of Cambridge, NY.

He grinned and shouted an barely intelligible “YES!” as he launched into the next song.

“It looks like a great class,” I said. “It’s jazz and ballet.” As I uttered the last word, Thing2 returned to earth and, for the first time all morning, stood completely still.

“I don’t want to do ballet,” he said very seriously.

“Why not?” I asked my youngest who had just performed a running split worthy of Baryshnikoff.

“Ballet is for girls,” he said as he raised his arm and began to spin around the breakfast table.

I struggled for a appropriate response, wondering what killjoy had infected my six-year-old’s psyche with the hangups of the world outside our door. He dances, he sings, he wears capes and wigs, and the Big Guy and I have been united in our feeling that if a boy does it, it’s a boy’s activity. Ballet shouldn’t be any different.

Swallowing my ire I refocused on his love of movement and music and gave him a list of reasons to take the class – regardless of the title. We pulled up a few dance videos on YouTube. And when the real Barysnikoff jumped across the monitor, Thing2 didn’t ask if he was watching ballet. There was only one question on his mind.

“How did he learn to jump that high?” he asked. Dinner hour was intruding, and I didn’t have a chance to answer, but it seemed the ballet dilemma had been put to rest. I got the confirmation Saturday night.

Thing2, inspired by a lego display at the Worlds Fair in Tunbridge, VT, had put together his own lego gallery on his desk. Promoting his opening was a hastily scribbled placard advertising an after-dinner evening of art, conversation and, of course, dancing in what is now exclusively his room.

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Thing2’s party was an unqualified success. We admired, we chatted, and we danced. When the party was over, he stayed up a little longer, and, oblivious to anyone else’s conventions or labels, he continued to dance.  I think he, too, knows the real world is out there waiting to tie his feet to the ground, but in this house he’s still the Master of Ceremonies.

Moving In – Installing WordPress on your Self-Hosted Blog

If you’ve decided to self-host your blog, there are two options for installing WordPress on your host.  The first is to visit http://www.wordpress.org and download the free software.  WordPress.org does include step-by-step directions for installing the software on your site.  

Increasingly, however, web hosts are offering an easy one or two click installation of the software when you purchase your hosting package.  Your installation process will be similar to thethe following:

  1. Most hosts that offer WordPress (or other Platform choices) will present you with a control panel to manage your entire site.  You’ll usually see an option to install WordPress or ‘Popular Scripts’ as shown below NewImage
  2. To begin, click ‘Install’.  The script installer will try to detect your settings and will let you know if any changes need to be made prior to the installation.  Once your host account settings are in order, your installation will begin.  
  3.  Some web hosts will do everything for you when you click install, but others may want a little information from you.  The second phase of your installation screen will ask you where you want the blog stored – do you want readers to find the blog when they type in your web address, or do you want it to be a subpage on your site.  Other things you may need to determine are the name of the installation directory (the installation script will create it), your Administrator user name, and the Admin password you want.For security reasons, it is recommended that you do not accept the default Admin user name ‘Admin’ or the default Installation directory of ‘wp’.  WordPress is popular with readers and writers, but it is also a popular target for hackers who tend to exploit those default names to gain access to blogs:NewImage
  4. Click ‘Next’ and your web host will take care of the rest of the installation.  Your blog’s web address will be the ‘Base URL’ address you chose.  Your blog’s administration page will be at www.yourblogaddress/wp-admin.  Your login information will be the name and password you chose.  If you forget your password, it can be emailed to the address you provided.  Again, choose an email address that can’t be deduced from the name of your web address.
  5. Your hosting provider will email you with your user ID and password and confirmation of the installation completion.  Now it’s time for the fun part of any move-in:   decorating.

Keeping Up Appearances – Decorating the Self-Hosted Blog

If you’ve already been blogging at WordPress.com, much of the self-hosted WordPress environment will look very familiar.  However, there are a few key differences – even when keeping up appearances – between running your blog at WordPress.com and having your own ‘place’.

Themes

When you first login to your new self-hosted WordPress Dashboard, one of the first things you’ll want to do is customize your appearance.  To start, click on ‘Appearances’ in the left pane of your WordPress window and then click on ‘Themes:

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The installation will include a few default themes, but you can add new themes by clicking the ‘Install Themes’ tab.  That tab will let you upload custom themes you design or buy, or you can choose from over 600 free themes.  

As with WordPress.com, each theme on your self-hosted blog allows a different level of customization.  You can use the links to choose from different appearance options, or, if you know CSS  or HTML, you can click ‘Editor’ and tinker with the code.   Be aware that, on a self-hosted blog, you can break a theme, so be sure to make a backup before wading in too deep. 

Widgets

As with a hosted WordPress blog, your self-hosted blog includes a Widgets, add-ons to your blog page that can be dragged to your side bar.  There are a few default widgets – Custom Menus and a BlogRoll you can add to your blog right away.  You can add others by installing them from the ‘Plugins’ section of your WordPress Dashboard.  

To add a widget to your blog sidebar, click and drag the widget to the desired place.  Widgets can be moved up and down in relation to each other:

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This is how a widget looks on the actual blog:

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Plug-ins

The plug-in is where the self-hosted blog really begins to flex its muscle.  Plug-ins are basically neatly-packaged scraps of code that you can add to your WordPress blog and that allow you to add custom Social Networking widgets to your sidebar, shopping carts to your blog, and even forum infrastructures to encourage your readers to engage with each other on your site.  If you know PHP programming, you can create your own, but the most common way to add a plug-in to your blog is to choose from the thousands of free offerings.

To add a plug-in to your site, click ‘Plug-Ins’ in the sidebar of your administration screen.  You’ll notice that the WordPress installation includes one or two default plug-ins.  Click ‘Add New’ to navigate to the search page:

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You can use keywords or categories to search for plug-ins, just as you would when installing a new Theme.

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 Plug-ins shown in your search results are rated and can be sorted by rating or by name.  Click promising listings to learn more details and then to install the one you want.  Once the plug-in is installed, you’ll have the option to ‘Activate’ it.  Some plug-ins, such as tracking programs, operate behind the scenes but need you to custom their settings to your blog.  Others, such as shopping cart plug-ins, will appear as new pages or as new widgets to be added to your sidebar.

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Because plug-ins are usually free, and because they offer new options for customizing your site, it can be tempting to add a bunch all at once.  However, extra gadget you put on your site, visible or not, is like the clutter in your junk drawer – it may be useful, but it takes up space and, in the case of your blog, can slow things down for your user.  Only you can decide when that next new widget is one too many.

A Domain of Your Own

A Domain of Your Own

 

When you create a blog with WordPress (or install to your web host), the web address of your blog will be www.your_blog_Name.wordpress.com  If you want a more personal address, you’ll need to register a domain and then point it to your host or blog.  

Domain registrars

 

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If you’re building your blog at WordPress, you can register a domain through one of their premium services.  The cost is $18 ($5 for registration, $13 for mapping) to register and map your custom address to your blog.  Once you purchase the domain, you own it, and you can move it at anytime.  

 

Third Party Registrars

If you’re self-hosting your blog or if you think you may move your blog from WordPress.com to your own host at some point, you can also purchase a domain through a third-party registrar such as GoDaddy (http://godaddy.com).  There are other registrars (Network Solutions, for example, but I’ve had good experience with GoDaddy and their support over the years. You will need to map to the domain to your host or to WordPress.com ($13), or you can forward the domain to your WordPress.com blog for free.

 

Mapping a Domain

Purchasing a domain on GoDaddy or another registrar is as easy as finding an available name you like, adding it to your cart, and then checking out.  Mapping it to your WordPress.com blog is equally easy.

1.  Update your Domain’s name servers (it’s not as hard as it sounds).  First login to your account with your registrar and navigate to your list of purchased ‘Domains’.   I’m using ‘GoDaddy’ as the example, but updating the name servers will be the same process on most registrars.  :

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2.  When you see your purchased Domain (or list if you have more than one), select the one you want to update, and the control panel for your domain will appear.  Locate ‘Nameservers’ and click ‘Manage’:

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3.  A pop-up will appear displaying your current Nameserver settings.  Click the ‘Custom Nameserver’ radio button and, when it appears, click the link to ‘Enter custom name servers’:

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4. A new pop-up will appear with 2 blank Nameserver fields.  Click the button to add a 3rd Nameserver field and then, into the first, second and third fields, enter:

NS1.WORDPRESS.COM
NS2.WORDPRESS.COM

NS3.WORDPRESS.COM

and click ‘Save’.

 

6. To finish the mapping in WordPress.com, go back to your Dashboard (the process will be similar if you’re self-hosting your blog, but you won’t incur any additional costs besides the domain purchase and the initial hosting).

In the WordPress.com dashboard, click ‘Store>Domains’ in the menu in the sidebar:

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When prompted, enter the name of your new domain.  WordPress will let you know it’s registered and ask if you want to move it.  Check the box to confirm your ownership of the domain and then click to begin the mapping process on WordPress.com.  WordPress will take you to the purchase page to purchase Mapping and, after your purchase is complete, it will prompt you for your registrar details to complete the procedure:

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7. That’s it.  Now just give people your custom domain address when publicizing your blog.

 

 

Forwarding a Domain

If you’re a WordPress.com blogger and you’ve bought a domain somewhere like GoDaddy already but you don’t want to fork over the $13 to map your domain to WordPress.com, there is another alternative – Forwarding your Domain – that gives you a custom look without the the custom price.

When you login to your Domain administration window in GoDaddy, you’ll see the option to setup Forwarding just below the Name Server administration.  Click ‘Manage’ to begin setting this up.:

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In the pop-up that appears, enter the actual address of your blog as the forwarding address.  At GoDaddy, you can choose to Mask your forwarded address so that when your readers land on your wordpress.com page, at the top of the screen, they’ll see the Domain name you chose and registered.

You’ll also see to ‘Redirect’ types, Permanent (301) and Temporary (302).  The first lets search engines that your site using the registered domain name is permanently at the address setup in your Forwarding screen.  The second option tells the search engines that the forwarding address is temporary.

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Forwarding vs. Mapping

On the surface, Forwarding and Mapping accomplish the same objective –  they give your blog a customized name.  However, while the cost of forwarding your domain may seem like the way to go, they are different.

Forwarding is like forwarding mail from the post office.  Users enter the domain name you gave them, but the forwarding configuration sends them to the blog’s actual address, hiding it with your custom domain.

When you map the domain, users entering your custom domain, they start and end at your site. When you map your domain, every post you create in your blog will have its own unique web address that uses your domain name, making it easier for users to find and come back to favorite posts.  It also means the site is indexed under that domain (www.yourcustomname.com) instead of the domain it’s being forwarded to (www.yourcustomname.wordpress.com).