NEW YEAR, NEW BLOG DESIGN



It feels so good to have a new blog design.  I don't know about you, but the old one just wasn't doing it for me anymore.  It was too colorful, too doodlely, and too what I felt like 2.5 years ago.  The new one is completely me at this point in time.  That's the beauty of having a personal and professional blog. It evolves as you evolve.

In case you are growing your blog design skills, here are the tools I used for the new design.

PicMonkey
You know I am an avid PM user.  For the first time ever, I used PM for 95% of the graphics.  Yep, 95%!  The only reason I cracked open my Photoshop Elements was to meticulously space the social media icons you see in the right sidebar.  PM doesn't have a gridline view feature, so when you want to be precise, you have to open up Photoshop or something similar, like Gimp which is free.

Paletton
I sent the beta-version of the new blog design to two friends, Laura and Susan. They both have a good eye for design and experience blogging.  They knew I wanted a crisper design that was also playful yet professional.  My original design had zero color in it besides black and white.  Both women wanted to see more color.  Color?  Ugh.  I was sick of color from my last blog design.  Lil O voiced the same concern. Choosing colors and how much color to add became a design nightmare during my 36 hour redesign. Until....Lil O and I stumbled across the coolest color wheel tool on the planet, Paletton.  After 15 minutes of playing on Paletton, I knew the color scheme I wanted for the blog. Whew.  Lil O, by the way, is one of the most decisive humans I know.  She picked out the blog colors in the first two minutes of using Paletton.  13 minutes later, I came around.

HTML and CSS Coding
The one course I took in graduate school at Johns Hopkins University that including a two-week HTML crash course continues to be one of the most useful courses I've taken this century. Seriously, if you blog or dabble in any elementary web design, you've got to know an itty bitty amount of how to code. You should see the tweaks I'm making to the HMTL and CSS codes behind-the-scenes.  You would never know it, but my blog is actually a Blogger blog.  And if you've ever seen a true Blogger blog, it comes pre-packed with all these bells and whistles, which I coded out to make Upcycled Education more unique and interesting.  Using code is also how I was able to tweak the sidebar on the right - adjusting spacing between items and adding cute little banners - plus, I overrode the features that limited my ability to add my own custom blog header at the top.  In summary, two weeks of code class is a life-changer.  No wonder One Hour of Code gets so much hype (though, that particular coding class isn't enough, in my opinion, to deepen your coding skill set for tweaking HTML).



Image Mapping with Gimp
Once I made all the new blog graphics in PM (and yes, I made every last one of them), I needed to image map the blog banner and the social media icons, so that when you clicked on a specific portion of the image, your click actually brought you to a new online destination.  There are several tools on the Internet to help you image map.  In my opinion, though, nothing is easier than using Gimp and Crafterhours's tutorial on how to create an image map. What used to be a dreadful process for me, now I can do in under five minutes per image, which includes image mapping and loading the new map into the blog. I was high-fiving myself and texting Susan a big thank you at 1am when I finished the new design.

New Favorite Font
Seriously, y'all (I am originally from the South, so I think I can use y'all authentically.  Though, by South, I mean the Ft. Lauderdale area). Ha!  I've been wanting to embrace this font for two years: Amatic Small Caps.  I originally noticed it on PicMonkey.  Then, dreamt about it for the next two years.  I finally embraced it for the good, I believe, this week with the new blog design.  It is totally playful, hand-drawn, and barely professional.  It is ME at this point in time.  Me, ME, MEEE.

I'd love to hear your feedback about the new design.  What do you like?  What do you want to see more of?  What did I forget?

Have a great weekend - see you on the other side.

Jen

WHAT A GIFT

Writing on sabbatical

Today my sabbatical ends.  Oh man, was it a gift.  Hardly ever in my professional life do I get to uni-task.  My professional days are usually like a multi-task dance recital of teaching classes, attending meetings, doing committee work, developing my courses, grading assignments, leading workshops, and emailing.  Not that I don't like all of those responsibilities, but it was a fantastic change to concentrate on just one thing:  writing a book.

That's it.

One task.

Just write a darn book.

Of course, that is easier said than done.  Uni-tasking, though, totally helped.  My goal for myself was to write half of the book before my sabbatical ended.  With eight chapters in the outline, I wrote four of them.  Four!  Half of the book.  Hurray!  Up to this point, I have written roughly 27,000 words.   I probably wrote a few thousand more words than that, but those words were deleted.  Some days, my writing was a total disaster.  My voice was unclear.  My comma usage was out-of-control.

But, I wrote.  "A goal without a plan is just a wish."  My wish became a goal.  I am incredibly grateful.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

I knew from this blog post here, I had something to say.   I knew it wasn't just a wish anymore, it was something burning inside of me.  Do you ever have those burning inside of you feelings?  They are like caged wild animals; they must be freed.

Though I'm certain I have many more people to thank, my sabbatical was successful due in part to following people and groups:
  • My college, Anne Arundel Community College - who granted me a sabbatical and thought my goal to write a book wasn't insane
  • My department chair, director, dean, and vice president  - Thank you for going to bat for me!
  • My amazing colleagues who have reached out and cheered me on during this journey.  Jax and Karen, you led the way!
  • My coach, Sue, our deadlines kept me focused
  • My lovely friends and family members who helped me edit my work:  Sue, Jesse, Susan, Jenn, Mom and Hilary.  One day we will celebrate at a book signing together!
  • My sister, brother-in-law and their amazing staff - They welcomed me in their office all sabbatical long to write and just be
  • My parents - who consistently checked on me to hear the progress I was making
  • My extended family and friends, your interest in the book was incredible
To Mr. UpCyclist and Lil O - I don't think it is even possible to say thank you to you both in words. You picked up my slack around the house when I was writing.  You gave me so much time to think, be, and just write. You took care of me on long writing days.  You provided space when I needed it most. You put up with me when I turned into crabby pants at night.  I am so not a night person.  You believed in me - and still do - and know how important this project is to me.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.  

The rest of January, I will be back in the teaching-college groove and writing much less.  I do plan to pick up where I left off in February and find either a literary agent or publisher for the book in late spring.  Have a shared the working title with you, yet?

Grow:  Championing the Growth of Others (and Yourself)

It feels so good to share that with you.   Thank you, amazing blog reader.  You keep coming back to this space and sharing in the journey.

With immense gratitude,

Jen




TOOLS FOR 2015: LET'S DO THIS!

Breckenridge, CO - awesome!

If you are like me and are still processing 2014, but ready to embrace 2015 and all it's goodness, see what you think of these lovely tools and "helpers" to kickstart your new year:

  • I am loving this free workbook to process 2014 and delve into 2015.  It's like having a life coach, but made of paper.
  • Speaking of life coach, Sue continues to rock and starting off 2015 with a free coaching session with her is even better than the workbook above.  Too date, every single person I've sent her way has found coaching with her valuable.  Click here to link to her website and tell her I sent you - she'll take great care of you.
  • I downloaded this Passion Planner the other day (sounds risque, doesn't it?).  I don't know if I will use it, but I like the concept.  I also like this planner was born from a Kickstarter campaign.  I dig crowdfunding.
  • I keep wishing Elise's new Get to Work Book was available.  That is the #1 reason why I'm so hesitant to embrace another planner.  I want hers to be available.  Now.  In the meantime, you can purchase her $4 habit tracker download.  I love the layout of this.  
  • My cousin uses a planner by Erin Condren and I must say I am totally intrigued.  It is like a planner and creative project in one.  See what you think here.  If I wasn't waiting for Elise's planner to come out (in the spring, I think), I would purchase one of Erin's.   Thanks, Cousin Kathy for sharing your planner with me!  
This might surprise you, but I still like to kick it old-school and use a paper calendar.  I'm digital just about everywhere else in my life, but paper calendars are still my jam.

What tools and helpers do you use?

I'm curious on this rainy day....

Jen

KEEP ON

Keep on

I have something on my mind.  Actually, many somethings. The other day I wrote about my Brave lessons from 2014.  I mentioned Brave as it relates to fitness.  I think my explanation was lame.  I woke up thinking three things:  1) Why did I write about Bravery related to exercise?  2) What did I really mean?  3) How does exercise and Bravery even belong together in the same sentence?

What I learned about Brave over the last year is there is a component in it, to me, that means you keep on.  You don't give up.  You remain consistent.  You see an idea through.  You don't make up cheap or lame excuses why you did or didn't do something.  And that's where the whole fitness-exercise-working-out scenario fits into Brave.  At least, it does for me.

It is so easy, especially with fitness, I find to give up.  There are a million excuses why a person can or cannot workout.  There are a zillion reasons why everything else in our lives takes priority over health and well-being.  I read here President Obama and Michelle - who run the country - manage to find time to exercise daily.  What's my excuse? (What's yours?)

Plus, there's all that eroded thinking I have after I eat dessert for breakfast or eat junk food at my office, "Oh, I guess today is ruined.  I might as well gorge on everything."  Versus, thinking - every step I take or every movement I make burns calories.  Every food that enters my body fuels my body for better or causes my body to function for worse.  I can't tell you how many foods I eat weekly that cause my body to function worse.  And for what?  30-120 seconds of pleasure?

So, back to Brave.

Being Brave for me over the last year - and really, it is more over the last two months for this particular topic - includes Brave health and well-being.  I mentioned in my blog post I've added the Dailey Method into my fitness routine four times a week since October.  What I know, for me, is my Brave includes not giving up.  It means keeping on with the added workouts even though I didn't see the slightest change for a period of time - at least 4-6 weeks.

But, then something awesome happened.  My body started changing.  My clothes started fitting just a touch differently.  My trail runs became stronger and actually easier.  I wanted more of that.  More change for the better.  More feel-good healthy moments.  More I-kinda-like-my-changing-body-shape.  More keeping on.

Now, I'm not saying the Dailey Method is the answer.  Yes, I like it, but the answer really is keeping on.  It's being Brave enough to think "this is good for me" and keep at it even when the changes are null or minimal.

I'm still determining my word (or phrase) for 2015.  There's something following me about keep on.  I have a few key things I want to do and experience in 2015.  For me to keep on will be essential.

I don't know what you are up to, lovely blog reader.  My wish for you is to keep on with the good.

Best,
Jen






BRAVE LESSONS: THE WRAP-UP

My Own Little Word - Brave 2014

I would have totally forgotten the year of Brave was wrapping up, but then I saw some of my favorite bloggers choosing their new word for 2015 here and here.  2015?!  Is it here already?

Here's what I've learned about Brave and here are my thoughts on next year's word(s):
  • Brave, you suited me well.  I needed you throughout the year in different situations and with different projects (like writing a book).  You were an encouraging sidekick to me.  
  • There were times where I could have renamed Brave to other words like Bold or Confidence. Now, that I am typing that, I think all three words come from the same word family.  Would you agree?
  • Brave is all relative.  My Brave is different than someone else's Brave.  Perhaps, the bigger lesson here is that all things, situations, and challenges are relative & person dependent.  It reminds me of that idiom, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."  LIFE is in the eye of the beholder, too.
  • I loved how Bravery found me in places I least expected - the kitchen (hence, my new cast iron skillet pictured above), on the trails, and even in my workouts.  Since October, I've added four mini-workouts a week into my fitness repertoire (they are roughly 20 minutes long).  Those are in addition to my regular hikes, walks, and trail runs that I do with Jedi.  I can see the micro-differences those mini-workout additions have made.  In fact, noticing those micro-differences fuels me to keep going in 2015 with my mini-workouts of the Dailey Method.  Here's to Brave fitness and not giving up!
  • Now, that 2015 is upon me, what will my next word be?  
  • I'm also thinking I might abandon one word and go for a phrase in 2015.  
What words or phrases do you suggest?  Do you have a word (or phrase) to keep you focused for 2015?  I'd love to hear....

Happy New Year to you!  

xo,
Jen