Tag Archives: musings

Getting the paws wet

In order for my artwork to raise enough money to be of any help to the animal rescue groups I support, I have to get my stuff “out there” for folks to see it. Self-promotion is not my strong suit. I am helpful for a living, but not in a look-at-me kind of way. It’s always been me encouraging my groups to shine and I stand back against the wall to give them the spotlight like a proud mama. As a musician, I’m not the Diva; I’m the accompanist who makes the Diva look really good when she performs.

So learning how to promote my art has probably more emotional and mental reprogramming hurdles to get past than learning curves on the tech.

Still, my brain is going full-tilt learning how to use ads and boosts and other such marketing jargon for the various platforms my artwork is “out there” on. I boosted my first ever studio post on Facebook this week and am running my first ever ad campaign on Amazon. I have put up posts on Pinterest and Instagram, which means now those platforms are trying to get me to spend more money I haven’t made yet on ads on their platforms. Seriously, dudes. I have to see how the first attempt goes before expanding and I also have to make sales.

Since the whole point of the venture is to learn how to do this properly so that I can then transition to creating products specifically for the nonprofits I work with as fundraisers where the funds go directly into their own accounts and all they have to do is promote what was gifted to them, I need to know how this works. Most likely, I will have to do the whole thing just to get the rescues and churches up to speed and then train someone how to monitor it and keep it going.

I am asking my Caffeinated Music followers, fans and fellow nonprofit folks who “get” what I’m trying to do for their assistance.

If I don’t have a good showing, how in the world will I convince the places I serve that this is a viable idea for fundraising? Churches and animal rescues run purely on donations and the work of many hands of passionate people. I can only donate so many hours in a day, but what I can do is to create something replicable that can be sold with little to no effort on the part of the agency themselves, yet stands to potentially be very successful as a sustaining operation.

I want to keep designing things like the planners, journals and coloring books and am definitely NOT using crappy PLR stuff like the garbage that I see multiplied everywhere. Honestly, lack of originality offends my creative ethic. I design my things from scratch.

What I need is for folks who also have passions for pets and their favourite nonprofit groups to help me make this all work by sharing my Facebook post, my Instagram posts, my Pins, and my BigBlackDogStudio information.

The animal rescue 2020 Dog Lover Planners are out on Amazon at this point. The Cat Lover one with its own set of original artwork is nearly done and hopefully will be up by next week. After that, I am going to do one for Church Music Directors and Ensembles. Not a catchy title, I know, so I have to work on that. I am also compiling the best of my Miss Ryan’s Guides for another whole line for students.

Please will y’all give me a hand up with this major undertaking?

LIKE my studio’s Facebook page and share the posts with your friends, please?

FOLLOW and LIKE my Instagram posts and share them?

PIN my Pinterest thingees?

Maybe even subscribe to my Furday News weekly mailing list where subscribers get freebie design pages for coloring. Pet-centric, of course!

Maybe even BUY a planner or two? They are under $10 and will make quick and easy gifts for all the dog lovers on your lists. GET THEM on Amazon:

I don’t run ads on my Caffeinated Music domains because I think it looks way more trashy and disruptive than it would ever make a few random dollars. Thank you to anyone to feels my heart’s wish to make this a success for the fur babies and helps out! Mu-wah!!!!!

Next up will be the CAT LOVER PLANNERS!

Four cover options are available on our 2020 Dog Lover Planners!

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How to export your blog without your head exploding

**Note: Apparently, I had written this almost two months ago and then gotten distracted before hitting POST. Ooops. That whole “where’s my website????” incident is now a blur of a memory.**

This is  a follow-up to my post from last week about the experience of trying to move my WP.com site over to a WP.org version so I can add some e-comm capabilities other than just a straight storefront.

Spoiler alert: life did not come to an end as I know it after all. Stressful week AF, yes, but I figured out how to export in pieces and want to share that for those who may someday avoid go through this same heart pounding thing:

After my fourth or fifth night of around 4 hours of sleep, I woke up with an idea. I revisited the admin page of my WP.com and took another look at the Export options. Although I found the instructions for this NO WHERE, I am officially putting them here right now. So, let me show you how to do this:

1. In WP Admin > Tools > Export. Choose the free option and click Start Export. This is how the next screen opened up with the box already checked for All content. Despite what it says there, unless your current blog has only two total pages, around 40 posts with tiny clipart and that’s about it, “All” won’t cut it. If you actually want all of your site to back up and export, you need to do it in pieces.


2. Start with your Posts by clicking that. If you post regularly, there’s a lot of stuff like on mine, so focus on the start and end date parameters. My dog merch site went back to December 2012. When I had erroneously believed “All” would cut it, I discovered it copied over only two pages, one of which was the first 45 posts from the blog that were from December 2012 through August 2014 (yet there are actually 342 posts, 23 pages, a lot of media and thus why I freaked). When I went back in to try to export again and clicked Posts, the option came up to select by date range, which is what I used to then successfully export in pieces. Do that. you can also change default “All” to specific options, like just what was published instead of the drafts.


3. When you make your selection and then click Export, the next screen says it is being processed and a download link gets sent to your email. Open the email, click the link and download the export file to a (highly suggested) location you’ve created for these exports/backups (See below). Don’t be lazy and drop it randomly on your desktop. If you’re doing this in pieces due to volume like I was, you should make a special folder for it. I wound up with 11 zips and made folders as explained in red in the screen shot. When you unzip it, I highly recommend changing the name of the file immediately to whatever parameter you used, i.e.: MEDIA2019. Makes it easier to figure out since all the downloaded zips looked alike and there’s no telling what’s in it if you don’t label it yourself.


4. If you click once on your .XML file to see the preview, you’ll see that WP thoughtfully included instructions to go forward, but I’ll still keep walking ya’ll through it. At this point, go into your WP.org version site. WP Admin > Tools > Import. If the original site was something other than WordPress, choose that. If it was WordPress, select WordPress Run Importer toward the bottom. Upload each of the .XML files one at a time. When finished uploading, I personally went to the appropriate WP.org section (my pages, posts, media) to double check that I was happy the file got everything imported because if not, I’d go back and shrink the parameters of the export and re-export until I was happy everything was included – this is especially important if you are a heavy poster. Just double check.

Repeat Steps 2 through 4 for each export section you do. FYI, there is no penalty for importing something twice because you will simply get a message when the import is completed that “Suchandsuch.jpg already exists” as appropriate. Better too many than leaving something out.

There you go. I’ve been on WP.com with CaffeinatedMusic since 2008. As entrenched as some of my posts are in Google standings, there is no way I could see ever moving it to self-hosting elsewhere. But in my dog art studio’s case, its purpose as a blog was very minor as most of my human contact for the page comes through Facebook. Everybody’s needs are different, so really think about what you want, what you need, and what, if anything, are you willing to sacrifice if it doesn’t go as smoothly as you’d hoped.

When I get the new platform finished, I’ll update more on the where, what and how for those who are thinking about doing the same thing.


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So, I got back from vacay two days ago

While the 10-day off-grid hiking trip in the Adirondacks was absolutely lovely and much-needed, I did not anticipate certain possible website problems when I returned.

I’ve spent the past two days putting out a forest fire of epic proportions.

My other website, BigBlackDogStudio.com, was scheduled to transfer over to a new host in order to add some simple e-comm capabilities. Estimated time for the transfer was given at 5 to 7 business days, so I hit “do it” the night before I left figuring it would be magically transferred by internet elves and ready for me to work my creative genius on post-hike.

I was under the firm impression that just as it looks on the WordPress.com blogging platform, so it would now appear just on the WordPress.org hosting version. It wasn’t.

When I typed in my BBDS address upon my return late Thursday evening, I was greeted with the gut-twisting: “Coming soon!”  screen. It’s better than the dreaded blue screen of death or “not found” at all, but still. Did I mention I was erroneously believing elves were going to fairy dust it over magically?

I took a deep breath and told myself I probably just had to hit “launch” or something to let the elves know I’m here and approving the transfer, so I logged into my account at the new host. It was a good thing I inspected. It was empty. Nada. Just the registration records were there.

Okay. I’m smart. I can figure this out and do this manually. Logged into WP.com, exported my site, and imported it into the new platform. Opened up the new “pages” and “posts” to make sure all had zippity-zapped to the new home. Hmmm.

Of the 342 posts going all the way back to 2012, only 45 of them transferred with the export function. Of the 23 separate pages in that site, 2 transferred, one of them being the 45 blog posts page from 2012 through 2014. That’s it. I exported/imported a second and third time just to make sure. Still way short of goal. [insert expletive].

So, apparently, twas not as easy-peasy as certain entities made it out to be. Good thing I used my free time hiking to write down a ton of creative ideas I’m going to be working on because that book might collect a bit of dust while I manually transfer over the other 297 posts with their images, re-entering all the meta data, etc. I’ve already managed to put the Pawz To Reflect Merch page back up, as it was today’s epic and successful job.

Can I simply not bother transferring most of those old posts? Sure, I can pick and choose just the more meaningful ones to me to preserve. I can probably just transfer most of the stack over here via some migrate feature as long as I downgrade the site back to its free status and before the next drum circle after the harvest occurs. When you’ve got years and years of SEO entrenchment, you seriously have to weigh the pros and cons of whether or not to move crap around on the internet. Shoot me for not merely creating a new domain for the e-comm stuff.

Am I the only one who ever expected technology and those who brag about its wonders that this kind of cold water splash happened to?

Update 8/17/19: Okay, life did not come to an end as I know it after all. Stressful week AF, yes, but I figured out how to export in pieces and want to share that for them that may someday go through this same heart pounding thing. See my August 17 post for a step-by-step.

Update 10/9/19: Ooops. Apparently, I never hit the “post” button on this. My bad. The lack of website issue in mid-August was highly distracting.

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Diva flashback to the Mozart Alleluia

So, I am working on some projects from home and one of them has to do with using video for things like web conferences, one-on-one’s and such that thanks to the magic of the internet, we no longer have to drive anywhere to “meet” with clients. Part of what I needed to do was to look back at my old YouTube channel that was started way back in 2008 or 2009 when this blog started and carefully examine it for modern things like metadata, descriptions and keywords.

At the time I did the videos, they were for the purpose of teaching my choirs and musicians songs through demonstration, and putting them up on a quick video meant the person could practice as much as they wanted at home during the week. If this is your first day with me, I’ll cut you slack on not knowing this unshakeable pillar of my music as ministry philosophy:

Thou shalt not sight-read for Jesus on Sunday, but shall prepare thyself first privately and then with thy fellow music team members before leading worship in community.

Ten years ago, I was also using Windows XP and the original MovieMaker (best software ever) that Microsoft discontinued. The jerks. Still not happy about that which is why when my Windows 7 laptop fritzed this spring, I finally bailed on PC and made the switch to a Mac mini. Now, I am learning to use iMovie to edit video. In the meantime, I use my little iPhone 4S with no editing. Hey, it still works, okay? Don’t judge.

In other words, I wasn’t on the YT channel to listen to my songs and stuff; I was supposed to be examining it for the upcoming overhaul to make it search engine friendly, something it desperately needs. It’s bad. So before I can take the next step in what I am working on, I need to get my SEO ducks in a row on an existing channel. The good part of that is that I can then see if the metrics change substantially or not to know if I’m doing it right. Back to the digression.

Of course, one cannot help but hear oneself singing in one’s own videos running on the screen while trying to figure out how I need to completely change out every single one of the 80 plus video descriptions. Both the bad descriptions and my caterwauling were painful.

A few of the videos made me laugh more than cringe at my squeaks and bad hair due to the purpose I recorded them. This one is the Alleluia from Mozart’s Exultate Jubilate, a coloratura favourite for its zippy scales and high notes. A young friend was trying to learn the song so she asked me to make her a video. No make up. No fancy clothes. Accompanying myself (shouldn’t do that, especially for a classical song).

Hope ya’ll get a kick out of this 10-year-old, no frills Diva flashback 😉

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Release old emotions

Why do we hold onto emotional baggage?

Something triggered a bad experience memory over the weekend, and threw me for a loop. Literally knocked the energy out of me like I got sucker punched a second time around. I realized the original experience was met full on with my anger, which fueled a lot of positive things at the time after chemo, but one emotion I did not let run its gamut at the time was grief.

The other day, I finally went through the expulsion of that emotion over the original event as well as in empathy for the person I saw go through the same thing this week. After not “stuffing it” back down but just letting it flow out, I was tired and napped for two hours.

When I woke up, I was groggy but felt so much better. The next day, I woke up feeling like such a weight was off my shoulders due to the emotional closure I finally allowed myself to process.

If I could tell my younger self one key life hack to keep myself sane through tough times, it would be not to stifle emotions about bad things as you live through them.

Sure, maybe at the precise moment in time, you are required to maintain full control, but I’m talking about soon afterward when you have alone time. Let it all out and don’t tell yourself you “shouldn’t feel that way.”

You are human and you have emotions.

Emotions are not rational, so stop trying to rationalize them away.

Let it out!

Let it out! 

Primal scream, cry like a little kid, dwell in the emotion and ACKNOWLEDGE it.

Don’t throw a pity party in Victimville or plan revenge on anyone, just admit you were not cool with the matter nor the people involved and that you realize you’ve been holding onto resentment and any other named negative emotions holding you back from your life being fully amazing in the now.

Let it have its say however it expresses itself.

Then release it and let it go out of your energy field.

Pretending crap didn’t happen to you will always come out eventually down the road, most likely when a stress moment brings it out.

Seriously. It’s gonna come out.

Do you want that happening when you’re in control of the setting to expunge it from your energy record, or do you want to risk it coming out in ways that affect your personal and professional relationships?

Crap happens. So does joy. Why is it acceptable to be super happy but not acceptable to cry when you’re an adult? Why make yourself miserable repressing emotions you don’t like?

Be human and feel what you feel so you can move on.

Not only do I feel amazing and energetic today, I woke up this morning full of joy and confidence knowing I purged an inhibiting emotion that spent a long time weighing me down. My whole energy field feels better.

Ah, wisdom of years.

(Photo credit: Pixabay.com. Image by Alexas_Fotos  from Pixabay.)

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Old dog, new tricks

One of the focuses on the Business Communications class was doing oral presentations incorporating media and technology. In today’s world of business, there are some great video conferencing softwares available that 20 years weren’t even imagined. Some take this for granted, but those old dogs like myself learning new tricks appreciate how far along technology has come in communicating. Take a look at how YouTube has evolved from an artistic creative studio to a full-blown platform for soap boxing anything you are passionate about. Of course, sometimes the best video software available can be a toe stubber when you need to upload the aforementioned carefully crafted and edited video to your course DropBox only to discover that the file size exceeds the 15MB limit allowed. Alas, sometimes the Golden Oldies can’t be beat for practicality and universal application!

I am an old dog at public speaking in front of a room so I tend to go about it on autopilot, but upon reflection, I realize I do have a strategy for preparing them. My No. 1 tip to anyone is to prepare and plan and practice well before you need to actually give your presentation.

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What empathy is NOT

Another Communications discussion had to do with emotional intelligence and how it relates to communicating in a workplace, especially with those whose communication style and personality are much difference from your own. Communicate is what I do for a living, and my “in the trenches” viewpoint about all the platitudes and abbreviated lists floating out there of “shoulds” was different than any of the other students. What empathy is and what it is not is something that if you do not understand, you will create chaos in your life about nonsense that has nothing at all to do with you. Bottom line: you cannot “fix” anybody else.

Interestingly, most of the articles I found on my search as well as over the years all seem written from the perspective that people are not self-aware in general to truly know their own behaviors, thoughts and emotions and therefore lack the ability to be aware of those things in others. Kendra Cherry’s 2018 article on Very Well Mind cited and was based upon a 2011 American Psychology Association study, and she pulled from it five typical things we read in such self-improvement articles: increase self-awareness, practice self-regulation, improve your social skills, become more empathetic, and work on your own intrinsic motivation.

I agree with the need for self-knowledge and monitoring as it strongly assists in retaining anything else learned. It is a good practice to spend time contemplating what your goals are and what motivates you. It is also good practice not to be rude to others, to listen when others are speaking, and to behave at all times so as not to inflict one’s own drama upon others nor run with scissors causing chaos.

After years in ministry where people confide all manner of emotional traumas to me and I get the opportunity to talk them down off the ceiling, I consider myself to be a competent operator if not somewhat of a practical expert on empathy and what it is and what it is not. If I had not long ago learned the difference between being “caring” and being “empathetic,” I might be in the asylum by now. Continue reading

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