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Live Beautiful | Courtney Kirkland: November 2010

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Live Beautiful | Courtney Kirkland

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Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
Live Beautiful | Courtney Kirkland: November 2010

Live Beautiful | Courtney Kirkland

November 29, 2010

Santa Baby

Hello all! Hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving! I know we did! I’m still doing the “gobble wobble” after in taking waaaaay too much turkey, dressing, dumplings, and pecan pie. I’m still completely stuffed and now we are gearing up for Christmas! This is probably going to be one of my favorite Christmases yet. With Hubby being gone for 3/4 of the year; Christmas seems like the perfect time to welcome him back! We’ve adopted a child from the Salvation Armies Angel Tree, so I’m really excited to start shopping for him. He’s one and he’s in love with Diego. Smile Yesterday we took Little Man and my Brother-in-law Chase to take Christmas pictures for the mother-in-laws Christmas cards…in honor of No Mom Talk Monday, I’m not going to talk. I’m going to just show you photos. Hahaha…

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And just for the fun of it [and because I’m in love with these photos] I thought I would share a few of the other fun shots that I took.

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Don’t forget to link up your No Mom Talk Monday posts below! And make sure you come back tomorrow for the third part of the Blogging Effectively with Integrity series. If you haven’t read the first two installments, you can read them here, here, and the introduction here.

Have a happy, happy Monday!! A mere 16 Days and counting!!

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November 26, 2010

Black Friday

 

 

 

 

 

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday! I know we did! We spent lunch with my husbands family and supper with mine. We had more turkey, ham, dressing, butterbeans and Pecan Pie than we knew what to do with. And it was fabulous! I am not doing the Black Friday shopping today…as much as I really wanted to. Instead, I’m going to go pick this up from the car dealership:



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And then heading over to my parents house to watch the biggest football rivalry of the year…

Alabama_Logo2Tomorrow is the Iron Bowl. The most heated game in college football.
The battle between Alabama and Auburn

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For those of you who weren’t born and bread in the great state of Alabama, this game probably doesn’t mean anything to you…but for us Southerners, this game is a big deal. It’s bragging rights for an entire year. Families feud over this game. Homes are divided. Friendships end. It’s really that serious. Me? I’ll be pulling for the reigning National Champions, The Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m guessing a 24-20 defeat over Auburn. Though I wouldn’t mind seeing them win by more than that.

I tell you this so that you will know why I am not around…why my Facebook will be full of Football Status updates and why my Twitter may remain untouched. I’ll be watching the Game. Hope you guys enjoy Black Friday! Maybe you’ll run up on a few great deals!

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November 25, 2010

A Mom’s List of Thanks

{This is a repost from the original I wrote last Thanksgiving…I still love this list, and decided to include it again this year…with a few added things at the end.}

The things that I am thankful for have made a huge change in the last 3 years.

In college, cries of gratitude and thanks fell on the ears of all who were around when spare change was found in the couch cushions or under the bed. My cute apartment, my seemingly never-ending cashflow [that, surprise surprise, was far from never-ending], my super cute accessories and shoes, Endless Frat Parties, and plenty of Frat Boys to date were reason enough for me to be thankful.

After I ditched the party scene in exchange for an actual education and opportunity to do something with my life, those same cries of joy could be heard on the days when class was cancelled. Or the days that I only had to go to class rather than to class and work. My brand new, sexy little 2-door Sports Car [that I purchased for way more than I should have] with fabulous Gas Mileage was definitely something to be thankful for.

This year, as a wife and a mother, my cries of thanks go out to different things. This year, I am Thankful for the real things. The things that give me reason to crawl out of bed. Oh sure, I'm thankful for the usual things too. Good husband, steady income, health, happiness, beautiful son....But these. THESE are the real-life things I am thankful for....

-I am thankful that the Swivel Sweeper works...even if it only works half of the time these days. It saves me from having to sweep, and sweep, and sweep the kitchen floor after one of our bouts with crackers, cookies, or anything else that can be broken up into teeny tiny pieces.

-I am thankful for caffeine. Be it in a can or a plastic cup with a Starbucks logo on it. Caffeine gets me up and running in the morning. Without it...well, lets just leave that scary thought to our imaginations, shall we?

-I am thankful for the makers of Children's Grape Tylenol, without which I don't know what I would have done during the months of non-stop teething and aching Ear Infections.

-I am thankful for the geniuese's behind "Playhouse Disney" and "Nick Jr." These guys save my sanity in the wee-hours of the morning [before my caffeine kicks in, of course.]

-I am thankful for nights of piece and quiet. Nights when Noah falls asleep early, the husband is entranced by his own thing, and I can sit in total and complete silence if I choose and do absolutely nothing.

-I am thankful for the last cold Dr. Pepper my husband leaves me in the fridge when are running low and have to restock.

-I am thankful for Lysol Kitchen Cleaner. Spray and Wipe. And the job is done.

-I am thankful for Nicholas Sparks and Stephenie Meyer...2 world class authors whose novels and stories allow me to escape dirty diapers and sticky messes. Even if only for a few minutes at a time.

-I am unbelievably thankful for this blog...and all of the friends I have made through social networking. I've saved thousands of dollars on "mommy brain" therapy just by being an avid blogger.

{begin this seasons list}

- I am thankful for Google. When planning a move literally across the country, there is much information to gather. Without Google, I’d probably be standing around in a field somewhere with no clue as to where I was going or what I was doing.

- I am thankful for Skype. Long video chats with my husband, online birthday parties shared between Little Man and his daddy, and never ending chats with one of my BFF’s via Skype Chat have saved my sanity and salvaged bits of my loneliness for the past eight months.

- I am thankful for my new car…FINALLY an SUV with FOUR DOORS that I don’t have to crawl in and out of when I need to put Little Man in his car seat. I’m thankful for the handy little drop down mirror in the front seat that allows me to keep an eye on what he’s doing at all times. And I’m thankful for the under-the-floor mat storage compartments that allow me to hide all of his toys when I don’t want them seen.

- I am thankful for Starbucks. What on EARTH will I do without you when I get to Alaska?! Same goes for Target…oh how I will miss thee!

- I am thankful for Day-Planners. Because without mine, I would surely be lost. I tend to pack my schedule too tightly, so my planner keeps me reminded of everything I forgot that I needed to do I have going on for the day.

- I am thankful for Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. They remove Sharpie from kitchen cabinets; sharpie from appliances like the dishwasher and the stove, and crayon from the walls. Not that my son has ever done those things.

- I am thankful for showers with plenty of hot water behind closed doors. Not the showers you jump in and jump out while a tiny little head peeks in and out at you behind the curtain. I mean the really good, long, hot drawn out showers that come after your child is in bed or while someone occupies them. The ones that are rare, but worth the wait.

- I am thankful for the meals that don’t involve sharing. I love when I get a chance to sit down and eat without someone’s tiny fingers grabbing at my plate and asking for a bite.

- I am thankful for thirty minutes of uninterrupted TV time…TV time that does not include anything animated that can be found on PBS, Nick Jr., Disney or on a Disney/Pixar or Veggie Tales DVD. I mean real TV. With real life people on channels like HGTv and Lifetime.

I am beyond thankful for my husband and my precious little boy, but these things? These simple, minute, seemingly insignificant things keep me sane. Keep me from losing every ounce of normalcy I have left. Here's to a Happy Thanksgiving and greater appreciation for the little things in life.

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November 24, 2010

Initially Un-thankful

It will come as no surprise that on this day, the day before Thanksgiving, that I am choosing to put aside all other posts, all other ideas, all other worries, and just be thankful for the things that I have been blessed with. I can guarantee that at least one out of every five blogs you read over the course of the next three days will include a list of things to be thankful for. While I am more than grateful for the known things-my husband, my son, good health-there are other things that I am thankful for as well. Things that go unnoticed most days; things that are really things that we aren’t thankful for initially but later come to appreciate. And today, I want to pay tribute to those things.



- I am thankful for the last eight months of separation that my marriage has endured. Seems strange to say that out-loud…especially when I think about how much I have missed [and will continue to miss for the next three weeks] my husband. Yet, despite the many, many nights of being alone, being without someone to snuggle up in bed with, being without my son’s father to share the parental responsibilities; we have grown stronger as a couple. We’ve built a trust between one another that won’t quickly or easily be forgotten. To endure separation for such a long period of time without infidelity or adultery or mistakes being made is a HUGE deal. No matter how strong your marriage, no matter how great your relationship; Satan does tempt and test and in a society where the sanctity of marriage rarely even exists, a pure, unadulterated marriage is a wonderful and beautiful thing.

- On a similar note, I am thankful that I have been a single parent for the last eight months. I’ve learned how to take care of Little Man on my own. while still maintaining most of my sanity. I have been solely responsible, in my husbands temporary absence, for setting boundaries, enforcing rules and administering discipline. I’ve learned to parent on my own and solve immediate issues without help from anyone other than myself. {*This is not to say that my husband and I do not communicate with one another on the major things and decisions that impact our son. However the minor, every day things, I’ve dealt with by my lonesome.} I’ve learned how to play “boy games” with our little guy…making car noises, throwing the football, getting dirty, and playing airplane and have loved every single minute of it. Though I will be more than excited to have my husband around to endure these long days enjoy these things with me.

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- I thankful that I was able to use the time away from my husband to learn more about who I am as an individual.

When Hubby left in April, I was still trying to figure out where my life was headed…what I wanted to do; who I wanted to be when I grew up. There were issues in my past that I was still dealing with, aspects of my future that were more uncertain than I was comfortable with. But now, the past is in the past. And the future is something I’ve come to terms with and am confident with…even though it remains uncertain. Rather than trying to change who I am to please everyone else, I’ve begun to embrace the me that already is and she is pretty great. And the two most important people in the world to me {those being my husband and my son} love the me that is as well. I’ve discovered and pursued a passion for photography that was just getting started when Hubby left; and I’ve rediscovered my deep love for words and writing…a love that I fully intend to continue to pursue. I’ve built this blog to something that I am more proud of than ever before, and I finally feel like I am doing what God intended for me to do when he intended for me to do it. And I can say, without a shadow of a doubt that I am happy.

- I am thankful for prayers unanswered…things that I thought I wanted for us, things that I thought we needed, things that I thought I wanted for myself-that never came to pass. I am a firm believer in God’s will and plan and that he truly has a purpose and reason for every single instance in our lives. There are many that have come to pass in my life, that weren’t what I wanted or felt like I needed; but it’s those moments, those tiny little change in circumstance that have held the most beautiful memories and the most cherished moments.

- I am thankful for the lessons learned by loss. I know it sounds inappropriate [??? Maybe that’s the right word], but I have come to appreciate every thing so much more after having seen or experienced a loss. Or known someone who did lose a loved one. When Hubby’s former classmate passed away in a fatal car crash, God really pushed me to stop and think about the way that I was living my life. Not that I feel I was really taking advantage of life or anything, but he just reminded me how quickly this life can end. We’ve had family members lose children, friends pass away…and death is hard. Loss is never an easy thing, but I feel that the most beautiful way to honor someone we love, is to continue to live the life we have now…to live it in the best way that we know how. And I’ve spent a lot of time pursuing that in the last several months.

What about you?

Aside from your husband, you children, your health and well-being…what are the things that you are thankful for? The hard times that have been made beautiful? The things that initially didn’t work out like you wanted, but you find yourself rejoicing over now? Tis the season to be thankful, so I want to hear what you are thankful for!

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November 22, 2010

Blogging Effectively-Part Two

effectivewithintegrityWelcome back to Day Two of my Blogging Effectively with Integrity series. It’s also Monday which means it’s time for No Mom Talk for those of you who will be linking up. In case you missed any of the series so far, you can find the introduction post here and Part One here. The response to the first two days have been overwhelming and I’m really excited that you guys are so interested in this series.



Today I’m going to talk about the power of the all-mighty Social Media. Twitter, Facebook, even MySpace [for those who still use it] can be powerful tools for marketing and building up your blog readership and interest.

At the end of my Introductory Post to this series, I asked what brought people back to a blog over and over again. Everyone who commented answered that question, but I was startled by how many others also mentioned something about the number of comments on their blog verses the number of followers. This is something that irks me at times as well. I see growing followers, but receive few-if any-comments on some of my posts. Today I want to talk about utilizing social media to its fullest…taking advantage of all that it has to offer to draw in your readership.

First, let’s talk about Twitter. I know that some of you have yet to sign up for an account with Twitter. And that’s okay. I completely and totally get it. I refused to sign up for it as well when it first started up. I couldn’t understand the purpose behind telling the world in 140 characters or less what you were doing. And truthfully, I just assumed it was “cool” because Ashton Kutcher had an account.  It wasn’t until earlier this year that I caved and signed up for an account. In the beginning, I rarely ever used it. I would tweet once or twice, but really didn’t think anyone had any interest in what I had to say.

Then I started to notice how many other bloggers that I followed on Twitter were linking their posts. And I started paying attention to how often I clicked on those posts. It was not unusual for me to go to at least five or six different posts a day just through Twitter. Because of the interest their tweets piqued.

Blogging is all about interaction. If we didn’t care about the interaction, then we wouldn’t make our blogs public. We wouldn’t join networks and communities in the hopes that other people would show interest in what we had to say. We want the feedback. We desire the comments. And that’s okay. But in order to obtain those comments and that readership, we have to learn to develop a dialogue with other readers. Twitter is very powerful commodity to bloggers if we learn to use it effectively. Which one of these tweets sounds more enticing:



New Blog Post: http://www.pretendblogposthere.com You should check it out…

or this:

Interesting Discussion today on saving a dying marriage…how we made it through trial & turmoil: www.anotherfakeblogpost.com

{Okay, these are really bad examples, but you get the point} Most likely, you would click on the second link just because it piqued your curiosity. You’d be wondering what on Earth had happened to the imaginary couple to cause their marriage to die…and you’d want to know how they overcame it. Simply linking a blog post isn’t enough. You need to give your readers something to look forward to…a reason to click on your link. Thousands upon thousands of tweets go up every few minutes, so say something that makes yours stand out.

Twitter is also a two way street. It’s a give and take relationship. You can’t sign on and tweet to your hearts desire and expect everyone to just flock to you without reason [unless of course you ARE Ashton Kutcher…and if you are would you please say hi to me. It would really make my day]. You need to form a dialogue. Say ‘hi’ to someone. Reply to a tweet…mention someone else’s blog…re-tweet a link…do SOMETHING to show your fellow Tweeter that you aren’t in this little online society just for yourself. Everyone else out there is seeking some communication; and most of your fellow mommy bloggers would be thrilled for you to re-tweet their post or their blog link. You’d be amazed at the results you will see if you put in the few minutes of extra effort. There is a difference between interacting and engaging with your followers and fellow Tweet mates {if that is even a Twitter term…I made it up…I think…} and just shooting off your own content all day long, day after day.

The other widely popular choice of Social Media is Facebook. First and foremost let me mention right to start off with that you don’t have to use your personal profile for blogging if you don’t want to. You can set up a Fan Page [and you can find mine here] so that your readers/followers/etc. can “like” you without ever having contact with your personal account. As for me, I have both. I have a fan-page where people can read my content should they choose, but I also link my blog to my personal page. I’ve found that, while many readers who come from my Personal Page on Facebook don’t comment, my readership has grown past just the blog world. Friends from across the country that we have lost contact with turn to my blog to keep track of what’s going on with us. Many of them even comment on the link within my Facebook Profile. So don’t think that just because someone doesn’t have a blog that they aren’t reading. You’d be surprised how many others would be interested in what you have to say.

Similarly, if someone “likes” you on Facebook…that tiny little link with your blog name shows up on their Facebook Profile. This is another widely growing networking tool. Facebook also started their “Share” feature [which is much like the Re-Tweet feature on Twitter] that allows for readers to post your content on their blog and share it with their own Facebook Friends. Furthermore, they can even “share” your content on Twitter…all the more reason to make sure that your blog is set up to post to that Facebook Account.


Building up a readership takes a lot of work. It isn’t something that is going to happen automatically, so don’t expect drastic changes overnight. But, if you work at this, put in just a few extra minutes a day to carry on a short Twitter Chat with a fellow blogger, you will be amazed at the growth you will begin to see gradually. A personal example. A few months ago, my blog count [followers] was sitting solidly at 235. I was frustrated because I felt I was putting out some really good content, but no one was really responding. One day, after Little Man had been sick for about a week, I decided to take a household vacation. The little guy and I vegged out on the couch and watched movies all day. I kept my computer close by because I am an addict and couldn’t help myself we were waiting on the Hubby to call and chat. Throughout the day, I found myself responding to more and more Twitter comments than I ever had. I was carrying on conversations and found myself connecting with other women out there in cyberspace that I surprisingly had a lot in common with.

The next day, when I checked my blog, I had 10 new followers. I slowly started spending a few extra minutes in the mornings on Twitter-responding to a few interesting tweets, re-tweeting things that caught my eye…basically just engaging other tweeps [Twitter people or ‘peeps’ if you aren’t familiar with the jargon] off and on throughout the day. Over the course of the next two weeks, I went from 235 Google Friend Connect Followers to 285. And I chalk that up to Twitter. A lot of people discover you through your Twitter Account and follow you. They may click on your blog if you post a link; they may even comment on occasion…but if you engage these readers, make them feel like you appreciate their company, their input and the time that they give you when they read your blog/mention you on Twitter, then you begin a readership. A loyal fan-base.

And it’s that Fan-base…that readership that slowly builds your community. And your community is what adds to you likelihood of turning your tiny little blog into a successful and established Professional Blog sought out by companies across the country. If it sounds like that idea is way out of your reach right now, don’t let yourself become discouraged. Think about your favorite blogger…and one point or another, they were right where you are…where I still am…they were growing. Finding their voice. Learning how to utilize what they have. So keep at it!
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Don’t forget to add your link below if you are joining me for No Mom Talk Monday! What are your thoughts on Social Media and your blogger? Any tips and tricks that you have found useful for establishing and growing a readership? I’d love to hear you input! Leave me a comment below!

Happy Monday, all!!

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November 21, 2010

Just a quick reminder!

momtalkbuttonJust wanted to remind everyone to get their posts for No Mom Talk Monday ready for tomorrow! We’ve been slacking on participants these past three weeks and I want that to change! If we can gather up at least 15 moms to join in, I’ll throw in a little surprise! {Think a *FREE* print from my Etsy Shop…just in time for the holidays!}

In case you are just joining us here at Live Beautiful the rules for “No Mom Talk Monday” are simple. You can write about anything you want…as long as it isn’t centered around your children or motherhood. I know that sounds cruel to some, but the point of this meme is to encourage all of you beautiful ladies out there to get back to the woman that you were before you had a kid. The woman with passion and drive and dreams. Those dreams are still real…they are still inside of you…so let them out! Put aside the diapers and postpone the play date for 15 minutes and do something, write something for yourself.

It doesn’t have to be anything deep and meaningful. It can be anything you want! Have a recipe you want to share? A great picture [that isn’t of your kids!]? A book review? I don’t care what it is as long as it’s about YOU and something that you enjoy! So come link up tomorrow morning, bright and early at 8:00 am. Don’t forget to spread the word and tell your friends!

Happy Sunday!!

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November 20, 2010

A Fresh Voice

freshvoices-nominatebadgeNormally I don’t solicit for votes or clicks or nominations. I don’t beg for people to like me or anything like that. And I hope that this post won’t come across like that. I was blog hopping yesterday and ran across Momversation…another one of these fabulous little communities where mom bloggers can come together, inspire and encourage one another, and let their voices be heard. According to their website, Momversation is where real women share insights into the issues that affect us. It’ a place to connect, share and join fun or enlightening conversations.

Places like this are where I like to lay ground with my blog. Places where women can connect and gather to talk about the things that matter to us; the things that frustrate us, upset us, and make us laugh. Being a mother isn’t easy. Whether you are a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, the title we bear and role we play is taxing, and all too often goes unnoticed. If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know that writing is a passion of mine. It always has been.

When I discovered blogging in 2008, I realized that there was a possibility that I could really use my blog to encourage people; to influence and inspire other women…other mom’s who are struggling to find the balance within their own lives. I don’t pretend to have it all together. And I think that by not having it all together, I’m having some sort of impact. I hope that some of you who read this feel as though you can connect with me and identify with the battles of motherhood that I face; because at some point or another you have faced, or will face them yourself.

No mom should have to bear the weight of her family on her own. And even though [some of us] have our husbands to rely on, we generally just need good girlfriends along the way to help us out. And we need more than anything to find a balance in our lives that allows for us to be the wife and the mother that our families can depend on AND be the women that we were before we ever stepped into those roles. If you’ve never read the Passion & Purpose section of my blog, I encourage you to head that way and check it out.

My desire is to reach as many women as I can; encouraging them rediscover who they are as individuals. Encouraging moms all over to be themselves…their best selves…and to find a passion within their lives.

So that being said…I would like for you to help me branch out. I would like for you to help to reach as many women as I can. I want to spread the word and my passion as far and wide as the good Lord has intentions of spreading it. And you can have a part in that. Momversation is giving an award, an opportunity, to one up and coming mom blogger. It’s called the Fresh Voices of 2010. This award is strictly for emerging and undiscovered mom bloggers…women with a voice who haven’t had the opportunity yet to explore and expand that voice. And I need your nominations to get me there. If you would like to nominate me, Live Beautiful, you can click right here and fill out the entry form, or you can click the button in my sidebar and it will take you directly to the nomination form. It only takes a few seconds, and you have no idea how appreciative I would be.

In fact, if you do take the time to fill this out and nominate my blog, I want you to tell me about it! Leave me a comment, send me an email, message me on Twitter or Facebook…however you want to contact me, please do! I enjoy writing for my own personal reasons, but it is you-the reader-who keeps me returning. So thank you ahead of time for your kind words and nominations. I know that with your help, we can spread Live Beautiful and it’s purpose much farther across this vast wide blog world. Happy Weekend everyone!

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November 19, 2010

Blogging Effectively with Integrity-Part One

First of all, let me say how excited I am about the feedback I got from my introductory post yesterday. It seems that I’m not the only one who gets frustrated and confused by this blogging world. I searched several different areas of the blogosphere and have spent a lot of time analyzing the “Big Blogs” and what it is that they have goeffectivewithintegritying for themselves. And let me tell you, we all have the abilities to make it big. But it’s going to require some effort.



When I asked what it was that made you return to a blog over and over and over again, three answers were prominent: The honesty and realness of the writer, the grammar and language, and how relative your writing is to your reader. I’ll start with the last one and work my way up the list. Today is all about

Relativity to your Readership and developing your niche.

First and foremost it is important that you recognize that no matter how great your design or your content, some people just aren’t going to connect with your blog. It isn’t anything that you can change or do different. Everyone just doesn’t mesh. No big deal. The important thing to acknowledge is those who you do connect with. I’m not saying that everyone is going to have absolutely everything in common. That would just be a little strange…and extremely uncomfortable, if you ask me [which you did…because you are here reading this post. Haha].

One of the key things to establishing a blog that people read and return to is establishing your niche. If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard that word spoken [errr…written?] in the blogosphere a multitude of times. Especially if you are working to grow your readership and develop a blog that will eventually bring income to your family. I went to dictionary.com and typed in the word “niche” to give a better grasp on what it really is. And this is definition number 2:

a place or position suitable or appropriate for a person or thing: to find one's niche in the business world.

[By the way….totally had no clue this was pronounced ‘nich’ as in rhymes with ‘itch.’]

For example, my niche is parenting and marriage with a wee-bit of military blogging thrown in the mix. I don’t push the ‘baby mom blogger’ thing too much because my son is growing up too fast. I also don’t push the military wife thing on everyone too often because there aren’t many people out there who can identify with being a military wife. And to those of you who read and aren’t military wives, if all I talked about was that aspect of my life, you would most likely leave and never come back. Because you don’t connect with that aspect of life.



Similarly, I’ve begun to push the “reconnecting with the you that you are” side of my blog. With my No Mom Talk Monday and the 30 Days of Truth Challenge, I’ve started connecting with mom’s and wives on a broader level because they connect with what I’m writing. There are a lot of women out there who have taken on the wife and mother roles and feel that they have lost a bit of themselves along the way. As someone who  has been there and is still dealing with reconnecting with that part of myself, I can identify with that on a personal level. And that kind of thing brings readers together.

So, by now you are probably thinking Well that’s great that you’ve established your niche, but what about me? How do I find mine? Well I am so glad you asked!! I’ve put together a small list of ways to figure out and develop your own niche.

ONE. Ask yourself, what am I really interested in? What am I passionate about? Maybe you are struggling or have struggled with Post-partum depression. Maybe you have killer photography skills. Maybe you have a special needs child. You niche should be something that you care about, something that you enjoy promoting, and something that you don’t mind writing about. This does not mean that that’s ALL that you can talk about, but it will need to be a viable part of your blog. One of the best examples I can give you of a blogger with an established niche is Mary over at The Mommyologist. Her “Mom Sexy” niche has taken off big time and that’s what she’s becoming known for. While she blogs regularly about other things not entirely related to mom sexy, she does make attempts to incorporate it as much as possible.

TWO. Network. Network. Network. Once you establish your niche and what it is that you want to become known for, get the word out. Join communities within your niche. If you are a Pet Blogger, seek out other bloggers with the same interests and connect. Communities like SITS, Bloggy Moms, and Blog Frog offer ample opportunity to meet and connect with others who share passions and interests with you. If you want to become known, you have to put yourself out there and get to know others. (I

‘ll talk more about networking later…this is just an idea to get you started.)



THREE. Connect. One of the BIGGEST ways to gain your own readership and connect with your soon-to-be followers is to become a follower yourself. By showing interest in the work of other bloggers, especially those in your interest/niche area, is a great way to get your blog out there and known to others. Seek out the opportunity to guest post, and COMMENT on the blogs that interest you. Not only does commenting show that you seek and desire to develop relationships in the blogging world, but it also allows for other commenters to see you. And when you post good comments [not those ‘hey I follow you, will you follow me’ kind] that show that you’ve read and thought about the post, people will generally seek you out in hopes of gaining those kind of comments on their blog.



So does this help? Give you an idea of where to start at when you develop your niche?

Some other things I’m going to talk about throughout this series include: the importance of proper grammar and language, Social Networking and your blog, Being real and honest without being offensive, Reviews/Giveaways, Blog Design, and staying true to YOU when your blog starts to grow. I hope you guys will continue to check out these posts, and hopefully will take something from it that will get you where you want to be in the bloggy world.



{Disclaimer: I am not a “professional blogger” and do not bring in any income from this blog. I have, however, begun to establish a loyal readership. This series is based upon the steps I have taken to gain said readership and personal experiences alone. This is not a magic formula that will grow your readership over night. Just a compilation and suggestion of ideas to help.}

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November 18, 2010

The Who, What, When, Where and Why’s…of Blogging

I’ve been thinking about the “mommy blogging” world a lot lately.



About how some mom’s, whether they ever intend to or not, just make it. They start these blogs, some of them without any decent content, and BAM. They start raking in thousands per month on advertisements and promotions that are visibly evident on every single corner of their blog.



Have you ever Googled the Top 50 Mommy Blogs? If you haven’t, here is the list. I’ll be honest with you…I clicked through each and every blog on this list and scanned their content, took note of their designs, and even analyzed the quality of their photo content. I have to admit…I’m not impressed. At least, not with most of them. Some of the layouts are horrible. Some of them are frustrating to navigate around. Some of the content is crude and poorly written. And some of the mommy blogs I expected to see on this list [like this one or this one or this one] weren’t there.



So what makes these blogs so successful?



As a mom who adores writing, adores photography, and adores graphic design, I sometimes feel that maybe I have enough of the “package deal” to make a successful blog. And then I check my Stat Counter to review my numbers for the week, and they look pathetic. Or I pour my heart into a post and receive four or five comments. Then I glance at my Google Friend Connect counter and it’s flashing that big, beautiful 364 Followers sign at me like it should be written in neon lights; and I get disappointed.



After having a conversation with Mandi this weekend, I realized that I am not the only person who gets frustrated with things like this. We discussed Stat Counter and Page Hits over BBQ while her husband Sean listened and laughed at how worked up and excited we mommy’s get over all things blogging. We rambled on about which blogs are guilty pleasures, which blogs frustrate us, and which blogs we adore. We also talked about our own personal blogging milestones.

Each of us has a different one. A different way that we know we’ve semi “made it” in the blogging world. Maybe it was when we reached a certain number of Followers. Maybe it was when a certain ‘big blogger’ commented on our post. Maybe it was something totally different.

For me, it was all three…and they’ve all happened recently.

I remember when I first started blogging there was a lady I’ll call K* who had a blog that I frequented. I had been blogging probably five or six months and was really digging the idea of being on of the “big bloggers.” I remember reading her blog one day and seeing that she had 80 followers. I couldn’t believe it. I was envious of this woman and her 80 people because I had only ::ahem:: 10. I dreamed of the day that my numbers would look like that. And then at some point down the road, they did…and they surpassed hers. I felt…accomplished. The same way I felt when that little ticker that keeps track of my followers teetered past the 300 mark. And then same way I felt when a certain big blogger-despite the controversy that surrounds her blog-commented on this post.



Blogging has become such a business-y type thing that I’m starting to believe that people are losing sight of why they started writing in the first place. I know for me, I go through spells where the numbers, the stats, the comments and the followers are the only things that seem to matter. And then somehow or another, I manage to find my way back around to why I began this blog in the first place.



So, what am I getting at here? I want to do a little series on how to Blog Effectively with Integrity. Blogging the right way to increase you traffic flow and up your numbers [because let’s just face it…we all love the numbers and the comments…no matter how much we argue that fact] while still maintaining your integrity and your personality. I think it’s easy to get lost in the whole ‘what’s popular with mommy blogging right now

‘ thing and lose our initial purpose behind our blog and our identity in the process. With that being said, it’s time to get some feedback from you!



What draws you to a blog? And I don’t mean that you found them on one of the dozens upon dozens of mommy blogging host sites or anything. I mean, when you find a blog, what keeps you there? Is it the content? The photos? The design? A mix of all three? What is the most important factor you look at when searching for new blogs to read; or what turns a blog into a “must read” for you when you have an already overflowing reader?



Leave me some feedback and check back in on Friday for the first part in this series!

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November 15, 2010

A New Do

momtalkbuttonAhhh….I’m back from a very relaxing and busy weekend.

As I mentioned, Saturday I went to Montgomery to meet up with Mandi and her family for a photoshoot. We had a great time and I was able to capture some really awesome photos of the three of them. Super, super excited about how they turned out. It helped that I was working with a great family with a relaxed and fun attitude…and add in the beautiful location and you’re bound to end up with something.

 



It was also nice to spend so much of my day alone [during the two hour drive there, and the two hour drive back]. I’m not one of those people who minds being by myself. In fact, there are some times when I prefer to be alone. And Saturday seemed to be one of those days. I got to relax and organize my thoughts after an insanely hectic two weeks; I took a parental break and was able to unwind from some of the stresses of single parenting; and I was able to get out and shoot with my camera.

Then yesterday, I spent the day with my sister. We haven’t had a sister day in quite a while. And by that I mean a day when it was really just the two of us…instead of the two of us and Little Man {though neither of us ever seem to mind his company}. We grabbed lunch at Olive Garden, did some window shopping at the mall, and went to get my hair did. (YES I am aware of the purposefully incorrect grammar I just used.) I snagged a photo of my hair, but you’ll have to wait till you get to the bottom of the post to see it. Just because I’m cruel like that. Hahaha… After my hair was done (almost two and a half hours later) we went to the movies and watched Saw VII…which is extremely gory and a little more graphic than I anticipated it to be. But, for those of you who like horror movies and have followed the Saga [would it be a saga or a series?? Isn’t a “series” TV?] this one tied up all of the tiny loose ends that have been floating around for the last 8,000 6 movies. Definitely a must see if you’ve liked the others.

I watched Sarah Palins Alaska debut last night. I’m not really sure if the show has an actual point or story line, other than to follow her around in a reality show type way, but I did enjoy the scenery shots and references to life in the last frontier. Watching it just made me all the more excited to get moved and experience this aspect of our lives for ourselves; rather than living vicariously through a TV show and photos.

Which brings me to mention that at this time, in two months, I will be there. Living in Alaska. Not sure if we will have a house yet or if we will be in government temporary housing, but I will be there. And I am excited!

Thanks to those of you who emailed me about the Guest Blogger opportunities. I have received well over 5 inquiries from ladies who would like to post, so thank you for your excitement!! Let me add in here that even though I have called for guest bloggers for the weeks mentioned in particular, that I am always open to guest posts. If you have something that you are dying to share or think that my readers here would enjoy reading [old writings or new…doesn’t matter] then feel free to email me. The blog world is all about sharing experiences, and I would love to share yours with my readers. So don’t hesitate. (PS-If you did email me about the guest blogger positions, I’ll be getting back in touch with you today or tomorrow. My inbox is overflowing, so have a wee bit of patience with me.)

Ok. And one final question for all of you. I received an email from a reader a few days ago asking why I didn’t post my photography work here…and since I had a session this weekend that I will be posting a preview for I thought I’d ask: would you guys be interested in seeing more photography posts here? Or do you like having the separate blog for just photography so you don’t have to see it if you aren’t interested? Just a thought I wanted to throw out there. I would be more than willing to merge the two blogs if you all wanted to see more of my work…so please take a second to vote in this nifty little survey.


Okay…and now…here is the photo I know that several of you having been itching to see. The new do…hairdo that is. Keep in mind that this was taken right after she finished it…no hairspray or anything. And most of it air dried. So when I get to wash it in two days, it will look a lot better. Whatcha think? {oh yeah…that’s my baby sister, in case you didn’t know that.]

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Hope you guys have a GREAT Monday!!

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November 13, 2010

Calling all Guest Bloggers…

As you guys are reading this, I am on my way to do a Photo Shoot with one of my very best bloggy friends Mandi over at Mandi Miller Blog, her husband, and their beautiful little girl Maddy. We’ve been attempting to get together and do their family session for their Christmas cards for about…oh, five or six weeks now and we have finally found a time that works for both of us. {Emphasis on the word “finally” here.}

But, I wanted to make a little announcement while I was thinking about it. I am in need of FIVE Guest Bloggers to do posts for me the week I am in California and the few days before Christmas. These don’t have to be new posts or anything. They can be those “oldie but goodies” you have hidden away in your archives. Or if you really want, they can be new posts. Doesn’t matter to me. I just want to make sure that my readers have some good quality content lined up to keep them occupied while I’m away. I’ll be popping in to read and comment and probably write up a post or two. But let’s face it…my husband has been gone for 8 months. I’m most likely going to be occupied.

And Little Man has been without his daddy for far too long, so there is going to be need for lots and lots of family time.

So if you are interested, please, please, please send me an email at mrsckirkland (at) gmail (dot) com with the words Guest Blog in the subject line. I’ll need the posts by December 11 so that I can get the scheduled.

Hope you guys have a great, great Saturday! I’m going to get my photography on.  Smile

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November 12, 2010

Stream of Consciousness

I’m having a “Girl’s Day” with my baby sister on Sunday. We’re having lunch. I’m going to get my hair done. Then heading to the movies. Probably for coffee…I’m really excited. I haven’t had a serious girls day in a long, long time. And we are due for a sister day. Especially considering that our move is looming. In exactly two months we’ll be on our way to Alaska…saying goodbye to Alabama for a while. And I really mean a while. At least a year, most likely two. But I don’t want to talk about that just yet.

I’ve decided to take a deep breath and go for something totally new when I get my hair done Sunday. I’m actually going to brave a body wave. I attempted one back years and years and years ago. I think I was in 7th grade the last time I tried it and the lady that did it totally misunderstood me and gave me a perm instead. I looked I had a really bad 70’s type hairdo going on…something similar to this:

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Oh yeah. And it was really that scary. Horrible. ::shudder:: Needless to say that this go around I’ve found a fabulous girl that does my hair and she’s making big promises to do it like I want it. And that she won’t mess it up. Gulp. We shall see. I’m wanting something new for my trip to Cali and I always like my hair curled when I actually take the time to fix it. I figured it would be easier to pay someone to get it to stay that way for a while.

I am giddy with excitement at the fact that I get to see my husband in 33 Days. Hope you don’t mind hearing me say things along those lines, because for the next few weeks, almost every post will probably mention that fact. Oh well. After eight months of separation, I guess I’m entitled. I seriously don’t know how some military wives do 12 and 18 month deployments year after year. You ladies, YOU are the heroes.

I guess, though, that you just learn to adapt. I know that I have. I hate having my husband gone, but it’s one of those things that just becomes sort of routine. You get accustomed to them not being there; you learn how to single parent; you readapt and you just do it. Because you have to. And because it’s your job. Eight months has been a long time, but honestly, at this point, my mentality is “what’s a few more?”

NOT saying that I’m not ready for my husband to come home or anything like that. Because I would have loved to have had him back home yesterday…or 8 months ago. Haha. But truthfully, my concept is that I've been without him this long, so another few months or weeks wouldn’t really make that much of a difference. I’m just overjoyed that he’ll be home for Christmas and New Years. Beyond thrilled. And now I’m reaching that point in our time line where I can start getting excited about the countdown. Start planning my outfits and what I’m going to wear when I see him again…all that girly stuff.

I’m getting a mani/pedi, eyebrow wax, and a new outfit for my arrival. I love any excuse to shop. Unfortunately though, what I buy is pretty much limited by the fact that I have buy things that I can wear in Alaska. And cute little dresses won’t really be of much use there.

Did I mention that we’ll probably be heading straight down to Florida the Sunday after we get back from California? I *think* they are coming to load our storage the 20th of December. Which means that we are even more limited on what we can get Little Man for Christmas. I’m a tiny bit bummed about that. Not that we were planning to buy him anything really, really big right now because we are moving. But that just limits our selection even more. We are planning to get him a tricycle when we move. And a puppy is high up on my his priority list, as well. So a stocking full of cars, a portable DVD player and amble airline entertainment items are on the shopping list this year. So anyone with any cute ideas for things we could get him, please feel free to send those my way.

Hope you guys enjoyed Veterans Day yesterday! Here’s to a FABULOUS weekend!

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November 11, 2010

Coffee & Biscotti

TeaPartyButton-1Today I’m linking up for the first time with my beautiful bloggy friend Jhen over at From Here to Eternity. I’ve intended to link up several times before and just haven’t slowed down long enough to write out a post. But today…today I’m joining in. Because at this point, I could really use some tea and crumpets {or how about Coffee and biscotti??} with some great friends.

If we were meeting today for tea, I would most likely show up with either a stain on my shirt or a cheerio in my hair. Because it’s been that way for the past two weeks. All of the moving stuff has me stressed and high-strung. I would most likely flop down in my chair, extremely un-lady like, with a big huff and a “Hey!! How are YOU this morning?” 

I would probably complain about the fact that the weather was beautifully cold this past weekend…and now it’s back up to 80 degrees. That’s Alabama for you.

I’d be drinking a White Mocha and munching on that Chocolately Almond Biscotti that I am so decadently in love with. I’d tell you about the constant runs back and forth to my mother-in-laws office I’ve had this week…attempting to get paperwork faxed from here to California and from here to Anchorage. And then I’d tell you how much I hate fax machines…because they seem to hate me as well. I’d tell you that I spent a grand total of 10 hours this past week in doctors offices; and an additional 8 hours {probably…though, I may be exaggerating} filling out paperwork. I’d tell you that I was totally and completely stoked at the fact that it is only 34 days until I lay eyes (and hands…ahem) on my husband again. Winking smile

I’d tell you that I’m beyond stressed out with our attempts to find a new car and figure out when and where we are going to ship it from. If we even HAVE to ship it…considering I’m looking for cars in Alaska as well. I’d tell you that they are most likely going to want to pack up our HHG’s* {house hold goods-another military term} the 20th of December. And then I’d throw in the fact that hubby and I won’t be returning from California until the 18th…at 8:00 am. Leaving us to drive to Tampa on Sunday to pack on Monday…the Monday before Christmas no less. Surprised smile

Then I’d tell you that despite the enormous headache that that’s going to be, I’m beyond excited to get moved.

I’d tell you that I’ve spent…oh probably about 4 out of the last 10 days online browsing for furniture, house hold décor, clothes, boots, jackets, mittens, etc. for the move. Before it’s all said and done I will be a master at online shopping. I’d mention that few of the stores around here are even selling sweaters. Much less warm sweaters. Again-that’s Alabama for you. No real reason to sell things that might keep heat close to your body. Then I’d laugh and point out the fact that growing up, I can recall more than 16 Christmases where we wore short sleeve shirts to Christmas Dinner…and at least 5 Christmases where I was in Flip-flips and capris.

I’d get off track about moving a tad bit and tell you that I’m looking forward to leaving some people and their selfish and arrogant ideas about life behind in January. People that, truthfully, I wouldn’t mind ever speaking to again. People who have judged me, judged my husband, judged our parenting abilities…for as long as I can remember. People who spend more time gossiping about everyone they meet than they do worrying with their own faults and issues. Then I’d throw in the honest to goodness truth and say that I’m going to cry like a four year old when I drive away from my parents house the day that we say goodbye…and then cry like a four year old again when we leave my mother-in-laws. I love our families. I really, really do. As much as they drive me crazy…as frustrated as I get with them…we are really blessed.

Then I’d probably get off of my soap box and laugh about addicted to blogging we are…how ridiculous our husbands think it is at times…then, knowing me, I’d brag and ooh and ahh over how in love with my husband I am. And I’d expect to hear YOU say the same about your husband-even though they drive us crazy. I’d chat about Little Man and about how we are slowly teaching him his numbers. He’s grasped numbers one through three. And understands that he is now TWO years old. And that next, he’ll  be three. I’d mention also that when he shows you he’s two, he holds his fingers in an “L” shape…his pointer and his thumb to signify two. I’d laugh about how picky he is about his cars, how he has to have at least one Lightning McQueen with him everywhere he goes, and that he takes them to bed. I’d mention that the teddy bear I bought him at Build-A-Bear on our last trip to Tampa…the one that we bought a Batman costume for and appropriately named Bat Bear…never wears his clothes. He’s not a big fan of him having a secret identity. So instead he drags him all over the house…usually with as many cars as he can hold in one hand, the bear in the other, and his bank-bank {blanket} between his teeth.

I’d give you a giant hug and tell you how much I appreciated the chat and the coffee…because during weeks like these, I need all of the friendly support I can get.

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November 10, 2010

Halloween/Birthday Recap

The week of Halloween was full of pumpkins, fairs, parties and cake

 


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Little Man turned TWO on the 27th, and we had three separate birthday parties for him.

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We had a Skype party with Hubby…which was fun. Little Man showed off all of his new cars, his new beanbag chair, and his dozens of new footballs and trucks

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We had a birthday party with my mother-in-law and some close friends at Olive Garden {the photos of which did not turn out thanks to horrible lighting, a steadily moving child, and no chance of capturing a photo with a shutter speed that low} My parents took him to Chuck-E-Cheese followed by supper at O’Charley. The gifts? A tractor that bounces (which he appropriately coordinates with his PawPaw-who farms and works on John Deere equipment} and a Handy Manny ball pit (that remains in the box because I have no where to put it).

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He went bowling and played ski-ball. And we ended up with nearly 800 tickets by the end of the evening.

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We enjoyed the cooler temperatures, greeted our own small handful of trick-or-treaters and I watched scary movies. And Buzz Lightyear enjoyed some football time in his costume before going out for candy

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All in all, the week went off pretty well. And now we have Thanksgiving on the approach…followed shortly after by my trip to California to bring my husband HOME. Can’t believe how time is flying!

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