Setting the Stage for 2016 – the Free WordPress Theme Twenty Sixteen

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How to Switch to the Free WordPress Theme Twenty Sixteen

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I am not sure when the trend began, but for at least the past six years, WordPress has launched a new free theme each year and has given the theme the name of the year of its launching. Twenty Sixteen is the new kid on the block, and I am trying that theme on a few of my blog sites.

I have always liked graphic designs that have a distinctive black and white flair, and with its broad black frame, Twenty Sixteen speaks to my propensity toward black and white. Oddly, I also like watercolor, which is anything but bold and black and white. At least for now, my main site Jacki Kellum Juxtapositions is using the free theme Sequential, which works well with the watercolor and shades of gray; but I have other sites–especially those that feature tutorials–where I use Twenty Sixteen.

I have created one blog site on which I have pledged to feature a different free WordPress theme every month, for 12 months. I think that it is only fitting to launch the new year 2016, with the free WordPress theme Twenty Sixteen. Join me as I change that site’s theme from Sequential to Twenty Sixteen:

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If you already have a WordPress blog, you can change the theme by going to the top left and clicking on the tab My Sites

Then, click on Themes

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Your current theme will be displayed in the top bar. Type Twenty Sixteen beside the magnifying glass, in the bottom bar. Then, click on the icon with Twenty Sixteen.  You will see the page below:

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Click Try & Customize

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First, I’ll Add My Header Image. Note: Almost every free WordPress theme requires a differently-sized Header Image. Twenty Sixteen needs a Header Image that is AT LEAST 100 pixels wide x 280 pixels tall. I had already prepared my Header Image and had stored it in My Pictures on my computer.  Click on Header Image

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Because my image was saved the correct size, I could merely click Crop Image at the bottom right and move to the next step.

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On the next screen, click Save & Activate.

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You will see a dialog box that invites you to learn more about the features of Twenty Sixteen, or you may merely click Visit Site. 

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From there, you can begin to Customize Twenty Sixteen.

Copyright Jacki Kellum December 31, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tomorrow Is the First Blank Page of a Brand New Book

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Tomorrow is the first blank page of a brand new book that is 365 pages in length. Here’s to the clean slate:

In creative circles, much is said about the scariness of the indomitable white page. Like the rookie who cannot get a job without experience, it is difficult for the blank page to get any momentum without a few marks–or a few words. In fact, the white page can become a dreadful adversary who glares at us–daring us to make that first mark.

I paint and I also write; and in both fields, the blank page has frequently intimidated me. This year, however, I am thrilled that tomorrow, I’ll open a fresh, clean journal that is filled with 365 white pages. I am excited to consider what I can potentially do with a new slate.

Yesterday, I wrote that my New Year’s Resolution is to write blog posts, at least six out of every seven days of the coming new year. Here I often write more than one blog post per day. It is reasonable to expect that by this time next year, I’ll have written 365 blog posts. My blog posts are normally at least 750 words in length. This post has about 700 words, which translates to about 2.5 pages of book text. Even if I write 365 shorter posts this year, I shall have written over 700 book pages, and that thought is exhilarating.

I have written several articles in which I examine my reasons for blogging, and they are numerous. Not long ago, I began to consider another reason for blogging–blogging to book. I have decided to join the throngs of writers who are using their blogs as instruments to break the creating of their new books into the small, executable tasks of writing it one post at a time. Once the articles are written, the blog becomes the vessel for holding the books in progress. The blogger will ultimately collate the posts into book form. This trend is referred to as Blogging to Book.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

While it might be scary to consider sitting down to write an entire book, from start to finish, the task of writing a blog post is not at all scary. To write in a blog, you do not need to be a creative writer. You might just post some photos and a few words of description, and be done. Nothing flowery is needed.

Our blogs do not demand of us to be Jane Austen. They merely ask that we show up and share something. Invariably, once we get started, more ideas will follow. In posting something–anything–we defeat our white pages, and after we have written or painted one thing, new ideas will follow. I promise that–they always do.

Creating works like bellows. When we emit what is readily available to us–what is there at the tip, ready to flood outward–we create a temporary void, a space that is ready to be filled again. As we pull the bellows, more is drawn into the bag–more is ready to be pushed outward again. In emptying ourselves, we pull more and more from within ourselves and subsequently allow things that are deeper and deeper within to surface. As we begin to create, we do allow our ideas to come out of the caverns where they are hiding. We create to unveil the creation.

Imagine it: Our books and our paintings are already inside us. We simply have to find a way to let them out–to let them run and play. The thought of that is thrilling.

If, over the coming year, I do write 6 out of every 7 days, I’ll no doubt discover a whole new world that is cloaked somewhere deep inside myself. I will have primed my pump, and the ideas will be flowing. Something will emerge from me that was waiting to be tapped.

As I look at the massive portfolio of white pages that lies ahead of me during 2016, I am not intimidated at all. I cannot wait to begin writing my new book. Join me!

Bring it on, 2016. Let the games begin!

Brand New You, Effective Tomorrow

What My 2015 WordPress Stats Say about My Blogging – Things I’ll Do Differently in 2016

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When you look at the above image, it is obvious that for nine months, I did not post anything at all on this blog site Jacki Kellum Juxtapositions, but when I returned, I came back with a vengeance. I have posted almost every day since I began blogging again on October 2, 2015. In spite of my long absence, my annual stats report is fairly favorable as follows:

“The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

“There were 779 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 379 MB. That’s about 2 pictures per day.

“The busiest day of the year was October 18th with 342 views. The most popular post that day was My Dad Was the Wizard of Oz.”

Hard Truths

When I read my report, I was pleased by what I had accomplished, but I had to accept the fact that had I not wasted nine full months, my statistics might have been stupendous. More importantly, I would no doubt be much closer than I am to many of my creative goals.

My Number 1 New Year’s Resolution for 2016

My Number 1 New Year’s Resolution for 2016 is to post at least one article six out of every seven days.

I have several goals that fall beneath that main challenge, and I can already see that my other goals do not qualify as resolutions. For instance, I want to focus better in the following three areas:

  1. I want to illustrate and submit at least one picture book for publication this year.
  2. I want to finish writing my memoir and submit it for publication this year.
  3. I want to paint–just paint–at least one day per week.

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I had initially determined that I would assign definite work tasks to each day–hoping to better assure that I split my creative time equally. I had decided to begin that program on January 1, 2016, but I can already see that my schedule demands a bit of flexibility.

I see no advantage in establishing resolutions for things that I cannot accomplish, but I should be able to complete at least one blog post every six days out of seven, and I can only imagine how much better my stats report will be for 2016 than it was for 2015. Because my blog posts are essentially what will become my picture books and my memoir, in posting every day, I’ll better assure that I accomplish my other goals, which are the things that I actually hope to accomplish by sticking with my New Year’s Resolution.

 

 

 

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

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“Fear will steal your aliveness–make your courage bigger than your fear.” – Barbara de Angelis

“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” – Walt Kelly and Pogo

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Facing Fear
by Jacki Kellum

I turned around the corner, and no one else was in sight.
On a long, dark path that led toward a quivering light,
I was alone.

I inched closer, and I heard the sound of the crackling leaves
That were cackling beneath my feet.

When I got there, I could feel the flames flickering from the slits
That  seemed to open into the caverns of hell.

The fiery eyes fixed upon me, daring me to take another step.
A band of jagged stakes s
tretched across his face,
And the smell of charred pumpkin flesh wafted from within.

I opened the door, and my worst fear was confirmed:

Unlike the Owl and the Pussy Cat I had arrived,
Without any money and without any honey.

It was clear now:
I would not dance by the light of the moon,
The moon, the moon, the moon, the moon
— too soon!

Christmas Day, I pried myself from the security of my home and forced myself to go to my friend and neighbor’s house–to alter things with a bit of Christmas Cheer. When I am finally out among people, it is not apparent, but Fear prevents me from doing many things. Fear often freezes my painting hands; it often edits my words completely off the page; and it often convinces me to stay at my house, alone.

Several years ago, I left my home in the South and moved to the East Coast–not far from New York City and Philadelphia. When I first moved here, the traffic traumatized me.

I never shall forget the absolute panic attack that I suffered the first time that I drove across the Walt Whitman Bridge that leads into Philadelphia. I am one of the few silly people who is afraid of escalators. It takes me several seconds to gather courage enough to get on an ever-circling, potentially swallowing fan belt that looks like the jaws of death to me. Imagine how I felt when I first saw the Walt Whitman Bridge, which seemed to be the ultimate escalator.

The Walt Whitman stretches high above the Delaware River, and the shore around the Delaware there is totally packed with boats and buildings. Until I began to ascend the Walt Whitman bridge, I had never, in my collective life, seen as many buildings. The cars were jammed on both sides and in front and back of me. I couldn’t shift lanes, and I didn’t have any idea what I would do next–should I survive the passage across. I was mortified that one of those too-close cars would nudge me off the bridge and that my car, my son, my dog, and I would spiral into the abyss that I saw below. I am not exaggerating when I say that I had a full-blown panic attack, and I am not sure how I managed to get across the Walt Whitman that day.

For a few years after I moved here, I went to Philadelphia about once a month. I eventually became relatively comfortable with that journey, but New York City–hey, that is another matter entirely.

About two years after we moved here, my son chose to attend a camp on Broadway, in New York City. The campers would stay in a hotel in New Jersey, and would be bussed back and forth to NYC. I merely had to get my son to North Jersey, to a suburb of New York City. Honestly, I am not sure that this was much less congested than the actual city, but I convinced myself that it was.

Again, I had no idea where I was going. I got lost a few times, and then I had to cross the Raritan Bridge in Northern New Jersey. That bridge has a bazillion lanes, and all of them are jammed with cars. Again, I began to panic, but I managed to deliver my son to his hotel destination in New Jersey; and then, it was time to find my way home again.

I asked for directions, and I did my best to shuffle toward South Jersey–and away from the horrific traffic in the North. Things did not look familiar. The cars began to crawl, and everyone seemed to move closer together. It seemed that we were being sucked into some sort of narrow vortex that required everyone’s driving inches away from each other. Suddenly, I saw a toll booth and just beyond that, there was a tunnel, which looked to me like the mouth of a whale–the mouth of a shark-like whale, which had enormous teeth. I sensed that something was wrong.

I pulled up to the toll booth attendant and with terror in my voice and eyes [and with my distinctive Southern drawl. I choked out the words, “Is this the Garden State Parkway going South to the Atlantic City Area?”

The attendant’s eyes widened, and a slow grin came across her face, “Oh, honey, this is the Holland Tunnel. You are about to drive into New York City.”

She might as well have said that she was the Guard at the Gates of Hell. Tears welled into my eyes, and I begged her, “Please help me. Please don’t make me drive into New York City.”

Something unprecedented happened that day. She stopped the traffic and helped me get back around and heading into the right direction. I promise you. That just doesn’t happen in the New York City area. Even more of a miracle, she did not charge me for having driven on her toll highway. She merely wiped my slate clean and gestured me to drive away. Still wincing the tears, I thanked her saying, “I cannot tell you how much you have helped me. I am from Mississippi. We have cows–not cars.”

The lady chuckled, and I was on my way.

Don’t get me wrong. I am still afraid to drive into New York City. I have been there many times now–but on tour buses. Overall, the traffic in this area does terrify me the way that it once did; and any time that a person can conquer one of his fears, he is allowed to grow–to expand.

Fear of driving in cities is understandable, but that is not my only fear. Although I present myself as being very comfortable around people–a veritable social butterfly–the over-arching cheerleader–I am socially challenged; and Fear has been a terrible companion for my creative selves.

If Fear had its way with me, I would live UNDER my bed–only tiptoeing out for food and bathroom breaks. At times, Fear becomes ominous enough that I feel it, deep inside my chest and throat. On other occasions, it is simply there–always weighing in on every choice that I make. My anxiety about growing older and being impoverished and alone is gripping.

When I review my life objectively, I can honestly say that there are many frightening things going on around me. My family is at war. I live in a place that is exorbitantly expensive, and the economy here has failed. I stand to lose well over $100,000 of actual money that I have paid into my house [not just what I had hoped to earn, due to time]. My house was my primary investment. As I said, there are valid reasons for much of my sense of dread, but in some ways [i.e. socially and creatively speaking], my anxieties are less valid.

At this point, I have no wise antidotes for fear. Sometimes it helps to merely understand it and to simply DO, in spite of yourself and your self’s Fear.

Copyright Jacki Kellum December 28, 2015

Barbara de Angelis wrote an excellent treatise on Fear;

“Imagine that you had a person in your life who followed you around twenty-four hours a day, filling you with anxiety, destroying your confidence, and discouraging you from doing the things that you wanted to do. Every time you were about to make a change or take a risk, the person would say, ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you. What if you fail? What if you get hurt? All kinds of things might happen if you go in that direction.’ Imagine that before each conversation you had with friends, family, or loved ones, the person would pull you aside and caution you. ‘If you open up, you might get rejected. Watch what you say! Don’t trust anyone! . . .

Fear is like an emotional roommate that lives with you day and night.

“It’s your fear. Fear is like an emotional roommate that lives with you day and night. It talks to you, manipulates you, and ties to convince you to avoid doing or expressing anything that may cause you any kind of discomfort or involve any sort of risk.. It says, ‘You can’t’ . . . and ‘You shouldn’t.,’ and it eats away at your confidence and your self-esteem. It tells you not to act, not to reach out, not to try, not to trust, not to move. It steals the life right out from under you. . . .

Fear is one of your most powerful inner enemies. It is a force that can sabotage your happiness.

“Fear is one of your most powerful inner enemies. It is a force that can sabotage your happiness. How does fear do that? It keeps you stuck in what’s not working. It prevents you from growing. It keeps separation between you and other people. It talks you out of your dreams. It keeps you stagnant, frozen, unable to become all you were meant to be. . . .

.” – Barbara de Angelis – Se“It is fear that keeps us standing on the cliff when we know that we need to leap to the other side. But fear does more than just hold you back–it steals your aliveness, your passion, your freedom by shutting down your heart. . . .The extent to which you allow fear to control your life is the extent to which you are living as a prisoner. Secrets About Life Every Woman Should Know, [pgs. 151-53]

Fearless Fantasies

My Friend, Who Has Nominated Me for the Sunshine Blogger Award, Asked to Know 7 Things About Me

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From Waking Up the Sun, A Jacki Kellum Picture Book Manuscript

On a Gray and Rainy Day, A Fellow Blogger Has Sent Me a Bit of the Sun

Several times, I have tried to list the reasons that blogging is a good thing to do.  Allow me to add something else: Blog to find a person or two who is out there and who will “get” the things you write. For those of us who tend to be introspective and philosophical, not many fall into that group. Our childhood friends, our college friends, our facebook friends, and our neighbors fill aan important part of our lives, but they often simply do not think the way that we do. When that is case, we many need to search the world wide web to find an interested ear. When I began writing again [only 2 months ago], I had no idea that this time would be different.

When I began writing again [only 2 months ago], I bumped into a WordPress Friend, who does seem to understand what I try to say through my writing. He reads my posts; he comments on them, and he even nominates me for awards. That probably doesn’t sound too terribly important, but the older that I become and the more solitary my life is, it truly is important.

Today, Christopher Couch nominated me for the Dragon’s Loyalty Blogger Award Here

Sunshine Blogger Award

Not long ago, Christopher nominated me for the Sunshine Award Here

A bit before that, Christopher nominated me for the Liebster Award Here

In October, when I jumped back into my blog writing, I undertook several mammoth tasks. I have not taken the time to extend to other people the kind of attention that Christopher has extended to me. I am not sure that I deserve his award nominations.

In order to fully earn my awards, I need to be a better WordPress Reader, and I need to pass my torches onward. Perhaps, that is a good New Year’s Resolution.

Today, I’ll try to accomplish one task that is necessary for earning my distinction. I’ll endeavor to name 7 things that other people might find interesting.

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From Waking Up the Sun, A Jacki Kellum Picture Book Manuscript
that I Need to Submit to a Publisher
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Thirteen years ago, my house in Mississippi burned and I lost many things. At the time, I had begun writing and illustrating picture books. I lost all of my art and most of my writing in the fire. I need to get back to my goal of writing and illustrating for children.

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Although I don’t do either regularly enough, I am both a writer and a painter.

I am the quintessential Romanticist Here 

In one of my master’s degree programs, I wrote my thesis about William Blake, who was an English Romanticist who both painted and wrote. For over half a century, Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience have been guiding lights for me. Like Blake, I admire the purity of the child’s imagination.

I have taught art for almost half a century. While teaching art in a Mississippi school, I was named National Teacher of the Year. I love the art of very young children Here

Although I have only recently moved to the East Coast and while I was a young child in the rural, cotton-growing region of Southeast Missouri, I lived most of my life in Mississippi. Here

Until two months ago, I never tried writing poetry. Now, I compare it to painting in watercolor. I love the way that when I write a good poem, I am able to capture, in an almost mystical way, the essence of living. Here

 

 

 

 

 

I Wake Up, Raring to Go – Jacki Kellum Work Habits

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I wake up, raring to go; but generally speaking, as the day wears on, my productivity wanes.

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Sometimes, a nap can recharge my batteries, but generally speaking, I do my best work when I am fresh, and after some magically wonderful periods of sleep, the brownies seem to visit my brain. They brush out some particularly stubborn cobwebs and leave fairy dust in their places.

I have written several things about how waking from sleep affects me. In fact, yesterday morning, I awoke in one of my magical states and wrote the following:

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On Silver Sheets, I Sail
by Jacki Kellum

Just before I open my eyes
I float along the misty skies.

I reach, I feel the soft, white hair
and fairy wings that flutter there.

I listen, I hear the slumber song,
The angel band that plays along

My dreams are in my pillow-pail.
On silver sheets, I sail.

Copyright Jacki Kellum December 16, 2015

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One afternoon, I awoke from a nap and had a similar experience:

The Long, Autumn Nap
by Jacki Kellum

I just took a nap for my mind, to see,
For flickering fae breath to come set me free.
Visions of sugarplums visited me
Singing a soft, silver song.

I’m in a place where I wanted to be,
Moonbeams and crystal shards light up the sea
Soft webs and angel hair strung from a flea
Toy-tug my leaf-boat along.

Copyright Jacki Kellum October 11, 2015

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I wrote the above during the early evening, after a long nap. I wrote the following in the middle of the night after my dog awoke me. In my opinion, the following is one of the best things that I have written:

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Full, But Hazy Autumn Moon
by Jacki Kellum 

Tonight, the moon is perched high in the sky, directly above the garden–just outside my back door.

Tonight, when I first got downstairs and looked out the sunroom window, my first thought was that it must be the moments just before dawn.

Everything around was fairly brightly lit and the plants that were still brave enough to have continued blooming, after the cool, October air had tucked their neighbors into bed, had a soft, muted, and faintly-colored glow.

As I looked around, I thought: Tonight, the moonlight is bright, but this is not one of those hot-light nights like the ones when I used to walk home from church, well after sunset, and the hum of the locusts was so loud that the air seemed to rattle along.

And tonight is not one of those nights when ladies in the church would beat around their faces with cardboard fans that had Jesus painted on them, flapping about their heads like hummingbird wings.

Yes, Lord, tonight’s moonlight is not like that when I used to go to the tent revivals with my grandmother and stand up and sit down, singing Shall We Gather at the River, beneath the bare light bulbs that were strung across the top of the tent and dangled.

Tonight’s light is not like that of the summer nights when the neighborhood children and I would dart about the yard, playing tag and hide and seek,  running until the sweat could be wrung from our clothes. On those nights, nothing brought more relief than crescents of ice, cold watermelon; homemade ice cream; and tart lemonade poured from large, sweaty glass jars, into rainbow-colored glasses that clinked when they met my teeth. The glasses tasted like aluminum.

No, tonight there is no hot, blaring, bugle-like, jazz-singing summer moon.

Tonight, there is a soft, hazy autumn moon–a cornstarch moon–kissed by honey, hanging in the dark.

Copyright Jacki Kellum October 28, 2015

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When I wrote the poems above, I was involved in a poetry class. I am convinced that in sleep, I get what I pay for. If I go to sleep with magic on my mind, Visions of Sugarplums Dance in My Head, and sleep sprinkles Pixie Dust on me. If I go to sleep upset, the gremlins have a field day, and I awaken not just tired, but exhausted.

When I am emotionally exhausted, I cannot write or paint–no matter what time it is. Otherwise, I do my best work immediately after I awake.

 

Because the Night

My Online Dating Fiasco – Jacki Kellum Memoir

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Being older than much of what has developed through technology, I well remember the days before several of the world’s advances, and I have vivid memories about when some of those improvements first became part of my life.

For instance, when I was a young child, television shows were filmed in black and white. I remember when some of my peers got their first color television sets and began talking about Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. You can imagine the disappointment of watching that show in black and white, but eventually, my family got its first color television set, too. My life was never the same.

I remember when other people began buying television sets as wide as their walls. As I continued to narrow my viewing experience toward my 19″ set, I didn’t believe that I personally would outgrow my smaller screen, but I did.  Now, I cannot imagine having a television that is smaller than 50″ wide.

I also recall the time before microwaves, cell phones, texting, and the time before households were routinely equipped with computers. The boy who would become my son-in-law provided my youngest son and me  with our first computer.  I remember playing Snood for almost 3 days straight.

When we got our first computer, I had recently gotten divorced, and like many divorcees, I had no idea how to meet new romantic interests. My children encouraged me to try to meet people in chat rooms, and I wasted too many hours on that diversion. Not long afterward, I stumbled into Match.com.  The concept of online dating was just beginning to immerge. I had several memorable Match.com dates. Unfortunately, I only remember the unpleasant experiences. Allow me to tell you about one of my craziest online dates.

After checking the appropriate boxes and writing my bio about 500 times, I began filtering through the available candidates for dating. I received several emails, and I made plans to meet a gentleman at a restaurant that was not too terribly far away. We drank a glass of wine and ate dinner. Eventually, the conversation focused on our sharing where we lived.

Although my search range was toward men who lived within a radius that was up to 100 miles away from me, this chap lived only 3 houses down my street. After that news broke, both of us felt a little bit uncomfortable. No doubt, we both were expecting to hide a bit longer behind the curtain of online anonymity, but in reality, this match was up close and way too personal for that.

When I was newly divorced, dating was more complicated for me than it was for some. At home, I had two children who were becoming young teens, and I also had a new baby. My ex-husband left on my 40th birthday, the day that my youngest child became 3-months-old. There simply did not seem to be a group of men who were looking for older, middle-aged women who lived in a shoe and had 2 teens and a baby.

My final online date was after I had a brief relationship with a guy who had never married before. After a couple of months of dating, he bared his chest and said that he really did like me but that he simply did not like kids. He told me that if “we” were to move forward, I would have to make a choice–my kids or him. I told him that I had already made that choice and showed him the door. After that, I closed my Match.com account and decided to be happy, smelling the little roses that were already planted at my door.

 

Third Rate Romance

The Benefits of Being Myself – Jacki Kellum

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For too many years, I found myself trapped between two walls–the wall of a bad marriage and the wall of “what people think.” I cannot take full credit for the ways that I have climbed out of that space–that space of being trapped between two walls–but I do prefer life out here on the fringes to that being trapped between two walls.

A quarter of a century ago, my ex-husband divorced me and while getting over that rejection and my fear of surviving on my own was long-coming, I finally did adjust. Now, I can honestly say that having no mate at all is much better than those years that I was caught in a bad marriage.

Even before my marriage fell apart, I nearly died in a car accident. My entire body was scarred and I lost most of my teeth. After that, regardless of how hard I tried, I could never look “perfect” again. My physical image was broken. Gradually, I accepted that fact and it has also been nice to have been freed from the web of trying to be prettier than I am.

Over time, I have eliminated other sticky webs that I had wrapped around myself–I was especially happy to toss the webs of trying to please everyone but me.

I am not quite sure what it is about public opinion that totally whips some of us into an existence of “going through the motions.” When we are completely ensnared, we even worry about the opinions of people that we do not even like. What a waste. I have taken a discerning look around myself, and my main objective now is to do the things that seem authentic to me.

My children are grown and out of the house. I live alone. Certainly, I will not live too terribly much longer. My main objective for the rest of my life is to do the things that I feel are “right” for me.

One of my guilty pleasures is that I waste very little time on housework. People rarely come into my home and my house needs a great amount of cosmetic repair. Why should I spend the time that I could be writing or painting or gardening, cleaning a house that no one will see?  In fact, why should I waste my life cleaning, even if other people will see my house? I am not my house. Rather, I AM my writing and my painting and my gardening. I have opted to spend time on me and not my house.

During the months of April or May, I begin working in my garden. Anyone who watches what I do in my garden will be assured that I am not a lazy person. I move tons of dirt–one shovel at a time. I dig out and move massive bushes. I lift heavy lumber and build arbors and fences that have almost entirely enclosed my yard. During the garden season, I normally work in my yard 8 to 12 hours a day. Again, I am not lazy. I have merely opted to exert my energy in a non-traditional way. The world wants me to work inside, cleaning my house. I want to work outside. I win.

Now that the garden season is over, I spend the same 8 to 18 hours a day, propped up in my bed–laptop on lap–writing–or doing computer art. My cluttered room screams at me about that choice, but I allow it to scream. Upstairs, I do just enough housework to keep my clothes and my bed linens clean, and I am satisfied. I have determined that no one else gets a vote–not even my room. No one else makes my house payment or pays my taxes and for my utilities. That responsibility is mine. I pay for my house. I pay for my room, and I paid for my bed, it is my choice to write in my bed.

One of the worst of our walls is that which we build around ourselves–it is the wall that is created when we do what we think people expect us to do–even when doing so defies our own chances of being happy. I have given up on that kind of game-playing.

Don’t get me wrong. I do still feel guilty at times. I do still worry a bit about what other people think.

But here is the difference: I no longer allow other people’s obsessions to determine the way that I live my life.
Hate to Love

The Agony & Ecstasy of Being Creative

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Wild Arnica & Lupine Painted in Watercolor
on Location in Alaska by Jacki Kellum

Many years ago, I saw a movie about Michelangelo. The name of the movie was The Agony & the Ecstasy. Honestly, I remember very little about the movie, but because I find the thesis that some things about life can be both very, very good and  bad, too, I often recall the title of the movie.  There is an Agony and Ecstasy quality about being creative.

Being creative is like being a sane schizophrenic. That may be why many of the artists of the past, like Van Gogh, were thought to be mad. When an artist’s work is going well, his entire life view is exalted, but when a painting does not work out or when the words won’t flow, the creative spirit dips.

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Creativity is linked to the ephemeral intuition. In fact, when an artist is at his best, he does not do his work at all, his intuition does it. In the above quote, Michelangelo is saying that in sculpting, a striation or a marking in the marble seemed to beckon him to make a cut here or another there and that by merely following that inner voice or guide, he arrived at  his sculpture. In following an inner voice, the artist is giving rein to his intuition. The artist takes a back seat, and his intuition drives the car.

“I don’t know! I don’t know why I did it, I don’t know why I enjoyed it, and I don’t know why I’ll do it again!” –    Bart Simpson

Often, we don’t know why we do what we do in making art.  In creating art, something that leads the eyes and urges the hand to move speaks to the artist.  Each person has a unique voice coaching him, and as he listens to his own coach–his own set of directives–the artist begins a journey along a set of stepping stones that become a work of art and ultimately become an individual artist’s style.

I have written several posts about the intuition. It fascinates me.

“In creating art, something speaks to the artist and that something should be allowed to lead the way. By listening to that something–that inner voice–one is able to distil one’s own vision–or style.” – Jacki Kellum

“Knowing why one does this or that while creating is not important–just doing is the key to becoming.  Making art is an intuitive response.  An essential key in learning to paint is learning to hear the voice of your inner artist and allowing that voice to lead the way.”  – Jacki Kellum

“The best news is that, as we calm down and begin to hear our intuitions speak, we enter a meditative-like zone.  It is within this zone that the healing power of art is unleashed.” – Jacki Kellum

All of the above speaks about the high side of the intuition. This is where the Ecstasy of being creative prevails. Riding one’s intuition is like sky-diving. Your inner airplane takes you to one of the highest places within yourself and then, you jump.

Flipping and floating, you begin to cascade downward, and ultimately, you hit the ground. BAM! The intuition ride is over. The high is gone, the idea is no longer fresh and exciting; yet, the work is often incomplete. In writing, this is the time for editing and re-writing. For artists, this is the time for reworking over and over again, and the re-dos  must be done without the jet-propelled intuition to urge them forward. The Agony of Art sets in.

I am blessed with an inordinate amount of creativity, and much of what people see of me is produced while jumping from one of my flights of fantasy. On the flip side, I am terrible at seeing things through. When the magic of a project is gone, I am gone, too. I am off, seeking another place to soar–another fresh idea–another high.

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Fortunately, I do realize that I am bad about dropping the ball. Just yesterday, I created a work week schedule for myself. Here The truth be known, however, I have created these schedules before. Unfortunately, the devil has always gotten the best of me, and I do not stick to my guns. Perhaps 2016 will be better. I am hoping that this will be the year that I can grab the bear by the horns and wrestle him down. Hopefully, this will be the year that I’ll actually finish a few things.

More quotes about intuition:

“For it is intuition that improves the world, not just following a trodden path of thought.” – Albert Einstein

“Intuition is the father of new knowledge, while empiricism is nothing but an accumulation of old knowledge. Intuition, not intellect, is the ‘open sesame’ of yourself.” – Einstein

 

“Indeed, it is not intellect, but intuition which advances humanity. Intuition tells man his purpose in this life.” – Einstein

 

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination.  Imagination is more important than knowledge.  Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” – Albert Einstein

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Introducing Theme Thursdays – The Days Designated to Talking About a Free WordPress Theme

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On Monday, I began outlining my blogging goals for 2016. One of those goals is to have several weekly features. One of those features is Theme Thursdays. It is not quite 2016, but I am moving forward with that plan today, as I begin to discuss the Free WordPress Theme Sequential.

Sequential is the theme that I am currently using for several of my WordPress blogs. It is the theme that I am using for this blog–Jacki Kellum: Juxtapositions.

I like Sequential’s Wide, Spacious Viewing Area.
In the image below, the left 2/3 is the viewing area and the right 1/3 is the widget sidebar. The widget area is set against a gray background.

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In a later post, I’ll show how to create, post, and link Image Widgets in Sequential. I primarily use Image Widgets as a type of Menu, linking readers to my pertinent sites elsewhere. You could also use them as a menu linking to pages within the site. The Image Widgets could serve as advertisements or as a place for something that is merely decorative.

In the above image, the very top Image Widget is not linked. I felt as though something decorative needed to be placed above the Follow Blog Widget, and I made a little Image Widget to serve that purpose. It is not linked and does not take you anywhere. It is simply decoration that improves the graphic design of the upper widget area.

Image Widgets for Sequential can be 300 pixels wide. For other blog themes, the widgets might be much smaller and less showy or less easy to read.

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Sequential’s Wide Screen provides an adequate reading area. Notice how, even when the text is long, there is ample room for the words to fit comfortably. This improves readability.

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Sequential is a Responsive Theme. In my opinion, having a Responsive Theme is necessary. A Responsive Theme looks good on any viewing device. It auto-formats to work well on differently sized screens.

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In seeking a new, free theme, I tried several formats. I decided that for my blog to work well, I need the following and Sequential provides:

  • I need a top menu area. Believe it or not, some themes do not have a top menu readily available.
  • I also wanted a sidebar, and that seems to be less available now, too.
  • I like the Header area on Sequential. I did add my own image, and I opted for the gray background and not the blue. The blue was the default background.
  • I need a Responsive theme that will adjust to fit the screens on which my blog is being viewed. I do not believe that I’ll ever use another theme that is not responsive. Unresponsive themes dissect your images and become impossible to read on cell phones.
  • Because I am a visual person and because my images are an essential part of the way that I make my blog posts appealing, I like for searchers to see the image, as they scroll through a line of posts.
  •  Before I found Sequential, I spent a day in Gateway’s camp. Gateway also has the wide, spacious, responsive format, but when you open a site in Gateway, you see no post images at all–you only see the titles of the blog posts. I am firmly convinced that the majority of readers scan sites via images, and when the images do not show, that potential is eliminated.
  • I like my text to be black and for it to be read on a white background. The text on Sequential is gray, but the situation is better than it was on Gateway, where the grayed text is displayed on a gray background. It was hardly readable.
  • This is really getting down to brass tacks, but I like that the Edit button on Sequential is at the top of the post and EASY for ME to find. I almost never found the Edit button on Gateway, and I hate to scroll to the bottom of the post, every time that I want to add a comma.

I have created 4 posts telling how to begin to launch a WordPress blog in Sequential.

How to Set Up a WordPress Blog and Choose the Free Theme Sequential Here

How to Begin to Customize Sequential and How to Change a Free WordPress Blog’s Title Here

How to Change the Color Scheme of the Free WordPress Blog Theme Sequential Here

How to Add a Header to the Free WordPress Theme Sequential Here

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Next week, on Theme Thursdays, I’ll provide you with more detailed information about setting up Sequential and about understanding its features.

 

 

 

Theme Thursdays is part of my 12-Month WordPress Pro resolution to introduce a different WordPress Theme each month, for 12 months. Theme Thursdays will be a weekly Preview of Coming Attractions for the theme I’ll showcase the following month on 12-Month WordPress Pr.

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The theme for January 2016 is Sequential, and by January 1, I’ll have a full set of Sequential tutorials available on 12-Month WordPress Pro Here

In January, I’ll begin building another theme site for February. Again, I am trying to work one month ahead of a theme’s launch date.

 

Copyright Jacki Kellum December 10, 2015