Cleaning up my blog cupboard, or why some of us should use idiot guides.

After three hours of working on my blog site, I asked, "What level of hell is this?"
After three hours of working on my blog site, I asked, “What level of hell is this?”

I have a New Year’s Day tradition. Each January 1st I decide to clean out a cupboard; usually my pantry or my spice cupboard, looking for expired dates and unused items. One year, feeling very ambitious, I pulled out all of my plastic ware in order to match the bowls with the lids. Much like disappearing socks, my lids tend to wander to parts unknown. This idea was deceptively easy, yet I spent almost an entire frustrating morning trying to figure out where half of my bowls came from and why they hadn’t bothered to invade my homes with their lids. Rude behavior indeed.

This year would be no different. I wanted to start the new year with clean cupboards yet now that I am child free and don’t bother stocking up like a paranoid prepper, I wasn’t sure which of my already clean and organized cupboards actually needed my attention. If not them, what would be my first “clean up” of 2016?

I’ve already written about how I clean up my TBR bookshelves and get rid of any book that has sat alone for two years. This will come this afternoon, and I am a little sad to report that yes, some books will be removed from lack of attention. So no, this yearly project will have to wait. Tradition, you know!

It hit me last night that I’ve been putting off another deceptively simple project; it has been quite some time since I have cleaned up my blog and pages. As much as I liked my theme, it was limiting and afforded me little opportunity for any real change. This sounded like the right (simple) project to start 2016 with. Those of you who know about WordPress will laugh or groan at my naivety.

Armed with little more than a desire for change and the courage to hit “apply” I set out to reorganize and update my blog. At 5:30am (way too early for sane people) I started reading “helpful” articles on WordPress themes. One stated that it is very easy to organize blog posts into different pages. This I thought was just the thing I needed; I wanted to house my posts into pages, so that all of my Shakespeare posts could be readily available by clicking on the “Shakespeare” page. It turns out I would have been better off trying to re-write his plays. I may have had better luck.

The first thing I had to do was pick a new theme. As I mentioned earlier, mine was old and limited. After numerous previews of different themes, I picked WordPress’s 2016 or as they call it. “Twenty Sixteen”. I liked the color scheme and the ability to have a featured image for each page. I took a deep breath and hit “Apply”.

I was aware I would have to play with the settings or “widgets” as they are known in the blogging world. What surprised me was the limited way in which I could use and set them. My older theme allowed for a more fluid setting, while this new theme only allows users to set them in one sidebar. It took about an hour of playing to make it look right, and about another half hour to figure out how to move my pages list up on the header.

The theme’s description says, “It’s intuitively easy to use” yet here I was, randomly pushing buttons like the preverbal monkey hammering out Shakespeare. Would it take me a thousand years to figure out how to get my blog to look right and more importantly, did I have enough coffee in the house to accomplish this feat?

Finally, around 8:30 and after another round of coffee and inner debate (header or no header, that was the big question) I had it looking okay, a little stark, but I really felt that the old header to be a distraction on my updated pages. If I can figure out how to remove it from my secondary pages (something WordPress says can be done) I will put it back, but I am not sure I will use the old one. This too may be something that goes as 2016 comes in.

Now came the fun part, linking my Shakespeare posts to my new Shakespeare page, just like the article says can be done. I don’t know what universe the article writer lives in, but in this particular universe I learned, this is not a WordPress feature! Oh the article was very clear that “Categories” was the magic wand that linked pages to subjects. It made sense at the time. You simple added a category to a page and selected that category when publishing your latest article.

After another frustratingly long hour of playing “Where is the Category option?” on my secondary pages, I was forced to pick up my copy of WordPress for complete idiots, which was appropriate after four hours of trial and error. It was through this book that I learned I could not accomplish what I wanted, because secondary pages do not have the category option. Ahhhh! Now I felt like a complete idiot for not reading this book first. Sigh…

So, as you can see dear Reader, I have a new look. It’s a work in progress but for now I am going to let sit as is. You, no doubt will let me know what you think. Any tips would be appreciated as well.

Not all is lost. It was an adventure into the world of backend blog administration and reminded me of why I don’t update my site very often. Besides, after this, cleaning off my bookshelf will be a blessing, no idiot guide necessary.

 

Happy New Year’s Day to you all!

Resolve to thine own self, be true

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This above all: to thine own self be true

Polonius to Laertes Hamlet Act 1 Scene 3

I don’t know why this little gem of advice has never gotten the attention it so richly deserves. It may be due to the fact that most of Polonius’ advice is little more than blather, and we take his speech as a whole, never considering it’s various independent pieces. I admit, though I’ve read this countless times, I too skipped over the significance of this statement until recently.

So what is Polonius trying to tell Laertes when he says this? Let’s look at the advice that follows it. And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. It’s simple enough to grasp the second part, right? Don’t lie to others. Maybe, or maybe Polonius is wiser than we’ve imagined.

It makes sense to equate the words false and true with lie. And as every parent can tell you, above all else we want truthful children. We want to fully trust our kids and lying, more than anything else will break our bond of trust. Yet if we look closely at the advice, we see Polonius seems to want more from his son. He wants him to be authentic; to be true to who he is, to be himself at all times. Many of us can do with this advice.

Yes, this is Bill Murry as Polonius.
Yes, this is Bill Murry as Polonius.

All too often we fall into our own traps of self-delusion, especially this time of year. Of course we all have things we want to change about ourselves; it’s part of our inner-growth. Yet, we seem to go about this in all the wrong ways. Our resolutions usually involve major life changes, but we jump to the goal without the hard work of getting there. We don’t look at our personal strengths and weaknesses to assess how we will achieve our goals. No wonder so many resolutions fall apart on day two.

Polonius’ advice hit a nerve with me. One of my long held goals/resolutions is to post more, yet as my readers know, this has not yet happened. Oh sure, there have been major time issue and school related reasons, yet if I were to be true to myself, there are some other reasons as well. It is time to I stopped being false to others and myself.

Looking back on my blog stats, I see that my Lists are among the more popular of my posts, yet they are not my favorite, nor those that know me well. Some of you may think I’m like the Cliff Clavin character from Cheers, constantly running my mouth and boring my friends with my trivia skills. You’d be surprised to learn that no, my friends do not rely on me to win bar trivia night competitions. No, they rely on my to engage them in critical discussions on current issues and books.

Don’t get me wrong, I love doing the research and putting the lists together as I learn right a long with my readers, but over time they have come to be more of a chore. If I am to be true to myself, I have to write about that which I am most passionate about. I need to focus on my strengths and weaknesses as a writer to meet some personal goals.

So with that in mind, my New Year’s resolution is to be true to my blogging self. I have decided to get back to why I started blogging in the first place, and why I named the blog The View From Sari’s World. It is supposed to be a scholarly yet fun space on a wide range of topics. I hope to start conversations and have the blog be a safe (snark free) place for readers to share their thoughts and opinions. (Yes, Martin, I can hear you clapping way over here)

But I also want to be true to my readers. This is where you come in. Are there topics you would like to see covered? Yes, I will still do book reviews, and once in a while you may even get a list or two, but is there a topic you would like to see expanded upon? And since I am asking you. Should I move my Shakespeare posts to a separate Shakespeare related blog? It is an idea I am kicking around.

One more question. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and did you take it? Okay, that’s two questions. Never said I was good at math. Hey, I am just being honest.

 

Happy New Year dear Readers!

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