How to Assess Your Blog Midyear 2017

Assess Blog Before the June 30 Deadline

There are still a few days before I assess my blogging activities mid-year. So if I’ve missed a goal, I can backward map and see how much I can get done in the time left before the deadline. Additionally, I can rank and pick which goals are achievable and worth doing.



Good thing I did not set a specific goal for this! I found out I can monetize both blogs. Unfortunately, I can’t report a tremendous success rate for making money with either one, but not for lack of trying. Since this was the goal at which I expended the most time, I listed it first again for this quarter. There are three ways to monetize a blog: affiliate links, selling products and selling services. Here are the things I tried.

Affiliate Links

Assess Amazon

assess blog

First I fixed all my links for Amazon on both blogs. I had opened an account a couple of years ago and never sold anything, so Amazon closed it. Then I opened a new account, and all the old links kept posting. I changed each one of them by hand just like Jason R. instructed me to do.  They have a new plug-in now. In fairness to Amazon, when I called them for support, Jason advised me to Tweet and FB my affiliate link to several items. I only did that a few times but saw no results, so I quit.

In fairness to Amazon, when I called them for support, Jason advised me to Tweet and FB my affiliate link to several items. I only did that a few times but saw no results, so I quit.

He also advised me to create a store, and send me instructions. If you are interested message me on FB and I’ll send them to you.

I started to follow the instructions, and it took me hours making decisions about what to sell. Loading each item individually and formatting the page took even longer.

My web designer said it would be better to put it on my website, but I didn’t do that either because it still takes so much time. Since April 1st when I talked to Jason at Amazon, I’ve had one order from my friend Maria Perez, but Amazon doesn’t pay unless you make $100. I haven’t done that yet. There are no other orders from any of the links or banner ads.

Assess SiteGroundassess blog

I change my affiliated hosting to SiteGround rather than Blue Host. First I wrote an article. I paid $90 for the use of their statistics and infographics. I’ve had zero orders so far. I’m happy with the hosting services. My blog is 100% faster, and I’ve had no issues with them. I have had problems with people not being able to comment on my blog but according to my web designer, the problem is not with my SiteGround.

Assess Grammarlyassess blog

Last year I affiliated Always Write with Grammarly at their suggestion because I had written several posts about using the service to improve and tweak my writing. They recommend purchasing banner ads and statistics as well. However, I chose not do this. As you can see, nothing happened with my account for seven days. I assure you that it goes back to the beginning of my time. It says I earned $20, but that never came in.

Product Sales

assess blogThe Transformational Blogging Journal became a reality this quarter as both a printable and a linkable product. After almost a year of testing, the journal I created  worked well for me. With some help from my high school virtual assistants, we brought it to life. Eight people took advantage of the free version of the journal. I did follow-up articles and revised the page on April 27. Write to Done just posted an article about Transformational Blogging and how important it is to journal along with blogging.

assess blogThe deluxe version of the journal offered for sale has not sold. I have not pushed it very hard, nor have I completed all the terms and agreements that go along with offering items for sale.


you blog

Transform your blog today!

Assess Services

The third way bloggers make money from their blogs is to provide services.

  • Copywriting At this point, I haven’t advertised any services, but I did receive a contract to write four articles for another blog. So I earned $160. That was cool.
  • Social Media Marketing I created a costly proposal for my services for the local school district that did not get approved. Another unwritten proposal I made to a non-profit I work with went unapproved as well. However, I am now the website and social media chair as well as the new secretary of that organization.

In the meantime, I started training two high school students to serve as virtual assistants. The plan was to make my life easier. I spent a lot of time developing curriculum and teaching them. They spent about 20 hours with me from May to June, and we made good progress. However, that was not enough time to develop much in the way of products and services. I did get a request for them to develop a Canva Facebook post, but we ran out of time. (They only get credit for 20 hours per school year for this program.)

Services still may be the most lucrative form of monetizing for me. However, I realized that my heart is not into monetization. It takes a lot of time and focus. If I continue to work with the kids training them to become virtual assistants, and they can help me monetize, then the profits I earn through my blogging will go to fund scholarships.  If I had a goal for volunteering, I would be off the charts successful


That goal bombed 100%. I did not devote one minute to achieving it.


Six out of 12 campaigns have gone out. I learned how to segment my list and target my audience. My open rates went from the low 20% range to the high 30% range. I cleaned up my email list then manually added to my Mail Chimp list from my email list and doubled the number of recipients. As of June 17, I have 258 on my email list. None of my call to action opt-ins on my blog has added many subscribers to my list, however.

I feel more comfortable using Mail Chimp now, and I have another new volunteer job creating the newsletter for the church every month. I wanted to complete a  lesson PDF & video or podcast for my Virtual Assistant training, but I did not get that done.


assess blogThat was my goal in January. I have been back from visiting my two blogging friends, Carol and Leanne, in Australia six months on June 26th. In the last twelve weeks, I have posted only two articles about Australia. To meet my goal, I would have to write nearly one post a day. I could do that by following Photo Challenge themes and posting no more than 500-word posts. It was a trip of a lifetime, and I owe an unrepayable debt to Carol and Leanne.

I set new specific goals in April.

  • One longer post on Australia every two weeks. My posts on the Fairy Tree in Melbourne and the Botanical Gardens in Ballarat fulfills two of the six requirements here.
  • One quick Australia post a week Fun Fotos or Odd Ball Fotos or flowers – not done


In twelve weeks I’ve published ten articles which pertain to blogging or writing. So I need two more after this one.


assess blogIn twelve weeks I have eleven posts published, and one more read waiting to write. I have reached out to more indie writers and responded to more authors who have emailed me. One-third of the articles are guest posts.


Twitter followers rose from 852 on Dec. 31, to 1,625 on March 31 to 2,289 on June 23,


assess blogFacebook offered me what I thought was a free boost. It turned out that it cost $50.00, but I increased”Likes” to 380 from 281. So in seven days I still need 20 more Facebook fans. Want to help me get there?


Instagram is at 221. I am following 517 and have 362 posts.


Google + hovers at 257. It has increased by four followers since I checked at the end of first quarter.


On June 23. Traveling & Blogging Near and Far stands at  3,036 Seventy-two new fans have registered through WP Reader since April My five-year-old blog hosts 761 published posts and has had over 80,000 views. Its most views ever was almost one year ago on July 20 when I published an article about a famous place to eat in Woodlake, CA called Woodlake Drive-In.

I set more ambitious goals on April 1 for articles I wanted to publish on this site. I did not write the two articles I intended to write about Sedona, but I wrote two different articles. Celebrate Spring in Sedona with a Layer of Cottonwood “Snow” and Resort Walk Reveals 15 Top Things to Love

  • Sedona Courthouse & Bell Rock Walk
  • Chapel of the Holy Cross Walk
  • Businesses in Woodlake My posts Cruz-ta-Welding about Yosemite with Art By Linda fulfills this less specific goal.
  • The best way to increase followers for a hobby blog is to visit bloggers. So I set a goal to visit 182 by June 30 (57 at May 24).


assess blogThis statistic measures the number of members who register on Reader. It has grown much slower. Eleven new WP readers have enrolled in three months. However, I haven’t asked people to sign up through the WP reader at all. Would you if I asked?  Always Write registered 3,192 views on WP since April 1st.

Google Analytic (GA) also measures statistics.

Traveling and Blogging Near and Far does not have this option. It comes with the business plan which includes the option to use Google Analytics.

Google Analytics offers interesting statistics. For example, over 87% of visitors to Always Write are new. A high percentage of new visitors might mean that either, the site doesn’t offer what people think it is going to offer or it offers it, they get it and they leave. That is what I do when I research. GA measures Bounce Rate, which has improved 40% in Spain! Thanks, Ralph! Thirty-six percent of visitors type in the URL or bookmarked the URL for Always Write. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me if only thirteen percent of visitors are return visitors. Fifty-seven percent of viewers come from YOUR referrals. Thank you! Google Analytics does not tell me who sends them or I would thank you in person.

That said, over 65% of views come from Facebook and 22% come from Twitter. I work hard at publicizing through Facebook, so that must have paid off. On my Facebook Page, I share many of my posts with different blogging groups.

If you would LIKE or FOLLOW my Facebook Page, I’ll send you a free copy of all the groups where I publicize that accept blog posts. Janice Wald of Mostly Blogging recommended about half of the groups I’ve joined.

I also set additional somewhat measurable goals for this site in April.

  • Fix comment section –  can’t do according to Daniel
  • Host a link party – didn’t try to do this
  • Visit and feature Networking Bloggers & new contacts – featured about 15 of the 84 members before I quit doing this.
  • Divi – didn’t get to this


  • assess blogHire two students to update Amazon, alt tags, in Traveling & Blogging – NOT DONE We have started training, though.
  • Assign other duties as needed, for example, Photoshop resizing and filing pictures for posts – STARTED
  • Create beautiful cards, calendars, etc. – FINISHED THE TRANSFORMATIONAL BLOGGING JOURNAL
  • Resize Canva pictures was a low priority unless I go on Pinterest – ISAIAH LEARNED, THIS, DAVID DID NOT
  • Keep Buffer full – not meeting often enough THEY KNOW HOW TO DO THIS.


What I did not finish did not surprise me. It astounded me that I wrote as many posts as I did. My biggest joy this quarter was training David and Isaiah, two reticent students who whispered about an assignment due in Chemistry like it was a big secret. While it helped get a bit of work done, it created hours of work. However, now I have more training products I can use as giveaways or sell.

Now I realize how large and unmeasurable my biggest goal #1 was. If I am serious about monetizing, I think I need help or training to do it.

Next quarter I will set different goals to measure my blogs using Google Analytics for Always Write.

There must be a better way to increase newsletter sign ups. After launching several campaigns, I enjoy them now, but I HATE pop-up ads, and if that is the only way to get people to sign up, then I need to figure out something else.

Blogging is still my love but it sure has changed! I spend much more time refining my articles, marketing and training my virtual assistants than spontaneously writing articles about my life and visiting other bloggers.

The focus on others rather than merely spitting out what I’m doing adds a rewarding and fulfilling dimension to blogging, and I think it’s improved my writing.

Three Ways I Rightsized in Semi-Retirement

rightsizing for retirementI love this life assessment piece by my friend Terri Webster Schrandt. Are you nearing retirement? Terri shares some great thoughts about how she prepared for and manages her retired life.

Three Ways I Rightsized in Semi-Retirement

rightsizing for retirement

We read a lot about downsizing these days as Baby Boomers are actively pursuing new ways of life as they consider retirement. “Rightsizing” is a process that implies a less than a cutthroat approach to restructuring than downsizing.

I have been following Kathy’s blog and recently had the opportunity to write this guest post while she was enjoying some travel. Kathy and I met in person at the BAM 2016 conference in Las Vegas. We found each other to be kindred spirits as well as neighbors living in California!

After reading Kathy’s book Rightsizing: A SMART Living 365 Guide To Reinventing Retirement, I also identified the ways I have rightsized my life. A big key for my semi-retirement was being able to retire from my day job of 32 years at the relatively young age of 55. After paying into the CalPERS (public employees retirement system) for years, I now receive 65% of my income as a pension.

Three other reasons factored into my semi-retirement decision:

1. Dissatisfaction at work. The economic downturn of 2008-2012, which acutely affected California, caused many folks to retire “early” (read: younger than if they had waited until the traditional retirement age of 62-65) from the public parks and recreation organization for which I worked. As a result, too many new people started making swift (and poor) decisions that affected best practices which became too much to bear. When I was passed over for promotion for the third time over a 10-year period, I knew it was time to go.

2. Being able to teach part-time. The ability to retire hinged upon the continuation of my teaching job at a university, where I am a part-time lecturer enjoying sharing my 35+ years of experience in the field with parks and rec majors. As a lecturer (and now “Retired Annuitant” I am able to teach 15 units per year). The money is GOOD and nicely supplements my pension.

3. My husband got hired with my former organization in facility maintenance. He now carries the health benefits, and he has the potential for moving up in the organization while still experiencing job satisfaction.

All those added up to my semi-retirement.

Best. Decision. Ever

These are the three areas where I rightsized my life: Read the original post to find out what they are.

Source: Three Ways I Rightsized in Semi-Retirement

Frontier Preacher by David Millican III

Frontier Preacher Survives the Wild West – Barely!

Preacher Survives With Help from God

The first week Hollis arrived in Gillette, Wyoming, his final destination, he almost starved and froze to death. He used up all his firewood and parceled out his food to last about as long. Fortunately, he had help, sometimes from unknown or unexpected sources. Lying on the church floor in prayer, he had no strength to do more than pray, when a knock came at the door.

Book Learning Did Not Teach Survival Skills

Book learning had not prepared this preacher for the hazards of blizzards in Wyoming or the unlucky fate of single women and girls that had been shipped out west to make a better life for themselves. When Hollis befriended and tried to protect one young woman who sought sanctuary in the church, he became disillusioned.

At one point he realized that his mentor had faced the same issues and had not prevailed in Gillette, Wyoming either. Nor had preachers of any faith before him. His life seemed hopeless. He did his best to snuff it out, to squeeze out the memories that plagued him.

When a Preacher Survives Evil, He Should Be Godly

Hollis Winget, the Frontier Preacher Ill Repute preached the Word throughout the book, but behind the scenes, he exposed his thoughts and struggles.  He is at times endearing, annoying, proud, judgmental. He doesn’t seem brave. However, when he finds himself alone against evil, he realizes strengths he did not know that he had.

At Bethany he had learned to respect and value women as the treasure from God they were… Wyoming, he though, would be the same considering they were the equality state, the state that first gave women a right to vote. Millican. Lot 76 of 2259, Frontier Preacher.

Hollis struggled with that in his own way as he revealed in places throughout the book. Interestingly, not all his personal issues were resolved by the end of the book, so I would not be surprised to find a sequel to this story.


Even though admire all writers who can pull together a fiction book, I don’t respond to all of them on an emotional level. David, though Hollis, captured my tears and wrenched my heart from me. Reviewers sometimes criticize books I like as sappy or they find some other criticism I missed.

One reader commented about Frontier Preacher Ill Repute, “Perhaps this book should also have been classified as Christian Historical Fiction as it carries a strong Christian message. There are numerous scriptural references throughout the story and times when the main character preaches a distinct religious view to the point where I felt a little misled.”

Although I was aware of his frequent reference to baptism, it did not ruin the story me. That said, Hollis gave a great argument, though, and eventually changed his Methodist friend’s mind. Had it been one of Millican’s agenda items, it might convince readers with an equally effective counter to the baptism argument. Even though preaching baptism that may have been the purpose of the book, the quality of the story outweighed the author’s agenda in this case. Frontier Preacher Ill Repute got five stars from me. If you read it, let me know what you think.

Let me know if you want to move to Wyoming after you read Frontier Preacher Ill Repute, too!

Preacher survives
David Millican III

Amazon Biography

How One Couple Makes a Difference in a Town

Makes a difference
Photo Courtesy of Lisa Kilburn Aerial view of Woodlake in the 1970s

The year was circa 1971. According to life-long residents Manuel and Olga Jiminez, Woodlake, CA was a rough little town. The city demographics were about fifty percent Hispanic farmworkers, for the most part living in poverty, and 50% white farmers and merchants.

makes a difference
Photo courtesy of Marsha Ingrao – harvesting grapes

The tension between farm workers and farm owners had mounted in those days in Central California because of the grape strikes that had begun in 1965 led by Cesar Chavez. Students of Woodlake schools, children of both farm workers and farmers, attended classes together but were not close friends. Although they participated in the same schools and got along, the two groups of students did not interact socially.

makes a difference
Photo Courtesy of Lisa Kilburn High School Walkout asking the school to hire more Hispanic teachers at Woodlake High School in 1971 One of the core subject area Hispanic intern had been fired.

New high school graduates, now attending College of the Sequoias, Manual Jiminez and his new wife, Olga wanted to make a difference. They brainstormed and then flew into action. Both came from families with 14 siblings, so they had a lot of help. They organized neighborhood kids to carry out their plans to beautify Woodlake.

“We fixed the toys and picked up trash, cleaned up graffiti, and the city told us, ‘If you don’t have liability insurance, we don’t want you working on city property.’

So we did it on the weekends. We figured we’d ask for forgiveness rather than permission.”

makes a difference
Photo Courtesy of Kaweah Commonwealth The local pool hall and bar

There was a bar in town with a wall painted with graffiti, four letter words, and pictures of needles. Manuel asked the owner if he and his group of student helpers who could paint a mural over the graffiti on their wall. The owner readily gave his permission.

makes a difference
Photo Courtesy of Kaweah Commonwealth A clean slate – volunteers begin to paint a mural in place of graffiti.

The Woodlake crusaders found an artist from Fresno State to get them started. Then the couple recruited kids from the high school to help paint a mural on the offensive bar wall. While there was an overall picture, the kids painted their own paintings to create a collage.

makes a difference
Photo Courtesy of Manuel Jimenez The mural completed by high school volunteers

Manuel and Olga’s loosely organized group had completed 2/3 of the painting when a police car pulled up in front of their project on the privately owned bar wall.

makes a difference
Photo Courtesy of Lisa Kilburn, Student walked out rying to  change things.

“You’re breaking the law. You’re going to have to remove the sign,” the patrol officer demanded.

Manuel answered, “You mean the graffiti that was there before was ok, but this is not ok?”

“No, you have to remove it.”

Manuel answered, “By the way, we’re not going to remove it. You’re going to have to bring me a document that shows me that this is illegal.”

People came up and said, “Why did you do this, Manuel?”

Manual answered, “I don’t understand why you ask, ‘Why do you do this?’ Have you not gone through that part of town and noticed the graffiti, the bad stuff that was on that wall?”

People complained, “But why? You’ve split the community. We always did everything together. Can’t you change this or that on the mural, maybe replace something that might offend someone?”

“No. Maybe if you had asked while they painted it. The kids painted their feelings.”

Few of the white non-farming community members thought about different life experiences that the Hispanic children had compared to those of their own children. Hispanic families left Woodlake in May and came back in October or later. They picked apples in Washington, berries in Oregon and other crops in northern California.

You never noticed, Manuel explained to the complainers. “I never went to school for a whole week. I had to miss one day every week. We had to work. In the mornings before school, we had to go work. I don’t expect you to know those things but because we grew up differently. We’re different culturally.”

To make his point he said, “No one was unfriendly. But look at the clubs in the old yearbook albums. Even though we were fifty percent of the population in 1969 and back, we were not in the pictures of activities. We were not in the clubs. We did not exist. We may have been acquaintances but we were not friends.”

makes a difference
Photo Courtesy of Lisa Kilburn 1975 Woodlake High School Yearbook picture

A week later, the entire police force showed up at the bar while the kids continued to paint. They handed Manuel a cease and desist order to remove the sign within ten days.

But it wasn’t a sign; it was a mural, a collection of painting done by Woodlake students. Parents became concerned that their kids were going to get in trouble. The couple assured participating friends and neighbors that nobody did anything illegal.

The police also threatened the owner of the bar. He didn’t know what to do. They served him papers as well. Young Manuel asked him to hold on.

For Manuel, the battle lines between the city officials and his band of student painters were drawn. Grandson of an early labor organizer in the 1950s, long before Cesar Chavez came on the scene, Jimenez took action. He called California Rural Legal Assistance. His timing was perfect. A City Council meeting was scheduled three or four days before the cease and desist order was to take place. They invited a famous muralist from San Francisco to attend the council meeting and speak to the issue.

The artist testified, “The mural is great. I love it. It’s traditional in America. It should be left alone.”

Those words did not deter the Council’s resolve to rid the Woodlake of the offending mural. Primarily, they disliked the large picture of a farm worker resembling Cesar Chavez at the core. However, they also objected to some short sayings which were written in Spanish. Finally, they lodged a complaint about a small flag saying ‘Strike!’ and another sign asking for peace and respect for their rights.

The City Council pronounced, “It will be gone in two days. This meeting is adjourned.”

Up to this time, the attorney from California Rural Legal Assistance had not said a word. As the meeting adjourned, he stood up to speak.

“By the way, you may say the mural on the bar wall is a commercial sign. It’s clearly not a sign. This is clearly a violation of the kids’ first amendment rights. You don’t like the contents of the mural. However, if you do not go back into session, and change the order then on Monday morning we are going to federal court and file a lawsuit against the City of Woodlake. So you have one opportunity to go back into session. If not, you will be served papers.”

The Council immediately reopened the meeting and went into closed session.

After ten minutes the Mayor returned.

“You can have your mural.”

And the Mayor turned and walked off.

Meanwhile, Manuel and Olga both worked and supported their family while Manuel attended the nearest University. Ultimately, he earned a bachelor’s degree in plant sciences from Fresno State University in 1977. Shortly after his graduation, the North American Farmers Cooperative, an organization of 300 small-scale vegetable and fruit producers based in Fresno, named him as their senior agronomist.

After a rough beginning, one might think that Woodlake hated Manuel and Olga Jimenez and the couple reflected those feelings back at the City Council. That was not the case.

makes a difference
Guest of the 2017 Berry Festival walks in the Woodlake Botanical Gardens.

Following that near incident, the young college couple found properties and began gardens and beautification projects around the town. They grew vegetables to give away or sell for their projects. At one time they had four gardens.

“We wanted to give local youth a chance to do something other than watch TV, hang out, or get into trouble,” Manuel said. ” John Elliot. The Kaweah Commonwealth February 9, 2015

Throughout the 1980s Jimenez’s job led him to help the Hmongs in Visalia learn how to farm in the city. They had several farms, one off Akers and one off Lover’s Lane. Language differences made communication difficult but Manuel modeled productive farming methods for the Hmong community.

The couple’s hearts were still in Woodlake. In the later 1980s, kids complained that Woodlake was ugly. They wanted to leave. Manuel and Olga got a group of kids to work, and they planted flowers in all the tree wells around the trees that lined the main streets in Woodlake. They planted flowers that spelled Woodlake on the bank of the levee around Bravo Lake.

makes a difference
Photo Courtesy of Lisa Kilburn aerial view of Woodlake, CA in the 1970s

“Woodlake doesn’t have to be ugly,” he told the kids. “When you are at home, do you pick up the trash, or do you contribute to it? They learned. The community learned to take pride in the gardens.”

At first, no one wanted to let them farm on their property because of the liability of having kids work. Then Proteus let them tie into their insurance. After the insurance issue had cleared up, community members invited Manuel’s group to plant flowers on their property. Manuel recalled that Leonard Hansen let them farm on the corner of Bravo and Valencia.

They also had use of Watchumna Water District’s property that was almost one city block about two acres where they grew vegetables. By selling the vegetables, they raised money to farm their properties. At one time they had four gardens dispersed around Woodlake.

makes a difference
Google map of Woodlake, CA 2017

While he established himself as an expert around the country, Manuel and Olga, together with another Woodlake High School graduate, Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce President, Rudy Garcia formed the Woodlake Pride Coalition. In 1999 they received a modest tree grant for city beautification and the dream of the Woodlake (Bravo Lake) Botanical Gardens began.

makes a difference
Photo Courtesy Linda Hengst Groundbreaking of Woodlake Botanical Garden

Around that time the Southern Pacific Railroad was selling the right away of the property beside the levee. Woodlake City Planner, Greg Collins applied for a “Rails to Trails” Grant. Manuel told City Manager, Bill Lewis he would put in the garden if the city bought the property. The city bought the entire property, about a mile long, 13.9 acres for $70,000 and provided water and insurance.

makes a difference
Photo Courtesy of Marsha Ingrao 1,500 plant rose garden

Lots of companies donated plant material because they knew Manuel. Woodlake Botanical Gardens received over 150 varieties of stone fruit from fifteen nurseries. Everything came from all over the country.

In spite of the small grant Garcia earned for Woodlake Pride, they were often short of money. Once they mapped the town to go door to door to ask for donations to put in the irrigation system. They told the kids what to say, and started at about 8:00 in the morning.

From time to time they had larger donors to Woodlake Botanical Gardens. Everett Krakoff owned Woodlake Olive Plant. He liked what we did with the kids. His timing was always perfect.

“You guys need some tools? You need anything else? He bought hoses. Do you have a checking account? Open another for the kids so you can treat them.”

For his birthday he had his daughters write checks to Woodlake Pride.

What Manuel Jimenez has lacked in funds for his many projects through the years, he has been heaped with honors.

For his work both on the job and in Woodlake, Jimenez has received numerous awards. Among them was the first-ever Tom Haller award at the California Farm Conference in 2008.  Jimenez was named the 2000 Citizen of the Year in Woodlake.  He was one of three recipients of the California Peace Prize in 2011.

making a difference
Photo Courtesy of Marsha Ingrao Manuel and Olga Jimenez and student member of Woodlake Pride

Jimenez went on to become a  “world-renowned farming authority, all while living in and serving his hometown – the small, rural community of Woodlake, Calif. (As) the University of California Cooperative Extension advisor, who worked with small family farmers in Tulare County for 33 years.”  Jeannette E. Warnert. June 24, 2013

Less than two years later the city of Woodlake honored Manuel and Olga in a mural highlighting their work.

makes a difference
Photo Courtesy of Kaweah Commonwealth Mural on the corner of Valencia and Naranjo in Woodlake, CA honoring the work of Manuel and Olga Jimenez.

City officials, community members, family, and friends gathered Friday, Jan. 30, in the parking lot of the Shell station at Valencia and Naranjo to unveil Woodlake’s newest mural. Colleen Mitchell-Veyna’s latest mural masterpiece that now adorns the west side of an adjacent commercial building pays tribute to Manuel and Olga Jimenez, co-founders of the Bravo Lake Botanical Gardens, California’s first agricultural botanical garden. John Elliot. The Kaweah Commonwealth. February 6, 2015  

makes a difference
Photo Courtesy of Kaweah Commonwealth Close up of Olga and student workers

Recently, Jimenez worked with the City of Woodlake to secure a grant to improve the safety, infrastructure, and aesthetics of the garden. The plan for $1 million grant also included new restrooms, drinking fountains, and fences, improvements to the Miller Brown Park. Since the grant’s approval, the city completed upgrades to the Miller Brown Park restrooms and the other city amenities.

However, Woodlake Pride has not received the help Manuel anticipated from the grant monies to make improvements to Woodlake Botanical Garden. He has spoken to the City Manager, Ramon Lara, and the City Commissioners, about his modest requests. To date has not been awarded any of the grant monies for his projects.

makes a difference
Woodlake Botanical Garden

If you would like to show your support for the Woodlake Botanical Gardens, please leave a comment on the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce or the Woodlake Pride Facebook pages, or directly in this comment section before June 30.

If you would like to give to Woodlake Pride, click here.


How to Get a New Thrill from an Old Program in 2017

We All Look for a New Thrill

I do. You do. Over sixty-five hundred books on Amazon have the word “thrill” in the title. Some people spend fortunes looking for a new thrill. New toys, games, cars, houses all temporarily provide a new thrill.

Danger offers a thrill if it ends in success. Drugs, sex, alcohol, even food may thrill for a while until the effects wear off and leave a headache, ten pounds or worse. My husband loves the thrill of winning a card game.

Unfortunately, the craving for more and more excitement never abates. However, it does not always have to leave a harmful effect.

Safe, Cheap, and Easy Thrills

There’s an easier and safer way to get a thrill if you blog – learn something new about an old program!


I’m not talking about a television program or an old program for a play you saw two years ago at James Madison High School. What I mean is a social media application like Facebook, a scheduler like Hootsuite, WordPress that you have used for five or six years, or a Plugin like Yoast SEO.

Digging Deep and Learning New Ways of Using an Old Program

Do you know everything about all the applications, programs and plugins you use every day?

I probably have my 10,000 hours in blogging already. As a result, I have gained so many skills, but I learn something new almost every day. And learning excites me. Does learning something new get your blood moving again? If so you are headed for an interesting and fulfilling life.

When I started blogging, the only familiar part of the screen was the white part in the middle and the toolbar across the top. I filled the screen with my amateur scribbles and clicked publish. I took courses but there is always way too much information to process. Mostly, I learned new tricks from bloggers who picked up a new tip and shared it. For example, I read that I needed to write in categories and tags. Months later a friend told me that if I clicked the blue edit link in the Publish section of the right sidebar, I could schedule my post for later. What a thrill. It changed the way I blogged. Years later I learned about alt tags.  It could be that I’m just blind, but computer screens are so full of things to see, I miss a lot. Do you do that?

I do! I am thrilled when I learn something new about an old program.

A New Thrill This Week in Facebook

Bloggers all use social media more than average non-bloggers. Now, I use it as a tool and have it open constantly. In addition to blogging, I sit on the board of four non-profit organizations and help with social media in some capacity with all of them. This week I analyzed the FB page tab by tab with the representative of the company which manages one of our social media accounts. We learned so much together!

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Click on link

We discovered that when you click on the list of everyone who likes a post, you see whether or not they have also Liked your page. If they haven’t liked it, you click “invite.”

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Click Invite

Our Likes measurably increased the month we learned that trick!

Also, we wondered who our followers were and where they live. We looked for that list in all the likely places.

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Have you ever wondered who’s following you on your Facebook page? Silly to be thrilled? No, it’s good business to know your followers and thank them if you know how to reach them.

Finding out who Likes your page is not intuitive. Do not click on the front page where it says how many Likes you have. You’ll get graphs. Don’t click on who is in your community. You’ll bring up the first person listed in your community. Don’t fall for the “Likes” in the left sidebar either. You will get statistics and a list of your personal Facebook friends.

If you know where to look it is easy to find who likes your page Go to settings, click the link on the left People and Other Pages. You’ll see who Liked you and on what date. Some you can like back. Most you have to add as a friend or message them instead.

One More Facebook Mystery Solved

Let’s go back to that uninteresting sidebar on the left side of Facebook. One of the links on our non-profit page led to a 404 error. How many people click there anyway? Luckily, we can fix it. Go to settings, click on edit page. In the middle section of the page go down to home, and you will see all the tabs on the front of your page. Some of them have little reason for existing. Now you can change them or remove them.

Now that you’ve played with the settings page, you can teach yourself whatever else might thrill you. Then write back and teach me!

Yoast SEO Premium Gave Me a New Thrill

Six months ago at the urging of my friend Daniel at ARRC, who redesigned and tweaked my self-hosted website, I started using Yoast SEO. It took hours to learn to make all the SEO changes. At the top of my WordPress screen is an indicator light next to the “Y” for Yoast. If everything is great, it flashes green.

Soon I got pretty good at fixing the SEO errors. Unfortunately, even with the help of Grammarly, I could not improve the readability if the indicator button indicated less than a good score. I tried everything I knew. Some bloggers do not care if their grammar works perfectly. However, if that matters to you, a red or orange indicator button will drive you crazy.

Yesterday all that changed in a flash.

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Do you ever overlook the obvious on a page or is it just me?

As it turned out the SEO Analysis tab is the default for this program. In the SEO view, you can see in the picture above that the SEO analysis indicates that I don’t have a keyword set for this post yet. However, setting the keyword does not make the post more readable. Do you see the red readability tab with the blue letters? Important to note, everyone knows that blue letters mean that there’s a link, right? Duh! Yesterday I clicked the link and up popped the Analysis for readability. Amazing!

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You can see in the top bar that I have a gray button next to the Y for Yoast. That just means that I have not saved this post yet.

Click the Readability Tab Link

Most noteworthy, a new set of instructions appeared. Some of the indicators include a recommended percentage of compliance.

For example, “2 of the subheadings are followed by more than the recommended maximum of 250 words. Try to insert additional subheadings. Another example stated, “24.2% of the sentences contain a transition word or phrase, which is less than the recommended minimum of 30%.”

Especially relevant, if you want an example of what Yoast considers a transition word, then you can click the link. The list is not conclusive, so they did not always recognize my words or phrases as qualifying as transitional. Now, I’m thrilled beyond belief because now I don’t have to guess what’s wrong! If I choose not make the changes, I do it with purpose, not out of frustration.

Today I just discovered the eyes at the end of the analysis statements. Click on them, and Yoast highlights what the program considers as your errors! There again, once you know what the problem is, you can elect to correct it or leave it.

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This is cool. It took me a half hour to fix all the errors. Ah, that feels so good! I’m thrilled!

New Thrill Learning With Canva

Last month I shared insights on using Canva with our Networking Bloggers Facebook group. Today I used the photo filter for the first time. I was thrilled with how it came out. In this case, the filter made an easy, but subtle change.

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  1. First, choose a template.
  2. Add your photo. It clicks in automatically into the space provided.
  3. The right side is an element (square) which was a dark beige to start. You can change the wording on the right to fit your needs.
  4. Next, I added another photo on top of the text and made it transparent. It did not look good with the color underneath, so I changed that color.
  5. Then, I added a triangle at the top to cover the triangle that was in the original photo but was too small.
  6. Finally, I added a filter to the photo to soften the look.

The picture below was my original FB banner.

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My first FB banner.


Sometimes I just get tired of using Google to bring up instructions I don’t understand or wading through a training manual in which nothing makes sense because I have not used the product. I would rather jump into the application and use it immediately. My motto is to learn as I go on a need to know basis. Consequently, I am thrilled when I can learn a new trick on a program that I’ve used ineffectively.

Finally, what about you? What new tricks do you have to share? No matter where you are in your blogging journey, tips are fun and helpful to read. If you love to give and receive tips, I invite you to join our Facebook group at Networking Bloggers.

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