Category Archives: WordCamp

Blogging Brand: Who Needs One?

Back to what I learned at WordCamp.

WordCamp US 2015. In a word: FabuSuperEducatioFunExpialidociFrabjous.

“It seems very pretty,” she said…”but it’s rather hard to understand!” -Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Don’t give me that look. Lewis Carroll and Mary Poppins made up words.

And because of a ridiculous addiction to etymology, I just learned that Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, often attributed to Practically Perfect in Every Way Mary, appeared in use prior to the movie. And it’s the longest word in the English language. I love Google. 

My tenth grade English teacher informed us we could break language rules and make up words once we knew them all (rules AND words) or when we become famous—whichever is first.

Right, then…I’ve done neither, so…

WordCamp 2015 was Fabulous, Super Educational and Fun. And Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. And Frabjous.

The fourth thing WordCamp taught me is intertwined with the second.

 

Epiphany # 4: Every blog needs a BRAND.

Advertising utilizes many forms of brand. Here are a few:

Characters:

Think of the GEICO Gecko. Joe Camel (“Cool people smoke Camel”). Marlboro Man (“Real men smoke Marlboro.”) And yes, smoking is a bad idea. I’m just pointing out characters everyone knows. Keebler elves. The Planters Peanut. Ronald McDonald (a bit creepy, but recognizable).

Colors: 

Coke. UPS. John Deere. Here’s a fun little test to see if you can identify the brand by trademarked color.

Symbols: 

Amazon’s arrow/smile (“We get it to you fast and make you happy!”). FedEx’s subtle arrow (hint: it’s negative space). The Nike Swoosh. Coke’s ribbon. And perhaps the most recognizable symbol in the world, those Golden Arches.

Words:

Certain trademarked words become so famous we forget they’re brand names. No one (at least around here) says, “I cut my finger. Please get me a plastic bandage.” We say, “quick, I need a Band-Aid!” Xerox. Velcro. Chapstick. Bubble wrap. Dumpster. Fiberglass. Ping Pong (yes, really).

Some trademarked words lost previous status due to common use, like aspirin or WAIT, WHAT?!? heroin. Yes, Heroin was a Bayer trademark, back in the day. Yowza.

If you’re neurotic like me, check out this link for more. (Yep, I read them all.) The website also includes chuckle-inducing generic names. 

Here’s the point of this little advertising lesson. 

  • I need to brand my blog.

Create a character, use a photo or symbol, find a color, word or phrase. Or hey, all of the above.

Thanks to my conversation with this guy (who also has a cool blog),

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Dennis Hong speaking at WordCamp US 2015. Photo Credit: Casey Alexander, Creative Commons License

I realized the current “brand” on this blog is

  1. unrecognizable
  2. limiting
  3. confusing

and it’s time for a change.

  • The original plan: a play-by-play (and honest) description of our lives, centered around the definition of Adoption: “Adoption =” 

In other words, my intent was to illustrate a clear picture of what Adoption is. What adoption “equals.”

A blog with titles like “Adoption = Fun” or “Adoption = Difficult.”

Nobody got it.

Or, if you did, you’re astute, intelligent, and/or my mother.

Prior to WordCamp, I began using “Casey Alexander” as the brand, but Google proclaims that the most recognized “Casey Alexander” is a guy who worked for Sponge Bob.

How can I compete with a guy whose boss wears quadratic clam diggers and lives under the sea in a prickled yellow fruit? Or something like that.

Alsothere’s this.

Casey Alexander is the worst I’ve ever seen for a few reasons…wrote the absolutely BORING, HORRIBLE, BULL…

and this

So Casey Alexander (One of the worst writers in the history of Animation) has apparently stopped writing…I could go on all night with how happy I am this idiot no longer writes…

Right.

Although you may think it would be a fun prank—or a true statement (just wait until you see what I write in response, you jerk I mean, your opinion is always valid and welcome even if we don’t see eye to eye)—these were not written about me.

This is a good time to consider re-branding.

Dennis encouraged me to pick something timeless; the kids will grow up (or matriculate to Military Academy). My life, someday, will not orbit adoption. Or, at least, our adoption.

I plan to always, always, always advocate for children.

I’m passionate about adoption, foster care, fair treatment, child development, trafficking (fighting it—not participating—although…there are days…oh, HEY, sorry, did I say that out loud?), orphan care and child survival rates in developing countries…and I’m a little bit loud about all of it.

  • The new brand:

Our kids became available for adoption about six months after they moved in. We brought them into our home without the assurance we’d be able to keep them, but we were determined to ensure they received every possible accommodation—just as we would for “our own.”

Social Services didn’t like me.

Well, to be fair, OUR social worker didn’t like me.

The relationship started out a bit rocky due to my apoplectic fit. I found out the worker lost our fingerprints, delaying our approval to foster and requiring the children to live with a temporary foster family. (This, I took in stride. Shi—Lost paperwork happens.) The family was local but outside our school district.

I asked the social worker to request that the school board make an exception to allow the children to attend our elementary school, in spite of location, due to the circumstances.

Otherwise, the children would have three different families, three different homes AND three different schools in 40 days. To me, this seemed excessive. And avoidable.

But.

She didn’t want to do the extra paperwork. (Since then, I’ve made this same request in order to enroll the kids in a school with better accommodations for their special needs. It required ONE piece of paper.)

By the time they arrived at our house, the kiddos were in an understandable but horrific state of mind. Like hyenas, if you will.

Imagine: You’re married to someone for eighteen months. You get along. Communication patterns are set. It’s not perfect, but you feel secure.

One afternoon, as you enjoy milk and biscuits, government officials appear.

“We’ve determined this spouse is not your best match. And, partly due to your behavior, they don’t want you here anymore. Pack your things. We leave in thirty minutes for your next destination.”

Numb, you follow the officials as they toss your belongings into black plastic trash bags and cardboard boxes. You thought they liked you. Or, at least, tolerated you.

The officials dump you at another house, with a new spouse and no explanation other than, “You’ll be fine here.” They leave.

Four weeks later, you’ve begun to settle into the routine. You’re still bewildered but no one has bothered to clarify the situation. This family is nice enough; maybe living here will be okay. Now if you could just figure out what they did with all your stuff.

And then those officials show up again. They leave. Can you relax?

Nope. The few items you possess are packed and you’re bundled into the family’s van, where you find the rest of your trash bags. The second spouse drops you off with a third, smiling. “Have fun!”

By this time, you’re in complete confusion and more than a little angry.

Somebody better tell you what the heck is happening. And soon. Before you start screaming.

Yeah. That’s the clusterfeather that showed up on our doorstep. (Spell check says that’s not a word. It is now.)

And our little story above doesn’t even bring into play the new school, new people, new lights, new buildings, new clothes, new foods, new sensory input, new terror. TWICE.

After I figured out that the social worker did NOT have the kids’ best interest at heart, MommaBear appeared. Enter: The Fit of Historic Proportion.

These kids were obviously having a rough time, but they weren’t even in regular counseling.

With Hubby’s full support (and let me tell you, I don’t know how single adoptive parents survive—they are absolute HEROES) I got them into counseling, occupational therapy, speech therapy. Worked with the school to develop an IEP, ensuring they received appropriate support (both academic and behavioral).

Annnnnnd fought with the social worker, then went over her head and worked with her boss and the county to get a behavioral aide to stay with the boy during class (then 5 and a school-escape-artist).

I have no idea why she didn’t like me.

Speaking with Hubby (and in front of me) she called me “hyper-vigilant.”

It wasn’t a compliment.

But “Hypervigilant” is the one positive thing that woman gave me in the 16 months I struggled with her. We (THANK GOD) acquired another social worker who managed to push the adoption to completion under six months from her start date.

Vigilant: keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties

Hyperprefix  1. above, over, or in excess: hypercritical  2. (in medicine) denoting an abnormal excess: hyperacidity 3. indicating that a chemical compound contains a greater than usual amount of an element: hyperoxide

I like the third definition for “hyper” best. “A greater than usual amount.”

For our children, I watch “more than usual” for possible danger or difficulties. Medical. Physical. Emotional. Academic. Interpersonal.

Hubby and I believe in cause and effect as well as cleaning up your own messes, so if they get a bad grade or, for instance, pour glue all over a desk, we absolutely support the school in whatever consequence is handed down. The administration knows our stance.

But I work with teachers, administration, counselors, doctors—any adult who can better support our children by understanding their background and situation—to prevent and ameliorate situations before they occur. Call me Hypervigilant.

When we go out in public, I’m always aware that previous foster families and even biological family members could be one grocery aisle away. It happens. Last summer, we drove five hours to a beach, stood on a pier and recognized a friend surfing, then saw another (unrelated) family we know. All within five minutes.

I’m on constant alert, scanning crowds and restaurants as we walk. Looking for any sign of recognition from an adult I don’t know. Yeah. Hypervigilant.

On days I’d like to give up, sometimes I actively remind myself to be Hypervigilant. Don’t toss that towel. Extra attention now will pay dividends in their future success.

Hypervigilant.

  • Hypervigilant has morphed from a snide remark into WHO I AM.

After that conversation with Dennis, the name snapped into place. My brand.

No matter my life situation, when it comes to protecting kids, I’ll always be Hypervigilant.

You may have noticed the new domain name already. If not, just thought I’d mention coming changes to the blog. If you show up and things look a little different…you’ll know why. But it’s still me.

Now it’s your turn! Take a look at your blog. Does it reflect your passion? Your personality? Who YOU are? If not, consider making a few tweaks.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Side note: some guy in FarawayLandistan tried to sell me Hypervigilant.com for thousands of dollars, so…I picked the .org extension instead.  In creating your brand, research creative ways to name your domain. Here’s an older—but still useful—article to get you started. 

What I Learned at WordCamp Part 3

Continued from Part 2

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Photo Credit: John Uit

The third thing I learned at WordCamp 2015: I’m a closet Vegan.

My first exposure to being vegan occurred over twenty years ago. While working at a summer camp, I noticed one of my charges had dry, cracked lips, so bought her a Chapstick at the camp store. (Vegan readers…wait for it…)

When her mom arrived for pickup, she took one look at her daughter’s healing mouth and turned to me. “Did you give her something to put on her lips?”

I smiled and handed her the lip balm. “Yes, Ma’am; don’t worry—I bought her a new tube.”

She. Went. Postal.

Shocked beyond words, I stood mute as she blasted me for not calling her first. A naive eighteen, it never occurred to me that she’d be anything but happy her kid’s lips were no longer bleeding.

“We’re Vegan. This is against our beliefs. Bees made the wax.”

I didn’t know what she meant.

Vegan…like Spock on Star Trek? No…wait. That’s Vulcan.

Searched mental files…nope, nothing.

After she relaxed a bit, I asked her to tell me more about it. To me, a committed omnivore, the vegan way sounded a little crazy.

Two decades later, I still consider eating a TRYathlon.

If it’s edible, it’s fair game. New food? I’m in. (This is why I gained 15 lbs during a month in Trinidad.)

Lovers of all things fuzzy, close your eyes for this next sentence: in Peru, I checked out a local delicacy—guinea pig ravioli.

I say this not to induce death threats from PETA but to prove that I will, in fact, taste almost anything once. Chocolate covered ants are high on my “try it” list.

If you told my camp-counselor-self that I’d someday adore vegetarian or vegan dishes, I might have laughed. It’s true, though. This try-all-foods-at-least-once attitude has led me to love meatless meals.

Attending WordCamp US brought me to a life-altering culinary discovery.

At lunch on Friday (FYI, the food was FABULOUS), I spooned a couple different Philly-cheesesteak-style meats onto my plate without checking the tags.

One of them was the most tender, fall-apart-in-your-mouth beef I’ve ever had.

I raved about it to my friend Ruth, who laughed.

That meat…wasn’t.

Apparently there’s this thing I’d never heard about. Seitan. Ruth, attempting to assist me in pronunciation, explained that it sort of sounds like “satan.”

Me: “So. Somebody chopped the devil into little bits and it tastes like heaven. Who knew?” 

Ruth: Eye roll. (All my friends have this same weird tic. So strange.)

Per Google:

sei·tan
ˈsāˌtan
noun: seitan
  1. a high-protein vegetarian food made from cooked wheat gluten.
Origin
origin uncertain: perhaps from Japanese shokubutsusei tanpaku ‘vegetable protein.’

I understand “cooked wheat gluten” and “vegetable protein” don’t sound enticing—or, for that matter, even palatable. But trust me on this one. Go back and look at that picture above. Yep, seitan. It’s mouth-watering.

Friday evening, I had seitan prepared to taste like chicken. MMMM. At Saturday’s lunch, seitan barbecue. SO good.

I ate a LOT of seitan, skipping “real” meat for the rest of the weekend. Having had…occasional issues…with new foods, I had concerns about potential…repercussions. I’m happy to report that all systems remained in proper working order.

Unless you’re allergic to wheat/gluten, you’ve gotta try it.

Researching my new obsession, I’ve found several recipes to make seitan at home. I haven’t attempted yet (mostly because my kitchen has been upside-down for the last month, but that’s a post for another day). Although you can buy it prepared, DIY sounds more fun.

Check out the Post Punk Kitchen for an apparently foolproof recipe. Isa has a number of other vegan recipes that look incredibly yummy.

For many reasons, I feel extremely fortunate to have had the chance to attend WordCamp US 2015 (and if you’re interested in attending next year, click here for a 2016 ticket. Trust me; the food alone is worth the price).

Finding a unique new fare might not be a major motivating factor for you, but it’s just one of many great reasons to attend.

I mean, where else can you cut the devil into tiny little pieces and chow down?

Wait. Did you just roll your eyes?

You should totally get that tic checked.

WordCamp US 2015

I never manage to keep resolutions I make for the New Year, but this year I’ve set a record!

Resolution: Post every day in January.

Day One: TANK.

I don’t think I’ve ever failed so quickly.

In my defense, a migraine attacked AND we poured concrete countertops in the kitchen, so…my day was a bit full.

Excuses, excuses…I know.

To make up for this, I’d like to give you a special treat: the story of WordCamp US 2015, in pictures.

Actually, I was planning to give you the link anyway, but now I can tell myself yesterday wasn’t a complete wash. Oh, wait. Not lying to myself was also a resolution. Doggone it!

Maybe I can make a resolution to break a resolution every day…now we’re talking!

The event photographers were beyond stellar, both as individuals and as snapshot extraordinaires. Working with them was unbelievable.

I hope you enjoy the story as much as we enjoyed documenting this amazing conference.

Click here!

 

 

 

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

COME GET YOUR HAPPINESS! Happiness Bar, WordCamp US 2015 #wcus  Photo Credit Casey Alexander, Creative Commons

COME GET YOUR HAPPINESS! Happiness Bar, WordCamp US 2015 #wcus Photo Credit Casey Alexander, Creative Commons

Where I’ve Been

This is my imagined reality: you, sitting at your screen, waiting with impatience for my next post and thinking, “Whyyyyyyyyyyy did Casey stop writing? What could possibly be keeping her from us?” 

Real reality: you, sitting at your screen, thinking, “Who’s this Casey person again? When in tarnation did I follow this blog? I definitely need to adjust those auto-follow settings…”

It’s cool. I’m fine with it. Except when the person asking how to unfollow the blog is Hubby. Out loud. From the armchair five feet away. Then…it feels just a little personal. But it’s been a long month; I’m a little over-sensitive. (Just kidding. Pretty sure he’s at least fifty-three of my followers.)

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. NOTHING is finished. I tried using the blog as my carrot. “I can write when I finish…”

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Photo Credit: Clay Junell

And yes, if I’m reaching for the carrot, I know what that makes me.

Exhausted and desperate for motivation. That’s what it makes me.

Why—what were you thinking? HEY!

Anyway, life has been nuts. WordCamp US 2015 was fabulous. I still have pending (read: I need to sit down and write them) posts about what I learned. If you’re able to attend next year, I highly recommend the experience.

I’m still working through the pictures from WordCamp because as soon as I came home, Hubby and I began demolishing our kitchen (also a planned post…more later).

I keep telling myself that I can write a post once I get through a certain number of pictures. I can edit pictures when enough work is complete in the kitchen. And the day-to-day tasks don’t go away. Laundry, school, shopping, packing for family gatherings.

The above paragraph sounds like a list of complaints. Not the case, I assure you. I’m ridiculously happy when busy.

However, I realized today that I’m getting a bit twitchy. My carrot is just a little too far out of reach. I need  to write almost as much as I need to sleep. (In fact, I’d much rather write.)

The kids have been good today—exceptional, even—and I still found myself wanting to withdraw from everyone to a dark, quiet space this evening, to write. Craving a keyboard.

Instead, I forced myself to participate in “building night.” Hubby and the boy assembled a K’nex roller coaster on the table while the girl and I sprawled on the floor nearby and snapped together an elfin Lego kit.

Three minutes in, I felt better. Spending time with the kids one-on-one (and together) has been on my subconscious “list of things that are making me antsy because they aren’t getting done.”

It’s so easy to put off the things we want to do because of everything demanding our time, and in many cases what we have to do must come first. Sometimes, though, doing something you want to do can give you the boost necessary to get through harder work.

Time with the kids, now blogging with you.

I feel the “we will never finish any of this and our house will always be a wreck and the laundry pile will never deplete and the list will only grow and…” panic dissipating already.

I am so ready for tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

Annnnnnd…we’re back. (What I learned at WordCamp, Part 2)

Here’s the #2 thing I learned at WordCamp.

Continued from this post.
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Crowd at State of the Word address. Photo credit: Casey Alexander, Creative Commons License

It’s okay to “just be a blogger.”

Which is why this blog is now BACK AT WORDPRESS.COM.

I do not have to learn code.

No need to be a developer.

Although learning about SEO is fun and I like it, I don’t even have to do that.

My Thursday train arrived with an hour to spare. Ruth (see earlier post) convinced me to join the volunteer party instead of disappearing to my hotel.

Thank goodness.

I met Dennis. In addition to being an event speaker and all-around good guy, he’s also a Happiness Engineer.

And he spoke those eight little words I’d been dying to hear.

“There’s nothing wrong with ‘just’ being a blogger.” 

Ever since the last WordCamp (around 98% of attendees were technical, not writers), I really, really REALLY tried to follow their advice. “Get a domain and self-host.”

I got a domain. (This, actually, IS a good idea.)

Joined BlueHost to have a self-hosted blog. (At least for this gal…not so much.)

Although I’m truly interested in SEO, I just want to write. Gaining a clearer understanding of search and meta and how things work isn’t a bad thing, but I don’t want to do that every day.

I’m no quitter. Not usually. But today, I called to cancel my BlueHost account.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Get your own domain. It’s your brand. I still own caseyalexanderblog.com for a year, but from here on out, you’ll be seeing hypervigilant.org as the new brand. If you’ve been around a while, you know why. If you’re new, I’ll explain sometime soon.
  2. Don’t self-host unless you enjoy the work. Self-hosting is only fun if you want to handle everything yourself. If, like me, you just want to write, you don’t need that.
  3. Get your domain through WordPress.com (no, they’re not paying me to say this). You get to keep all the cool features I lost when I went to BlueHost. There were no “reblog” or “follow” buttons. No community of readers and bloggers. I had ZERO new followers on the new blog. WordPress is where it’s at. (Yes, that’s bad grammar. Hush.)
  4. Reach out to a Happiness Engineer. Check the forums and help pages first, but if your issue isn’t resolved, check with a Happiness Engineer. Making people happy is what they do. No kidding.

So…if you’re new, welcome!  I’m Casey, occasionally called hypervigilant. I like to write. I’m a blogger.

Thank you, Dennis, for saving my love of blogging.

Also, big thanks to Dean, Praveen, Zandy, Nicola and last but CERTAINLY not least, Naoko, some of the best Happiness Engineers in the Land. In the world, for that matter. You guys rock.

Click here for #3…

Free Cheesesteak!

How about a free cheesesteak?

In Philadelphia, PA. From me.

Just sign up for WordCamp US, then let me know you did in the comments; I’ll choose someone at random and buy you a cheesesteak. In fact, I’ll let one of the kids pick a name out of a hat or something, just to be fair.

If you don’t eat meat, we can go for coffee. If you don’t drink coffee, well ARE YOU EVEN HUMAN? Oh, sorry, I mean…we’ll figure out something. Pigeon tipping, maybe.

Haddon Musings  has already signed up! Don’t miss out.

WordCamp US will be phenomenal, and here’s why.

WordCamp US Logo

HTTPS://DRIBBBLE.COM/SHOTS/2364774-WORDCAMP-US-LOGO

10 Reasons You Won’t Want to Miss WordCamp US

  1. Super-cool sessions. You don’t have to be a developer or coder to benefit from WordCamp US. Sarah Blackstock  wrote an excellent piece about the best options for bloggers and writers here. If you’re still waffling about whether to take your small business to WordPress, check this out. If you are a coder, designer or developer, you can find more information here on the main page.
  2. Amazing people. Have you noticed? Everyone with WordPress connections is just, well, SUPER! I’m not kidding. I haven’t met ONE person I don’t like. Granted, I’m sort of an extrovert and I like people in general. But in a group this large, there’s usually at least one individual with whom I would not enjoy sharing a cheesesteak. Not in this crowd. Come network, learn and make great friends.
  3. Happiness Bar. According to people in the know (Ingrid and Liam), the volunteers sharing their technical expertise are “fabulous” and “stacked deep with loads and loads of WP knowledge.” Having recent experience with Happiness Engineers, I agree. Questions about being the master of your domain? Plugin won’t plug in? App making you unhAPPy? (See what I did there? Genius, I know.) The Happiness Bar is your new happy place.
  4. Philly Cheesesteak. Steak. Cheese. Philly. Need I say more? Well, okay. Here are even more reasons for foodies to flock to WordCamp. Chinese, Italian, coffeehouse, seafood, Mediterranean, vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, like—seriously—anything your hungry heart desires. Oh, and let’s not forget the pretzels!
  5. After Party. I mean, seriously. Who hates a party? Well, okay, a couple of my friends are not fond of parties. Or people, for that matter…but for the rest of us crazy kids, check out Alx Block’s take on our upcoming fun.
  6. Swag. No, not sweeping fabric drapes or stolen goods. We are neither interior decorators nor pirates. Most of us aren’t, anyway. WordPress swag rocks. Who can resist Wapuu?
  7. CHOCOLATE. Several places wait to amaze you, but Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar is UN-BEE-LIEVE-ABLE. I’m pretty sure those chocolatiers use magic. And maybe Oompa-Loompas.
  8. Be famous. I’ll be one of the volunteers behind a camera. Say “cheese” (or “coffee,” or “whiskey,” or whatever makes you smile)…you never know when one of my photos will go viral! Hey, it could happen.
  9. You could win a cheesesteak.
  10. And BONUS, you can find out what happens when I ask Hubby what he’d like for Christmas this year and he answers, “A redhead.”

People are arriving from across the ocean and down the block. Don’t miss your opportunity to join the networking, learning and celebration.

If you absolutely can’t make it, here’s an option to join the fun from the comfort of your own space. You can even get an official t-shirt.

See you next week!

WCUS-Site-Badge-Volunteer

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