Every Kid Needs a Champion

I was a teacher for a very long time. But by the time I saw the TED Talk by Rita Pierson explaining why every kid needs a champion, I think I had it all figured out.

Before I flew solo in a classroom of my own, I watched an older teacher approach a difficult situation in the playground. Within minutes she had those tough kids knocking themselves out to do what she had asked.

I was mesmerised. Her explanation was simple:

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

I never forgot those words, or their effect on that unruly bunch of students.

Over the ensuing years of my long teaching career, I figured out a lot of things – mostly out of necessity.

Like the year I inherited the group of students no other teacher wanted. There were only about six kids who were the problem – but they were pretty much considered the thugs of the school. And I got them all!

Luckily, a few years earlier, I’d had a much bigger challenge. A really difficult little guy who no teacher wanted. In fact, no school wanted him. Alternate arrangements were made for me to teach him in an off-campus setting.

On the first day I figured out that I had to find something to love about this kid. Okay – at first it came down to how well he breathed. I just loved the way he did that: in – out – in – out.

Eventually I discovered that this ten-year old had a lot going for him – but he’d been totally misunderstood. Together we worked hard on his skills and the following year he graduated into the school I was attached to.

Because every kid needs a champion

So when I got that tough group of kids – it wasn’t a problem. I just found something to love about each one of them. And it worked.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I discovered the wisdom of Rita Pierson. Not only did it validate what I’d already learned, but it gave me the reason why. It made me realise that every kid needs a champion because they often have nobody else in their lives to stand up for them; to have their back; to not give up on them.

And at the end of that first year with those tough kids I went to the Principal’s office with a whole bunch of research to show why a teacher should move up with their class. He laughed.

“Are you kidding?”, he said. “Nobody else wants those kids. They’re all yours!”.

I stayed with that group for three years. And loved every minute of it.

After watching Rita’s TED Talk, I figured it out. I had become the champion for those kids. The one who believed in them. The one who had tears of pride in her eyes when my reluctant non-reader read his first book to the Principal. The one who secretly laughed inside when the class made their own classroom rules and insisted on much tougher penalties than I ever would have. And the same one who missed five minutes of break-time when I broke one of the rules. Those kids were tough disciplinarians! But it worked.

So whether you are a teacher or a parent, take seven minutes out of your busy life to watch Rita Pierson deliver this passionate (and humorous) TED Talk.

Tip: Watch for Sir Ken Robinson in the audience, as well as a few other notable faces.

And if you know a teacher – make sure you share.

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Teaching, 2 comments

From Drought to Flood in Twenty-Four Hours

The big word that has dominated media coverage in Australia for way too long is the D-Word – D-R-O-U-G-H-T! The soil in most parts of the country has been dry as a bone. There are toddlers who don’t even know what rain is in some parts of the land. There just hasn’t been any since they were born. But in twenty-four short hours, we’ve gone from drought to flood.

Image by holdosi from Pixabay 

Here in Murwillumbah, we are usually luckier than most – our overall rainfall is generally healthier than in other parts of Australia. But not this season. Even before summer officially started, rain was nowhere to be seen.

And with drought comes water-restrictions. A few weeks ago our local Council brought down the verdict:

Level Two Water Restrictions for the Tweed Shire!

I don’t have too big an issue with that because I try to limit the amount of water I use every day. I’ve lived in the bush and relied on tank-water (with very little rain to fill it) often enough to appreciate how precious every drop of water is.

But no so for my neighbours. They are gardeners. And Level Two restrictions means they have to ration the water out to their ever-thirsty plants.

I should explain that my place is where plants come to die. Not intentionally. It just happens. Apart from one Zanzibar Gem that even I can’t kill, an Aloe Vera plant that thrives on neglect, and one small succulent that has managed to remain in the upright position – I don’t do the gardening thing. I tend to either drown plants or they die of thirst. So I prefer to leave living garden things in other people’s capable hands.

My plant-loving neighbours can now only hose their gardens on odd or even days (depending on their house-number), and then only late in the afternoon. But if they want to carry a bucket-load of water to each garden, they can water whenever they like.

Drought to Flood!

A few days ago it was hot and dry in Murwillumbah, as it had been for a very long time.

But last night the rain came in earnest. Heavy drops that you could actually hear falling. And accompanied, sporadically, with thunder and lightning.

This morning, it’s a very different scene.

The soil the rain is falling on is so hard, from prolonged lack of moisture, that the rainwater can’t get through it. The water is just pooling on the surface. And naturally, that water has to go somewhere, so it is spreading out across roadways.

At least one road in the area could easily change its name from Ducat Street to Ducat Creek.

And a local cafe has closed for the day due to water backing up. There just isn’t anywhere for the excess water to go.

Floating Debris and Flooded Roads

The fires that have ravaged so much of our land since October have left very little in their path. Ash and unstable trees, the ones lucky enough to have escaped complete destruction, are all that is left. The water from the long overdue rain, unable to soak into the ground, has enough force to topple some of the trees that have not already been taken down by fire. Those trees, along with ash and other debris, is now at risk of being pushed onto roadways.

Sadly, while one of our Fire and Rescue teams was out saving motorists who were trapped in their vehicles on a flooded street, their Station was inundated with water. According to their Facebook page, the morning has been taken up with rescues in the area, and then sandbagging their station. All they hope for is a bit of downtime so they can eat, drink coffee, and brush their teeth. I guess the early morning call outs don’t leave much time for life’s basic necessities. I hope they get that downtime today.

Despite the sudden onset of the flood, which is why it is called flash flooding, we still welcome the water falling from the sky. Not only will it help relieve some of the drought-related problems, but hopefully it will extinguish the fires that are still burning.

The flooding is temporary. And if motorists take adequate precautions, there shouldn’t be too many problems.

Remember: If it’s flooded – forget it!

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 0 comments

Tumbulgum – Can You Even Say It?

The first time I drove past a sign to Tumbulgum, I reckon I did what any non-local would do – I mispronounced it. Yep – I got it totally wrong because it isn’t how it seems.

There are a lot of places down here in Australia with names you can’t pronounce. The first time I saw the name ‘Indooroopilly’, I almost packed my bags and moved back to New South Wales, from whence I’d just come.

How was I going to live in a state where I couldn’t even say the name of neighbouring towns? I mean, really?

But like everything, once you get the hang of it, it’s easy.

Let me introduce you to some of our Aussie slang.

We have a habit of shortening anything that seems like an effort to say.

  • Ambulance Driver = Ambo
  • Tea Break = Smoko
  • Garbage Collection Driver = Garbo
  • Avocado = Avo

And just when you think you’ve got this – we change the ending.

  • Motor-bike Rider = Biko Bikie
  • Brick-layer = Bricko Brickie
  • Fire-fighter = Firo Firie
  • Barbecue = Barbie

Then there’s Maccas = McDonalds – of the fast food variety.

And when I lived out in Central Queensland, the town of Woorabinda was simply Woori.

Mullumbimby is shortened to Mullum.

Well, that one was easy.

So you see, there’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to sorting out our language. All you need to know is: if it can be shortened – it will be shortened.

And that goes for people’s names as well. Oh, unless you have red hair – then you’ll be called Blue.

Wait, is that even politically correct anymore? Probably not – but it was certainly the case when I was young.

Let’s get back to those place names.

As it turns out, Indooroopilly hasn’t been shortened – as far as I know – but it is shortened in the way you say it. Instead of sounding out all the oo’s, you kind of just leave them out altogether. So it ends up sounding like ‘Indrupilly’ (using the short vowel -u- sound like hum).

And now, let’s get back to Tumbulgum. Nope – it isn’t like Tumbul-gum. It’s more like Tm-bol-gm – you kind of run the t and m and the g and m together. And the first u becomes an o sound – as in r-o-c-k

Actually, it doesn’t matter how you pronounce Tumbulgum, as long as you go there. It is a spectacularly beautiful little place.

That’s Mt Warning (Wollumbin) in the background. Rumour has it that Mt Warning is the first place in Australia the sun shines on every day.

Tumbulgum is where the Rous River meets the Tweed River.

And since my house is just a short drive from Mt Warning and Tumbulgum, I guess you can see why I love living in Murwillumbah.

If you are up for a real challenge – visit our neighbour, New Zealand. And especially the town of Whakatane (/fɑːkɑːˈtɑːnə/).

I’ll say no more…..

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 0 comments

Capital F For Failure!

I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.

Tony Robbins

If Tony Robbins is right – this month I’ve laid some massive foundations for the future.

The January Blog Challenge was going well – for a while. And then it all went pear-shaped. I don’t know why, when or even how. It just happened.

We’re halfway through the month but I am nowhere near halfway through the number of blogs I should have posted. A quarter, maybe?

It all happened when I decided to be super-creative and write a blog about one of my favourite places – Murwillumbah. Oh don’t worry, you haven’t missed it – it didn’t actually get to the Published stage. It’s still sitting in my Drafts folder.

I slaved over that blog day and night. It had fantastic photos, facts and most of my SEO ducks even lined up. But the blog was a failure.

I missed the deadline!

And the next one!

By the time I’d missed two deadlines, panic crept up from somewhere in my writing-feet and threatened to strangle me at any minute.

But that blog remained well-and-truly stuck. It was flat, contrived and downright boring. Even I found it hard to read – and I wrote it!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The frustration that Robbins spoke about weighed heavily on me – kind of like dancing in cement shoes.

And still my unfinished Murwillumbah blog just stared blankly back at me. Stark, unimaginative, and totally unresponsive. There wasn’t a spark of life in it.

Oddly enough, the motive behind writing about Murwillumbah should have provided me with immunity against failure.

Write about something you’re passionate about – they say….

Murwillumbah is where I live. I am passionate about it.

That blog failure stopped me in my tracks…

The urge to abandon it grew in intensity. But the hours of work I’d put into it stopped me from hitting the Delete key.

I was caught in a Limbo between flushing two days work down the drain and the thought of starting again. Should I try once more to resurrect the dead blog, or simply count my blessings and move onto a new one?

Both ideas won – sort of. For two days I found a million things to do that had nothing to do with writing.

But the long-fingers of the Blog Challenge found their way into my conscience. Guilt and the fear of losing the war and not just the battle made me fire up the iPad and start again. But the pain of my abandoned post about Murwillumbah lingered.

One night, more deadlines, and three-hundred words later, another draft sits idly in the Draft Folder. In all my cleverness I decided to write a blog about how I had found my niche by not finding my niche. But that didn’t work any better than not finding my niche in the first place.

But at least now I know what the problem is. Yes, I was passionate about the topic, but my style of writing changed. I had moved away from the conversational tone I usually use and was trying to write something (seriously) factual.

It just didn’t work

So here I am, writing a brand new blog about nothing in particular, in my usual casual manner.

Have I learned from failure?

You bet I have!

And the lessons learned will form the basis of another blog, in another time.

Sorry to rush off – but I’ve got a whole lot of blogging to do to catch up!
Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 4 comments

Shaking the Branches of the Family Tree

Does everyone have a family folk-story they are fascinated by, or is it just me? And if they do, how do they shake the truth out of the branches of the family tree? I’ve been shaking my family’s branches for years, and I still can’t find the real story.

The common folk-lore tells of a (very) young man who stowed away on a ship from Sweden and travelled the world. But when he landed in Australia, many years later, he met the love of his life and settled down.

When his feet touched Australian soil he was intent on making his fortune by finding gold, and returning to Sweden to take care of his widowed mother and younger brother and sister.

A postcard sent to my Grandfather – from his brother Axel (Bergman)

A fortune to be made?

The Gold Rush of our early days may have made some millionaires, but this young man from Sweden wasn’t one of them.

Instead, he drifted from the goldfields of Western Australia to Wellington in New South Wales, where he made the decision to become an Australian Citizen. And instead of digging for gold, he became a Railway employee. No more sailing ships and distant ports – the young man chose a more settled lifestyle.

And somewhere amid thoughts of settling down, he met an Australian girl.

He proposed.

She accepted.

And a new Family Tree was created

That young Swede was my Grandfather, and the young girl was my grandmother.

The difference in age meant nothing to them. She was nineteen – he was thirty-five. Over the many years they were together, my grandmother gave birth to ten children, including my father.

I remember Grandfather…

I remember him as an old man, sitting on a rocking chair on the front porch of their home on Valencia Street.

What I don’t remember, but I wish I did, was hearing him speak. He didn’t say much – but I wish I could remember his accent.

If only I could go back in time…. I have so many questions – and I would love hearing his accent.

I would ask:

  • Why did he leave Sweden?
  • How old was he when he left?
  • Did he really stow away on a sailing ship to leave his homeland?
  • What countries did he visit before coming to Australia?
  • Did he have children somewhere else – before starting his Australian family?
  • Did he stay in touch with his mother and siblings?
  • Who were his grandparents, uncles, aunties?

I remember my grandmother telling me about letters from Grandfather’s family back home in Sweden. But nobody knows anything about them. And I was much too young to appreciate the significance of it back then.

All I can do now is to continue shaking the branches of the Family Tree. Maybe one day the answer to some, or all of these questions will be answered.

The Genetic Link

I remember the day Grandfather died.

I might have been only nine years old – but I remember. And on that day, the link to the Swedish family we know nothing about, died too.

I submitted my DNA through Ancestry a few years ago, and that has been invaluable in finding cousins all over the world – but only a few in Sweden. And there are no clues about any common ancestors.

Somewhere in Sweden is another family with their own folk-lore about the brother who sailed away and never returned.

One day I hope to find that family and connect the stories that will shake the truth out of both our family trees.

I’ll keep searching…

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 4 comments

I Am Not a Painter

Did we have a prompt for today’s Ultimate Blog Challenge? If we did, I missed it. But I welcome the opportunity to just write, and in the process explain why I am not a painter.

By lunchtime today my living room looked like something had exploded. It wasn’t a pretty sight and as I stood in the middle of the chaos, I wondered if I would ever see the floor again.

It all started a few weeks years ago.

When I moved from a big house into a two-bedroom unit, I kidded myself that I had downsized. I hadn’t.

My oversized lounge suite took up way too much room. Sure, it looked good and it was super-comfortable – but…

Don’t get me wrong – this two-bedroom unit isn’t minuscule – there’s actually heaps of room. But that big lounge just looked huge, no matter where I put it. It was just too big.

Add a fantastic (big) dining table, four chairs, a whole heap of other stuff and a big tall cupboard, and the room was full. Every couple of months I would rearrange. I’d haul that huge lounge to the other end of the room and lug the dining table to where the lounge had been. It always looked good then – but before long I’d want to move it all again.

Attachment is Not Good!

You know how you become attached to things for all the wrong reasons? Yep – me too. I was so attached to that furniture, even though it just didn’t fit in the new house.

A few weeks ago I made a decision – it all had to go!

I contacted a local Used-Furniture store and they were happy to take on the responsibility of the oversized lounge, the big table and the cupboard.

Actually, as big as the table was, it could be extended even further. It was the kind of table you would have the whole family, and their friends, and a couple of neighbours sitting around for dinner.

But I had to wait until last Saturday to actually see it all disappear down the stairs, and onto the two waiting Utes (that’s ‘pick-up trucks’ for my non-Aussie readers).

Did I shed a tear as I waved goodbye?

Nah – I’d had a few weeks to get used to the idea. And with everything that was in the cupboard now stashed in boxes -some in the guest-room and some lined up along the wall in the living room, I was happy to see the old things go.

With the lounge gone, my outside writing seat had to come inside – for now.

But it needed to be repainted.

I covered the floor with plastic sheets to protect the carpet, opened the can of white paint, and got started.

Oh, and in the meantime, I had found the perfect sized dining table and chairs that I just couldn’t resist. Not big, round or extendable – just nice and compact – and brown. So they had to be painted too. I had already stripped down one chair and dabbed a coat of white paint on it. But now it had to wait while I painted the bigger seat.

And as if painting furniture wasn’t enough, there were the holes in the wall to deal with. Only two, but reasonably big.

The oversized TV I’d bought when I moved in had to be moved to the other side of the room when I wanted the big white cupboard on that wall. Dave, our handy-person, had obliged by taking the TV off the wall for me, but it was up to me to fix the holes where the bracket had been attached. Back then I didn’t know how to do that, but it didn’t really matter because the cupboard covered the holes.

Now it mattered…!

The cupboard was gone and the holes stared back at me.

So now I had a chair to finish painting (plus three more and a table), a seat to start painting and a wall to patch – and paint.

And I am not a painter!

With the plastic sheets spread across the floor and the paint tin open, I applied a coat of paint to the seat. While that dried I sanded off some of the mistakes from the chair – maybe I used the wrong brush and that’s what left those marks?

By now there was white dust all over the blue plastic. The seat was in the middle of the room, the chair to one side. And I had amassed a heap of tools on the floor.

There was an opener for the paint tin and a hammer to close it. There was a stirrer for mixing, and sandpaper – lots of sandpaper – for sanding. When you don’t know what kind of sandpaper you’ll need, you buy a few of each, right? Right.

And not to forget the nifty little flexible sanding blocks (in two sizes – coarse and fine) that were supposedly handy for sanding roundish things, like chairs.

Oh and there were cute little trays to put paint in for using the cute little rollers I’d bought ages ago – about the time I thought I’d have to paint the wall – but didn’t.

And then there was a big tray and a big roller that the helpful attendant at the paint store assured me I would need to paint the wall – after I told him about the cute little rollers I had previously bought to do the job. He guessed (correctly) that I am not a painter.

While the paint dried on the seat, I found the putty-stuff and applied it to the holes in the wall. That part was fun.

Time for a coffee….

Things weren’t progressing too well by the time a neighbour called in for help with a tech-problem on her iPad. I was lucky to find an empty corner of the compact brown table. We fixed the problem and I got back to work.

This was intended to be the project that I did well. Not rushed – just slow and methodical. Kind of like pretending that I am a painter.

If you hadn’t noticed already, painting isn’t my specialty. And I have never painted a wall before. I did mention I am not a painter, didn’t I?

So the day progressed with rotations between painting, putty-ing, sanding and finally, trying to get all the dust off the floor without getting any onto the drying paint.

The seat looked good enough – I’d long since given up on the idea of perfection.

With that mission accomplished, and the tools moved outside onto the balcony (at least they’ll be safe for tonight), I started moving furniture into place.

I’m not one who can visualise where something will go – I have to actually move it. The only problem with that is, the big TV.

The TV sits on top of a medium-sized cupboard, and I had to move it all in one piece. So after much swivelling and balancing the cupboard and TV, I finally had it in the right place – except it wasn’t the right place.

Ironically, the best place was going to be the wall that was still waiting to be painted. More swivelling and balancing, and finally, the TV and the cupboard were against the wall – the one still waiting to be painted. Except, now I couldn’t see where I’d fixed the holes. The cupboard and the big TV were covering them.

Phew!

One less problem. Painting the wall can wait – again.

By 6pm I had rearranged everything – except I still haven’t found a place for everything that came out of the old cupboard. They can stay in boxes for tonight, but I think a trip to Ikea might be a priority for tomorrow. A couple of book cases (small ones, of course) will take care of the books. And even some of the treasures.

And that brings me to the subject of the prompt for the Ultimate Blog Challenge. By not having a specific prompt, I can write about how tired I am and how I’ve got aches in places I didn’t even know I had places. It must have been all the lifting and swivelling and balancing.

But the room looks good and I now have a desk in my living area that I can write at – while I watch TV, instead of having to juggle my iPad on my lap, on the old lounge that I no longer have. All this despite the fact I am not a painter.

I still have three chairs and a table to paint – but not tonight!

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 2 comments

2020 is The Year of Twos

My organisational skills have never been good – and navigating my way through the January Ultimate Blog Challenge is no different. Somehow I missed one of the prompts for the challenge – somewhere back on Day 4. I’m ready to tackle it now, but instead of talking about all things 4, as the prompt suggested, I’ll write about how ‘2020 is the year of twos’.

I’ve always been out-of-step with fashion, trends, and everyone else. And I’ve been doing it for way too long to change now. So while others write about fours – I want to write about twos. Because this year is going to be amazing!

2020 is the year of twos, and it is going to be my year!

Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay

The number two has been my lucky number for as long as I can remember, and this year’s birthday creates a very lucky number – if my theory is right.

If you write the numerical form of my birthday this year, when you read it forwards and backwards, it will be the same.

02 02 2020

In my humble opinion, that makes it a palindrome.

Can you imagine the charmed life of babies born on that day?

And I know one couple who have planned their wedding for 02 02 2020. The bride won’t need to carry a horseshoe to attract luck – (do brides still do that?).

I can’t remember how old I was when I figured out that twos played a significant role in my life. It must have been when I had too much time on my hands and not a lot of important things to ponder.

And just for the record, I have:

  • Two children
  • Two Granddaughters
  • Two Grandsons

2020, the year of twos

So how will 2020, the year of twos, shape up for you? Is it going to be the best year ever?

I wonder what other dates have interesting combinations?

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 4 comments

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – Why and How?

I HATE Red Lights! Not the ones at intersections designed to keep everyone safe. I mean – the ones on my website that tell me I don’t have my Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – optimised.

I’m certainly not an expert on SEO, but it did my head in until I had a reasonable handle on it.

Image by Prawny from Pixabay

Do I need to worry about Search Engine Optimisation?

A couple of years ago, a friend and I were comparing Plugins on our websites. Since we both have WordPress sites, the discussion focused on plugins that are compatible with WordPress.

Di, being more technologically advanced than me, mentioned a plugin that helped with Search Engine Optimisation. Since it was on the ‘f-r-e-e’ list of plugins, it was a no-brainer. I ‘plugged it in‘ and started learning how to use it.

There are probably hundreds of SEO plugins, and I’m sure they’re all fantastic, but the one Di recommended was Yoast. Yoast has a basic plugin that is f-r-e-e, and a more advanced Premium plugin that you pay for. I still use the basic one.

Like a lot of plugins, there is plenty of online support. But that didn’t protect me from a few sleepless nights while I grappled with the many aspects of the new plugin. It was a bit overwhelming, but starting small and learning one thing at a time, made it achievable.

It was those Red Lights that did my head in!

Well, they’re not really red lights – they’re more like red-dots. But the ones you need to see are the green smiley faces. If you get the red (or amber) dot – you have a bit more work to do before hitting the Publish button. That’s if you want your SEO to be really optimised.

Yoast uses simple red, amber and green icons. I’m only describing Yoast because it is the only one I’m familiar with. But I’m sure there are other plugins that would provide the same support.

Yoast works on two key elements:

  • Readability Analysis
  • SEO Analysis

Like most things, the more you use it, the easier it is.

Readability Analysis

Using a plugin, like Yoast, can provide a visual cue to help you optimise your website so that search engines will find your content. When someone types a word into a search engine – you want your site to be at the top of the response list – or at least somewhere close to the top. Paying attention to SEO helps.

This is my score at this point of my post.

The Readability of your content is fundamental. The easier your content is to read, the more likely potential customers will stay on, and come back to your site. Writing for a website is different to other types of writing – it’s all about the white-space.

A lot of people use their portable iDevices – like Smart Phones and Tablets to browse the Internet. The more white space around the text, the easier it is to read on small devices. By white spaces, I mean breaking text up into smaller chunks than you would for writing on other mediums.

Easy Reading…

Your content needs to be readable by a wide range of readers with varying levels of ability. Younger readers skim – so lots of headings helps them navigate a large chunk of content.

The Flesch Reading Ease score gives you an indication of the level of skill needed to read (and comprehend) your content.

300 words or less between sub-headings is optimal. When I go over that amount, the plugin lets me know. I can then go back and add a few more sub-headings and I’m good to go.

You also need to stay focused on sentence beginnings. Starting consecutive sentences with the same word will result in a sad face.

The ‘Eyes’!

You don’t need a green icon for each individual element to achieve an overall green smiley face – you just need most. But don’t worry, the plugin will let you know if you’ve got it right – or not.

When I first started using the plugin, my biggest problem was using too much Passive Voice – and believe me, I still fall off the wagon sometimes.

Passive Voice, Sentence Length and Transition Words show an ‘eye’ icon on the right side of the description. If you click on the ‘eye’, the text that needs attention will be highlighted, making it easier for you to identify where the trouble-spots are.

Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to edit the text until the highlighting disappears and the green smiley face lights up.

And guess what – the more you do that, the more easily your writing automatically slips into that style. And that’s why it is easier to achieve the green icons, the more you use the plugin.

SEO Analysis

This is probably the most serious side of the plugin. And is possibly a little harder to achieve – at first.

This is what my raw-score looks like – before I’ve given it the attention it needs.

I won’t go into too much detail in this post, but a few basics might help you get started.

Outbound Links are simply links to another website. A few hyperlinks in your text to the source of a quote or definition of a word – and you’ve got this covered.

I rarely use Internal Links and I’m not even sure why this is important – but it’s something I will devote time to learning – soon. I’ve managed to clear all the hurdles and get the overall Green Light on my posts without worrying too much about it – so far.

The Keyphrase is an important element. This is the word that you hope people will be searching for that will lead them to your site. The Keyphrase needs to reflect the content of your text.

The Metadescription is a brief outline of what your content is about. And Yoast keeps me accountable by not letting me go over a specific length on my description.

If you are marketing Sofa Beds, your keyphrase needs to include the words Sofa Beds. You also need to include the phrase throughout your text – not too much – but often enough to keep the search engines happy.

SEO Title Length needs to be long enough, but not too long. My SEO plugin lets me know by putting a green line under the SEO title length when I’ve got it right.

Image Alt Attributes is another area I have been a bit slack in, but, as long as I can get the overall green smiley without it, I’ll keep that bit of learning on the back-burner for a while longer.

With a little bit of tweaking I achieved the following results, which were enough to give me the go-ahead to Publish, knowing my SEO was okay. Not brilliant and far from the professional standards of experts, but good enough for me.

A little bit of tweaking improves Search Engine Optimisation…
And two Green Smiley Faces – what more could a Blogger want!

If all that seems like hard work – trust me – it isn’t. The online support provided by good Search Engine Optimisation plugins, like Yoast, will have you up and running in no time.

And guess what? Even Yoast says it’s okay not to have all green lights – all the time.

But for me it has become a bit of a personal challenge. As you can see, I don’t get all green faces, but I do get as many as I can. And I promise myself to learn more so that one day, I can actually tick all the boxes.

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Now all most of the ducks line up, and SEO has become second-nature – almost…

My disclaimer: There is still a lot I have to learn about SEO. I am definitely not an expert.

But if I can learn enough to improve my Search Engine Optimisation – so can you.

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 0 comments

Traveling Solo at Eighty-Plus

No, I’m not eighty yet, but I know someone who is. And she is still traveling at … well – let’s just say she is still traveling solo at Eighty-plus. And no – she doesn’t get a taxi to the cruise terminal and live in the lap of luxury for a few weeks while someone else takes care of everything.

Let me explain who Noeline is…

Noeline is a native of another land – not too far from Australia’s golden shores. The inhabitants of this close neighbour of ours are Australia’s friends – unless you mention sport. Then all bets are off and the rivalry is very real.

And it seems that sport isn’t the only thing that natives of New Zealand are good at. If Noeline is anything to go by, our neighbours across the ditch are also extremely resourceful and independent.

Road-Tripping – the only way to go

Luxury travel doesn’t seem to have ever been in Noeline’s vocabulary. No cruise ships or guided tours for her. She sets her own pace and marches to the beat of a very different drum. Traveling at eighty-plus is one thing, but traveling solo at eighty-plus, in a campervan, is something else.

Noeline’s preferred method of travel is being tucked up in her own campervan under a star-lit sky at night. And daylight hours will find her navigating her way along the East or West Coast or across the Nullarbor on a trip from Perth to Murwillumbah.

Perth to Murwillumbah? Are you serious?

Under pressure from well-meaning family members a few years ago, Noeline traded her compact campervan for a big-rig with all the trimmings – you know the ones – toilet, shower, everything that opens-and-shuts.

And that big-rig sat in the big-rig carpark gathering dust. As Noeline explained, it was too technical. There were too many checks and balances to be done in the cabin before she even turned the engine on.

She missed her little camper.

And there were still so many places to explore!

So Noeline drove the big-rig to the big-rig sale yard and sold it. Then the real fun began.

She found a company over in Perth (on the West Coast) who not only sold campervans like her old one, but fitted them out as well.

With a little technological help from me, Noeline sealed the deal online and designed the fit-out of her new van. The only problem was, she had to fly to Perth to collect it and then drive it all the way back to Murwillumbah – a trip that involved crossing the Nullarbor.

Image by Lenka Svobodova from Pixabay 

I used the word ‘problem’ because for me it would have been an insurmountable problem. The loneliness of that long stretch of road across the centre of Australia would have turned me right off. But then, I’m put off by having to stay in anything less than at least a four-star hotel.

But not Noeline – she had it all worked out. She would stuff as much as she could into the baggage allowance of a domestic flight, fly to Perth, collect the new campervan and take a leisurely drive home, across the Nullarbor.

And that’s exactly what she did.

Summer had lost its sting when Noeline flew from Brisbane to Perth – and she could only take a limited amount of warm clothing and bedding with her.

She froze!

She reports having woken up one morning on that Nullarbor trip with ice on the inside of the windows. And she slept in ALL the clothes she had taken with her. She was seriously COLD! But she persevered and she made it – all the way from Perth to Murwillumbah.

No moss grows on Noeline’s rolling stone.

As soon as she was suffeciently rested from the Perth to Murwillumbah trip – she was off again. The East Coast of Australia beckoned – and she heeded the call.

Packing up the van for the East Coast trip…

Noeline phoned me one night from Duaringa in Central Queensland. I knew the area well, having lived not too far from there before retiring.

This time it was the heat that was making the trip a little more arduous, so she planned to head over to Rockhampton for a while and then come home.

A week came and went, and then another. I hadn’t heard from her and her van wasn’t in its usual parking spot at home. I started to worry – should I call her?

Why Worry?

I soon discovered that worrying about Noeline when she is traveling solo is a waste of time and effort. She is resourceful and independent.

But when an incoming call with Noeline’s number on it finally flashed up on my mobile phone, I was relieved.

There wasn’t any problem – she had just decided to detour via Grafton to see the beautiful Jacaranda trees in flower.

And that is how this incredibly independent and sprightly lady rolls. She makes traveling solo at eighty-plus seem so easy that heck – anyone could do it – or not. I still have to psych myself up to drive my medium-sized sedan from Murwillumbah to the north-side of Brisbane – a trip of (on a good day) two hours.

As much as I want to be like Noeline, I doubt I ever will. I lack the sense of adventure and confidence that just oozes out of her.

I like to sleep in a king-sized bed in a good-quality hotel – Noeline pulls up on the side of the road and rolls into her platform bed in the back of her van.

I fly to my destination – Noeline takes days or even weeks to drive to hers.

And that is why this gutsy-lady…..

… is my super-hero!

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 7 comments

Wait…How Did I Build a Website?

I remember the long, hard days of a career that seemed to go on forever. And the Bucket List of places I wanted to see, books I wanted to read, and courses I wanted to take. But nowhere on that long list of ‘will-do’s’ did I write – build a website. Build a website was not ever on my retirement radar.

So how did ‘build a website’ happen?

If I retrace my footsteps, I can probably see how the idea may have formed, albeit fairly loosely.

I guess it really began in the mid-Eighties. We were living on Penang Island in Malaysia at the time. It was a two-year posting and I had finished my teacher-training a year or two before we left Australia.

As we flew out of Sydney, I waved goodbye to friends and family and life as I had known it. And a job I had been happily working in since graduation.

The posting was code for a two-year holiday – for those of us who kept the home-fires burning for the serving-member we were married to. But trust me – there were no home-fires burning anywhere for that two years. Penang only has one season – HOTV-E-R-Y HOT!.

The biggest decision I had to make for two years was – which restaurant to meet friends at for lunch. Or – which craft group to go to on any given day.

Image by onyva from Pixabay 
Famous Street Art in Penang

Until we bought a computer!

At first I was too afraid to even turn it on. I was sure one wrong key-press would delete everything that the braver, more knowledgeable family members had carefully saved. So I just stood back and admired it.

This was not a stance I could maintain. I really wanted to know what that computer could do. But it was just too daunting.

‘Just do it, Mum’, he said. ‘You’ll figure it out.’.

My son assured me he had backed everything up so I really couldn’t do too much damage.

And that was the beginning of my love for all things technology.

Of course, back in the Eighties, computers were sold to women as an amazing tool for storing recipes!

Yep – you certainly could and I certainly did.

But I wanted to know more, so I found an evening course in basic computer skills. The only problem was, it wasn’t exactly B-A-S-I-C. I was in a class with young people, learning how to write programs using the old DOS system. As far as I can remember, DOS stood for Disk Operating System – but I might be wrong on that – the Eighties were so long ago.

Write a Program

My first assignment was to write a program that would enable an assistant at the front of the restaurant, to send an order directly to the kitchen.

I had no idea simple commas could have so many meanings. One comma in the wrong place meant the program wouldn’t run. As simple as my program was – I was proud of the fact that I eventually made it work.

And how far have we come? Try walking into a McDonalds these days and finding a human to interact with. Orders are now placed on the computer at the door. Or via a Smart Device before we even get to the door.

You’ve gotta love technology – or not…

Fast forward to our posting back to Australia and the resumption of my teaching career in 1986. Computers were still a bit of a mystery for some, but my planning was backed up on the trusty old computer.

When I eventually took the giant step back into study to upgrade my qualifications, I invested in a Mac Classic. It was simply a smallish cube. And there was certainly no Internet back then. And not a hint of colour on the screen.

That old Mac got me through a Graduate Diploma in Special Education and a Master’s Degree. By the time I enrolled in a PhD program a few years later, it was time to upgrade. And it was time for a laptop.

Having the Internet and email by then was just the icing on the academic cake. I made it through almost two years of my PhD, but eventually faded back into normal existence. Working long days at school (yes – I was still teaching full-time) and studying at night and weekends just wasn’t sustainable. “I’ll finish my PhD when I retire”, I told myself… somewhat disbelievingly.

And speaking of retirement….

Life continued to hurdle on through the years until one day, I woke up to find that retirement age had passed me by. And I was tired.

I pulled the resignation form out of my back pocket and laid it carefully on the Principal’s desk. He understood. He looked as tired as I felt.

I had been hearing about Bloggers and Blogging for a couple of years before I hung up the chalk for the last time (joking – we had Smart Boards by then). I had no idea what Blogging was all about, but I figured it was something I wanted to learn. And I figured it meant having a website to ‘blog’ on.

So I asked my techie-son how to build a website. After all, he was all grown up and designing websites for clients by then. I secretly thought this was in the bag. My son would whip one up for me in no time. All I would have to do was maintain it.

Wrong!

He told me to go to the WordPress.com website.

“It’s easy, Mum”, he said. “You’ll figure it out.”.

And I did.

With online support from the WordPress fraternity and a bit of trial and error thrown in for good measure, I set my first website up.

But work was still there in the background.

I got super-busy for the next couple of years and didn’t give much thought to the website.

That is, until the retirement cruise to Vanuatu was over and my feet were planted firmly on the ground of my retirement unit – the place I now call home.

Right – so what does a person do when they retire?

They build a website – or three – and start blogging. I had already read a few of the long awaited books and ticked off a few places on my travel Bucket List, so I started writing. I’m still not sure what blogging actually is, for someone like me who isn’t selling anything, but I’m having a go at it.

I don’t have a particular niche. I just write.

When I was stuck for a topic once – I wrote the A-Z of Windows and Doors. It was kind of like a mini-series and I was able to use some of the hundreds of photos I’ve taken – of windows and doors. I’m not sure why I’m obsessed with taking photos of windows and doors – maybe there’s a therapist somewhere for that.

And now I find myself devoting way too much, yet not nearly enough time to blogging and writing. Blogging – when I sign up for the Ultimate Blog Challenge – and writing – when it’s only my loyal family and friends reading my words.

So maybe it all started back in the Eighties with that first computer, but I have no idea where it will all end.
I just know that whatever is destined to happen – will happen – as everything in my life always has and always will – just happen.
Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 0 comments
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