Terry Pratchett on Death and Grief

“People lived, and died, and were remembered. It happened in the same way that winter follows summer. It was not a wrong thing. There were tears, of course, but they were for those who were left; those who had gone on did not need them”
“She heard him mutter, ‘Can you take away this grief?’
‘I’m sorry,’ she replied. ‘Everyone asks me. And I would not do so even if I knew how. It belongs to you. Only time and tears take away grief; that is what they are for.”
Terry Pratchett – I shall wear midnight

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”
Terry Pratchett Reaper Man

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WP Joburg Meetup

Hello blog,

I have been quiet for a while, but I had a good reason. I have been busy preparing to give back to the amazing WordPress community as well as helping the Friends of FreeMe Free Wildlife get a website up and running.

image credit: Stephan Griesel

image credit: Stephan Griesel

Yesterday, I presented at the WP Joburg meetup on the Genesis Framework for WordPress. It is the first time in over four years that I have done some public speaking… which came as a shock when I realized.  I had some initial nerves when I started presenting but after a couple of questions those settled down and I think that the talk went quite well.

The thing that I enjoyed the most while preparing for the talk was realizing that I knew more than I thought I did about the Genesis Framework.  When preparing the talk I made use of Scrivener and it worked very well, and I think that I am going to keep on doing it when preparing for future talks.

Due to the nature of Genesis (being super awesome, and super-powerful). I only scratched the very, very surface and about the only code that we discussed was framework.php.  The slides are available for viewing on line through Slide Share:

I only covered a fraction of the content that I had generated while preparing for the talk and so I am going to be making that available as well in the near future.

Love and WordPress Meetup,


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What I am grateful for…

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more.

image credit: BK via Flickr

Hello computer,

I had planned to write this post last week Thursday on the American holiday of Thanksgiving, but I ended up spending the day with a sick toddler.  There is no expiration date on gratitude so I am going to write it anyway.

I am grateful for so many things this year. I am super thankful for the amazing staff in the Krugersdorp Private Hospital’s medical intensive care unit for taking such amazing care of my mom in law for over a month. I am incredibly grateful that Lucas still has his ouma and that she is still physically present in our lives.

I am grateful for new friends made. I have become more active in the homeschooling and WordPress  communities and have made some fantastic new friends.

I am grateful for old friends who have stood by me and with me through difficult times this year.

I am grateful for my family…it may not be perfect but it is amazing and we have supported each other through a lot this year.

I am grateful for the things that I have learned and that I am becoming more willing to be vulnerable. I am grateful that I am getting better at giving and receiving help unconditionally.

Most of all, I am grateful that I am still here and that I know depression lies.

Love and gratitude,

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Some tips for Insomnia

Hello Computer,

I generally don’t struggle with sleep. However, every once in a while I struggle with insomnia. It is a special kind of torture to not be able to sleep when your husband and child are sleeping peacefully on either side of you.

image credit: Tambako The Jaguar  via Flickr

image credit: Tambako The Jaguar
via Flickr

As such I have learned a few tricks which help me when insomnia strikes. None of them are guaranteed but since they contain no artificial additives I don’t feel bad about trying them.

Probably the most effective trick that I have discovered is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. At it’s simplest you breathe in slowly through your nose for a slow count of 4, hold your breath for a slow count of 7 and breathe out slowly through your nose for a count of 8. I cannot remember it taking more than four cycles of this breathing technique to fall asleep.

The next most important thing that I have learned is that screens and sleep do not mix. It comes down the frequency of the light in the screens.

Surprisingly caffeine does not seem to have a huge impact for me…but then I am a tea drinker.  Sometimes if my thoughts are racing it helps to just get out of bed and dump as many thoughts as possible on paper… I try to avoid using a screen for this because screens and sleep do not mix.

I have also noticed that I cannot game before trying to sleep. The games are just too stimulating. When I go through patches of insomnia it seems having a bit of a wind down routine helps, and sometimes getting out of bed and repeating the routine can work.

Love and sleeplessness,

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The Great Email Purge of 2015

Hello Computer :-)

"I do the work for free. I get paid to deal with all the emails."

image credit: Hugh MacCleod shared under Creative Commons License

I decided that I get too much e-mail and most of it is from mailing lists. Some of the mails are useful but not useful enough to justify my time, others are from mailing lists that I signed up to but that are no longer relevant to me.

So the other day I decided I was going to radically cut back on the email that I received. I decided that I was going to keep 6 subscriptions and everything else was going to go. It was not a trivial task, in my combined in-boxes I had over 5,000 emails across 3 different accounts.

I started with a list of who I was going to stay subscribed to (presented in no particular order):

  • John Carlton
  • Dan Raine
  • Lynn Terry
  • Jeff Walker
  • Gapingvoid
  • Appsumo

I wrote these names on a little piece of paper…I also said that I was going to consolidate those emails into a single account, rather than being signed up across multiple accounts. The biggest inbox contributor in my one account was Facebook notifications. I have now turned off notifications.  (I will probably do a friend purge in the not too distant future as well). This turned out to be a blessing because I use gmail as an email client and was able to use the search and filter functionality to clean out the mails. (HINT: search using *@facebookmail.com to select all of the mails in one go).

I was pleasantly surprised by how little SPAM has made its way into my inbox… I would say that less than five percent of the mails that I received were not opted into at some stage or another.
In addition to opting out of most newsletters I have created filters to make sure that I only get mails worthy of my time in my inbox…which also means that I am more likely to check the email since I have been known to get overwhelmed and just archive every single message in my inbox without reading it without even declaring email bankruptcy.

I was pleased to see how many South African companies are providing to opt out of mailing lists although there are some people who are still just using “send to all” in their email client…and not even BCCing the emails. Some people need to get into the 21st century. Those emails are simply now being filtered straight into the trash.

This was a challenging exercise and it was partly inspired by Lynn Terry’s rule of Create as much content as you consume. It forced me to truly look at my priorities and there were some people who definitely create worthwhile content who I have broken away from, including Ed Dale.

I am looking forward to seeing how this email strategy pans out.

Love and less mail,

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The power of shitty first drafts

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.” – Anne Lamott: Bird by Bird

I first came across the concept of the Shitty First Draft on Copyblogger years ago. But it is something that I have battled with. Ed Dale helped me get over it, when he introduced me to the concept of free writing.  I am not exaggerating when I say that this thirteen and a half minute video has changed my life and I seriously recommend that you watch it.

The essence of a shitty first draft is that it is okay to suck. It is okay not to be perfect. And

The word perfect.

image credit: Bruce Berrien via Flickr

that is what gives permission to start. Without starting it will never become worth while. Some people argue against the Shitty First Draft, likening it to a builder rocking up on site and just willy-nilly throwing a house together, but for me it is more akin to sketching the ideas for the architect on the back of a napkin.

Before yesterday I had never created an online portfolio…not because I am not confident in my work but because I have been afraid. Yesterday when I began I was literally frozen in fear, until I typed the words:

This is a shitty first draft of a portfolio…it doesn’t matter if it sucks because no one is going to see it in this form anyway and so I am just going to start.

Having those words sit at the top of the page allowed me to acknowledge my fear but move any way. Fear is a very human emotion and I think it is something that we learn…to avoid mistakes, and from there it is easy to convince ourselves to stay small to avoid risks to not show up.

The power of a shitty first draft is that it allows me to show up. It may not be perfect but it is something and something that can be improved upon.

Love and shitty first drafts,

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“No” is not a dirty word

Hello computer,

No painted on a road

image credit: Henry Burrows via Flickr

I have a confession to make. Once upon a time I was an unthinking “yes” girl. It did not matter what the personal cost of saying yes was. It was an unthinking reflex…if someone asked for something and I could do it, I would say “yes” regardless. And I would demure on tangible offers for help. I would battle to say “no” to any thing.

The first person who unwittingly changed that for me was a high-school friend’s mom, when one night I mentioned that I battle to say no to something as trivial as turning down an offer for a sorbet, she said: “There is always ‘no, thank you’ “. I am truly grateful to her for making that comment because it kindled a tiny ember in my soul, and as time has marched on I have become better at setting boundaries and moving away from co-dependent enabling.

The next biggest teaching about saying no in my life came from none other than John Carlton. He is a world-class copywriter who pulls no punches with the advice that he offers. In 2011 during our Costa Rican sojourn, I discovered his blog. And one day he challenged his readers to answer the question:
What is this magic word that can work such wonders for your productivity?

And while I was curious and in the comfort of our cabin I thought about the answer, I did not have the courage to answer in public.  But I did pay attention to John’s post the next week where he revealed:

So, the answer to the quiz is about the foundation of your attitude, when it’s time to BE productive.

The Magic Word is…


Learning to use this word the right way is how youset yourself up for success.  This word will allow you to finally use all the other words — focus, motivation, discipline, work, gallons of coffee — to dig into your goal-oriented projects…

protected from all the evil crap out there that yearns to destroy your productivity.

Why “no”?

Because few people recognize the power of the word, or the best way to use it.  Humans tend to be either spineless about it, or raving sociopaths.

We’ll discuss the sicko’s at some other point (and you DO need to be aware of them, and know how to deal with them, if you’re gonna be successful in biz).

Right now, however, I’m concerned with entrepreneurs and business owners who have a dysfunctional relationship with the word “no”.

Here’s the thing with “no”:  You do not have to be an asshole to use it.

In fact, especially in business (and affairs of the heart), you are an asshole if you DON’T use it.

And this blew on the embers of the fire that was started nearly ten years before, but I still battled. Finally, after a couple of years of therapy I have started getting better at saying no.

Along the way I have realised that yes, no, “I don’t know”, and “I will think about it” are all equally acceptable answers to questions. And you can say no without offering an explanation or offense, and having boundaries is a very healthy thing.

Love and saying no,

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What makes a good friend?

Hello computer,

image credit: Raj via Flickr

image credit: Raj via Flickr

I had a spur of the moment visit from a friend earlier today. (I love it when things just happen and come together and feed the soul).

And at some point we started talking about what makes a good friend. And for me I think the answer is that I know you are a good friend when I can be vulnerable around you…when I can admit that I don’t know all the answers and I might even be struggling with the question. When I can be my imperfect self around you.

For me you are a good friend if I will phone you in the middle of the night when I am in trouble.

You are a good friend when we can say to each other, “I am upset about … but I forgive you”.

For me the biggest sign that someone is a good friend is that you feel refreshed and energised after spending time with them.

Life is short and relationships take work, but in the case of a good friendship, in my experience, the work feels effortless.

Love and friendships,

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Why I love and recommend WordPress

Hello Computer :),

As I said yesterday I came into web design via the backdoor. When we left for Costa Rica I started a little blog on this domain. (I deleted it before we came back which is something that I regret but it is not something that I can change).

A closeup of a WordPress button pinned to a jacket.

image credit: Titanas via Flickr

My first website was WordPress and I have been a huge fan from my first site. I am not alone in loving WordPress, according to W3techs over a quarter of the world’s internet is powered by WordPress.

The main thing that I love about WordPress is that it is so easy to use. I am comfortable setting up a WordPress site for a family member or friend and letting them go explore, telling them that the chances are that they will not be able to break something that I cannot fix. (I have not been wrong YET!)

I love how easy it is to customize and the huge amount of resources available. WordPress websites are beautiful and have some truly significant users. (CNN runs on WordPress, so does Forbes).  There are over two thousand themes available through WordPress and over 40,000 plugins.

WordPress sites are also well coded. You will never find a WordPress site nested inside a table (unlike some other sites, including ones offering web design in South Africa). In a 2012 Official Google Webmaster blog post about the importance of using semantic markup, clarifying that doing so means using markup according to its meaning and purpose. In 2015 there really is no excuse to be using a table for layout..HTML for structure, CSS for presentation. (Here ends my little rant).

The fact that WordPress sites are well coded means that they are search engine friendly, and plugins like Yoast SEO make them even more so. (Search Engine Optimisation is not evil when it is done right, at its essence it is about connecting people with what they are interested in).

I love the WordPress community. The people who are involved in making WordPress are generally friendly and helpful and kind. They are so friendly in fact that after my first WordPress Joburg meetup I have volunteered to talk at the next one (eeek!).

Because WordPress has such a large community, it is a secure and robust platform. When vulnerabilities are discovered they are quickly fixed and deployed.

WordPress as a platform is free…which means that there are not exorbitant licensing fees that act as a barrier to entry. If you put in the time and effort you can have a beautiful site that you create yourself, if you don’t want to there are plenty of people who you can pay to help you out with the site.

WordPress is a wonderful platform because it has embraced the philosophy of an open web…it is easy to use and has a fantastic community. These days if you are getting started on the web there really is not a better place to start.

Love and motivations,

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From LLB to web designer

Hello computer,

People are always surprised when they hear that I moved away from law and into web design. Personally, I didn’t find it to be such a shift.

Two chocolate labradors sitting in front of a fence with a view of Ciudad Colon in the background.

Echo and Fudge in Costa Rica

I suppose I should back up a bit. Once upon a time I enrolled at the Rand Afrikaans University for a B Com Law degree and then an LLB when it became the University of Johannesburg. I spent a year working in the commercial property sector auditing leases of large companies and researching things related to that before I started my articles with a small litigation firm. In June of that year my husband got an offer to move to Costa Rica with his company for a while. We basically said “If not, why not” and 4 months later packed up our lives into what could fit into 4 suitcases and shipped our labradors over. (The vet basically told us that there would be kinder ways to kill our particular cat then flying him across with us).

Costa Rican National FlagNow, I could not legally work in Costa Rica and so to keep out of mischief I started learning about web design. I found some striking similarities between the law and design. At the essence of both is solving problems. And before you can solve the problem you need to identify what it is. Once you have solved the problem there are a number of principles that can be applied in implementing the solution.

Both fields are structured but creative. In the preface to Amler’s Precedents of Pleadings there is a caution about using a precedent in litigation likening it to using a precedent for a love letter…that while it may work you need to be very mindful of the particular circumstances. The same is true for design work.

In design, like the law, there are best practices. (I am horrified when I view the source of websites and see that the entire site is nested in a table! A large number of South African sites are sadly guilty of this).

Another legal textbook, Morris: Techniques in Litigation, argues that in preparing for a case a lawyer needs to learn about their client’s business I have found the same to be true with design…you need to understand where everything fits together. Probably the biggest advantage of having a B Com LLB and being a self-taught designer is that I am able to see the big picture incredibly well.

And so, while at the moment more of the time is spent momming then creating websites this is starting to shift towards more design work and I am thrilled about that.

Love and autobiographical details,

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