Sad Day

Today is kind of sad for me.  I’ve made the decision to say goodbye to my web server, which was WordPress.org, and transfer back to WordPress.com.  The saddest part is that I was so confident that I would no longer use WordPress.com, that I had ditched my firstyoumustbegin.com.wordpress.com name and now the .com portion has to be spelled out.  This may not make much sense, as you can still get to my site by typing in ‘firstyoumustbegin.com’ because I DO still own the .com website.  It just ends up looking lame once you get to the wordpress.com site.  I made the choice for financial reasons.  It’s time to start saving money instead of losing money.

I think this transfer will require my current followers to re-subscribe via email in the sidebar.  I apologize for the inconvenience.

I do hope you’ll stick around as I work to beautify the website and continue my efforts to offer inspirational content.

In the meantime, I’m going to let go of my disappointment and focus on the rich blessing of my family!

Lift Another’s Burden

You may have noticed that I recklessly tossed aside my goal for one post per week on this blog?  I had good reason.

First, I had surgery.  Seeing as how I’ve already been straight forward with my readers, I’m not going to balk now.  I had a breast reduction done to alleviate back pain as well as other irritants that come from being top-heavy.  I wouldn’t say it was the BEST decision I’ve ever made.  I still count marrying my husband as the answer to that matter of business.  But, it’s pretty far up on the list of good choices I’ve made in life.  While recovering from surgery is reason enough to take a blogging break, it was more that it didn’t seem right to post from an altered state of being due to pain management medicine.  That’s my attempt at diplomatically saying, “Pain killers make me loopy.”  Nah, you didn’t need any of that.

Another reason for letting a few weeks pass by was that I needed to re-evaluate my purpose for this blog.  There are times when I had hoped for some monetary gain from my blogging efforts, but never at the cost of selling myself out.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I think it’s awesome all the things that people are able to do to bring in a real income from blogging.  However, that is not my primary reason for starting this blog.  If it had been, I certainly wouldn’t have picked to focus on matters of inspiration and a healthy emotional well-being.  That topic is not a guaranteed sell.  Home projects, parenting, fashion, and cooking blogs are your money makers.  And there are loads of tips and tricks to ensure you bring in significant revenue monthly, but some of them feel too fake or forced to sit right with me.  So, while you may see some ads pop up on my site, you won’t ever see it bogged down with advertisement videos, sponsors, and the like.

What I hope you’ll find instead, is my genuine desire to share a piece of myself in the hopes of lifting another’s burden.  I hope you’ll find a girl who is willing to talk about the painful topics of losing a loved one, battling mental illness, and other difficult life matters, without succumbing to those same heart breaks.  My inspiration for this site started with a little seed nearly ten years ago, as I battled with Postpartum Depression.  The glimpse of hope that I felt when another woman had expressed not feeling “perfectly awesome” after having a baby, as I was so deep in feelings of hopelessness, will forever stick with me.  Her honesty gave me hope.  If my honesty helps even one person feel like they’re not alone in their struggles, then my purpose for this blog has been fulfilled.  I have helped lift another’s burden.

I’m not certain how often I will visit the writing board from this time forward.  I no longer feel inclined to provide a post just to provide a post.  I want to write when I have a message to share or a piece of me to give.  To publish a post simply to keep traffic flowing does not seem suitable at this time.  So, in the meantime, may you enjoy this holiday season with your loved ones.  May it be filled with opportunities to lift another’s burden; that is my hope for this blog, as it is for my daily life.  And, may your Christmas be merry and your New Year be bright!

Christmas be merry

First You Must Begin Updates

Whew!  I’m making it in under the wire to keep with my one post a week goal.  There was only one week that I missed since I set this goal for myself and it was the week that I had the Stroke of Luck.  I think that’s a fair enough reason to go dark for a week, don’t you?  That being said, this post hardly counts as legit.  I’m merely writing to give you a couple First You Must Begin updates.

First, I have set up an Instagram account specifically for FYMB.  If you are on Instagram, I would love to have you follow me at FIRST_YOU_MUST_BEGIN.

On an entirely different note, I felt this urge to give you all an update on the status of  my post from last week Who Do I Want to Be?.  In that post, I set a total of five goals for myself: eat only one burger a week, stop yelling, read my scriptures daily, say my morning prayers, and cut my restaurant budget by 20% per week.  I’m close to wrapping up week number two and this is my report.  This is me keeping it real!

I have stuck with my one burger a week.  I almost caved today out of convenience on the way home from CostCo.  Costco took longer than expected and I wanted to keep my toddler awake on the way home, so I almost went through Drive-Thru to make life easier.  Nay, nay.  I held strong.

I need to get the swear jar and use pebbles in place of money, as I never have cash on hand.  Each pebble will represent 25 cents.  I’m thinking when the jar gets full, I’ll transfer the pebbles to cash and put it in my kids savings.  Since I have yet to purchase a jar or pebbles, I really don’t know how I did.  I do know though that I had to catch myself at least five times in the past 10 days.

Scripture study was hit or miss.  Honestly, it was probably worse these past couple weeks than it has been in the past.  Usually, I can at least count on family scripture study with my kids before school, and even that we were pretty lazy about these past few days.  My eldest began taking uni-cycling classes before school twice a week and it’s messed with our morning routine a bit.  I need to come up with a new plan, and I fear it involves me waking up earlier.

As for kneeling down for my morning prayers – WOW.  Thursday of last week I was an absolute wreck.  It’s worth noting that this day did not start with prayer.  I can’t count how many times I screamed inwardly at every little thing in my life that did not flow smoothly.  Those five times of yelling, that I mentioned above, may have very well all happened in that same Thursday.  I was just a mess.  The following morning on Friday, I rolled straight out of bed and onto my knees for my prayers.  We spent that day traveling to Portland and we had a few hiccups in the day.  Had it been the previous Thursday, I would have flipped my lid.  However, on this Friday that began with prayer, I felt oddly at peace.  I kept watching myself handle things calmly and thinking it was such a contrast from the day before.  It wasn’t until the end of the day that it hit me.  The biggest difference between the two days was how I started it.  Starting my day off with humble prayer made such a difference for the better!  Each day that I remembered to start with prayer had a similar outcome.  I really felt more at peace on those days than I could have anticipated.

As for the restaurant budget, well, let’s see…um…well…yeah, I got nothing.  BIG FAT FAIL.  Last weekend we were in Portland so we ate every single meal out.  This week was a touch better, but since I have yet to actually figure out what 20% less equates to, I can’t provide an honest answer on my success.  Oops.

A couple reasons I wanted to offer an update is because I really was impressed by how much of an impact doing my morning prayers had on my daily life AND I wanted everyone to know that I am just trying the best I can.  I am not a woman of answers.  I am just a woman trying to find the best way that I can to live a positively purposeful life.  Anything I suggest on this site is as much of a suggestion for myself as it is for anyone that stops by to read a bit.  Usually the things that I set out to accomplish on this site prove fruitful.  I hope the same proves right for you.

What it comes down in regards to these First You Must Begin updates is that I am doing what is stated in Ephesians 6:18 – “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication….”  I’m trying to make a difference in the world around me through this blog and by the actions I make in my daily life.  I stumble.  I fall.  I pray.  I persevere.

Prayer and Perseverance

Personal Rant on Blogging

Since transferring my blog from Blogger to WordPress, I’ve learned a lot more about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  What I’ve learned is that I suck at it.  Successful blogging is harder than it seems.  Blogging is easy enough, but being successful at it is another thing.  Of course, you first need to figure out what type of success you are seeking.  Monetary gain or level of popularity?  Coincidentally, the latter naturally begets the former, assuming you have ads running on your blog.  There was a brief point when I wanted to make my focus monetary, but I quickly learned that I lost my greater purpose when I set my sights on profit.  So, while I admit, I would be quite pleased to contribute in bringing income into our home, that is no longer my goal.  So, does that leave me seeking popularity, as my measurement for success?  I suppose any writer dreams of a large following, do they not?  I imagine those that do not keep their writing confined to a journal.  So, yes popularity plays a part in my idea of a successful blog.  However, I tire of what needs to be done to get people to come to my blog in the first place.  It sometimes feels deceptive.  So, today I present to you my personal rant on blogging…

Images

You gotta have them!  Publishing a post without an image is blogging suicide.  The image isn’t just about making the post look prettier, it’s main purpose is to be the catalyst for getting people to come to your blog.  It’s what you put out there on Pinterest and Facebook and any other social media you’ve become a slave to in the blogging process.  It can’t be any image.  It has to be YOUR image, unless you want to fork over money for a stock photo.  I’m sure the money is worth it if you have income coming in, but that’s not the case in my world.  There are rare instances when a royalty free image will suffice, so I shouldn’t gripe too much.  However, an image really isn’t even enough.  It needs to be a high quality image, potentially staged, with some darling text that says just enough to leave the reader intrigued.  So, now it’s not just about the writing, it’s about the hook.  It’s about becoming a better photographer (or finding a better photographer), then learning editing programs (assuming you have any such programs), and then realizing the image becomes half the work in publishing a simple post.  Worst yet, it rarely turns out as you hope it will.

SEO

Blasted SEO!  I liked it better when I lived in ignorance.  Meta description? Focus Keyword? Flesch Reading Ease? Seriously!?  Why is it that I have to follow this set of guidelines just to get readers to even notice the existence of my site?  I suppose I get it.  SEO is just about giving you the upper hand in the great big world of the Internet, but still.  Writing seemed more fun when I didn’t have to word everything in such a way that Google would deem me approved for a top option when a reader searched keywords.  I enjoyed believing that people were sitting in their homes typing words in the search field and First You Must Begin came up as the answer regardless of the topic they were seeking.

Titles & Taglines

It seems every blog these days offers you “5 Ways to…,” “6 Easy Tricks…,” and “10 Trusted Tips….”  If you want to get people to come to your site, you better have a number in the title!  The worst part is that the number thing works.  I hate that it works.  I hate that if I see “8 Ways to Teach Your Kids About XY&Z,” I’ve gotta click on it, as I must know these 8 ways that this random person believes are essential.  I.  Must.  Know.  I fall for it every time.  The other one that kills me, although this is more video related, is the tagline, “What you see next will leave you in tears….”  Really?!  Will it leave me in tears?  I never know if THIS video will in fact leave me in tears, or leave me shocked, or leave me laughing, or whatever other emotion I will most assuredly feel.  Nine times out of ten, I ignore the video.  But if it comes up in my FB feed via friends more than twice, I succumb to their tagline ploys and then curse myself for doing so.

Post Frequency

The worst way to not have continual traffic is to do what I do – post once a week.  It seems you gotta be pumping out the awesomeness virtually daily to keep people interested.  This is where I admire all of those avid bloggers.  How do they do it?  How do they come up with stuff to write about every single day?  Is it original content at all?  I’m learning that I must not be very original, because new thoughts and ideas are not flooding my brain at the same rate as these other bloggers.  I cut myself a little bit of slack, as I don’t really have a concrete topic I’m putting out there.  It’s not like I’m doing a home, or fashion, or travel blog, that has various how-to’s, products, and destinations to discuss.  I’m trying to share insight, insight that comes merely from my personal experiences, and no Masters degree to prove I may have something worthwhile to share.  Frequency will be my nemesis as long as I blog, or at least as long as I have four children to raise.  I’m left with only enough energy to frequently tend to my family.  Blogging will always take a backseat to that.  Plus, I don’t want readers to feel like I’m constantly showing up in their news feed or Inbox with a lengthy post that will just keep them away from living their lives to the fullest.  Lets just take a moment once a week to catch up and then get back to living that purposeful life I’m always talking about.

Actual Content

Once you’ve duped the reader into clicking on to your website, then you have to make sure you deliver on your promise.  I don’t know whether or not I provide the reader what they’re seeking.  That’s for the reader to decide.  What I do know is that this is the part of blogging that I enjoy.  The writing.  Scratch that, not just writing.  The writing of things I believe in, feelings I have, experiences that have helped me to grow, that’s the part I love.  That is my purpose, as it were.  That is what I want more than monetary gain or popularity.  I want to send a piece of me off into the Internet abyss and hope that it will somehow help someone who maybe feels insecure, lonely, lost, hopeless, or discouraged.  And if, by chance, the reader is as confident and happy as ever, my prayer is that one of my blog posts will help them to recognize the opportunity they have to be something more than who they were yesterday.  That is my cause.

Work for a Cause

I don’t need the applause, but it seems as though without a significant amount of applause or techniques to become a top viewed site, my cause might not make it to the reader that needs it.  I suppose though that I do not need to reach many, I just need to reach one.  I recently read that a journalist once questioned Mother Teresa about her hopeless task of rescuing all those in need and her rebuttal was that her work was about love, not statistics.  I stand to learn a lot from that ideal.  I want my writing to be about love, not statistics.  I suppose I’ll have to decide what level of cooperation I’m willing to do with images, SEO, titles & taglines, and post frequency in my effort to spread the love, but not lose sight of my cause.  I can only hope that when a reader finally finds their way to my site that the actual content will be worth the wait.

Through the Eyes of Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar II disorder is a strange beast.  It’s a mental illness that is comprised mostly of lows, regardless of optimal circumstances, and the highs are not so intense that they would be considered manias.  It becomes even more confusing when you suffer from the disorder, but also take medication to treat it.  Perhaps people who have suffered from severe nausea can relate to the bewilderment of treating something in your body that is doing everything in its power to hinder the events of your day.  I know as a pregnant woman, I dealt with terrible nausea.  I would be so nauseas that it would be near impossible to complete the most simplest of tasks.  I had to focus all my energy on not throwing up.  Making quick movements, or really any movement, was out of the question.  Not to mention knowing that food could potentially ease the nausea, but there seemed to be no feasible way to actually eat the item that might help. You get the idea.  However, if I took Zofran, a medicine designed to prevent nausea and vomiting, I could function.  It did not eliminate the issue completely.  It was almost as though my body was still on board to throw up at any given moment, but my brain had been given strict orders otherwise.  Or maybe it’s the other way around?  Maybe my brain was screaming to my body, “Get it out!  Get it all out!  You’ll feel better!”  But the body just shut down.  All I know is that Bipolar II disorder responds in a similar manner to medication.  The body and the brain are given different memos and it’s confusing as heck, so the whole system just wants to call it a sick day and go to sleep.

That’s where I’ve been the last few weeks.  It’s been a long series of sick days.  Many may not notice, as I am still functional, but things aren’t feeling right on the inside.  Huzzah!  I figured it out.  The brain is not in control when it comes to treated Bipolar II disorder, it’s definitely the body.  I realize this now, as I think of the feelings I’ve had over the past month or so.  The brain sticks to the task it has set out to do during a down cycle – remind Sara how worthless she is, point out the fat roll on her that is getting bigger, convince her that she’ll be happier if she just sleeps, explain to her that her children don’t listen to her because she’s a bad mom, and assure her that any feelings of happiness are a lost cause. The body, thanks to medication, says, “Nonsense!”  The body challenges the brain with its plans – I’ll have Sara wash some dishes and do something kind for her husband, I’ll get her on the elliptical machine, I’ll get her out of bed in the morning, I’ll hug her kids and tell them that she loves them, and I’ll jog her memory to recall moments of genuine laughter.  The body follows it’s plan of attack and the brain continues on its path and things start to get really befuddled inside.

I’ll provide the perfect example of how something like this unfolds in a real life situation.  It was my turn to host book club this past week.  I’m not a regular book club attendee.  I’m not sure if that’s relevant, but it somehow played a role in my feelings toward the arrival of several women entering my home.  The day had arrived.  I sent an e-mail reminding everybody about the book club being held that evening.  While it was not my intention to send out a reminder late, I got a bit excited about the chance of less people showing up due to my tardiness with the reminder.  It’s not that I don’t like these women in the group, it’s all the things the brain had been telling me that I didn’t want to face, “You know they’re going to judge you, right?  You know your home isn’t clean enough.  You’re not going to have anything healthy that they like, you fatty mcfat fat!  I hope you’re ready for everybody to note this month’s book club as the worst yet.”  I wish I could say I was exaggerating, but that’s how it goes in my brain in a down cycle.  It’s really quite self-centered for me to even believe that people care enough about me to even take the time to make judgments about me, but then again, isn’t that thought just as self-deprecating?  That people don’t even think enough of me to judge me?  Why would they waste their time?  Then the medicated body checks in and yells, “STOP IT!” The body usually chimes in the same time that my husband comes to my rescue.  My body is not allowing me to come up with a logical reason to cancel book club, while my husband is baking a cake to serve at the night’s event.  Between the body and my husband, the house gets cleaned enough that the brain believes judgments will be minimized, fruit joins the fare with the cake and mozarella sticks that the fatty mcfat fat (AKA – me) craves, book club questions have been planned out, and the living room is set with what is hopefully deemed a suitable comfort level.

The ladies begin to arrive, and my panic lessens, as I realize that few people are actually going to show up.  Again, it’s not that I don’t enjoy all the ladies in the group, it’s the perceived lies that my brain has been telling me about the whole of them coming into my home.  I have a nice time, or so I have deduced by the laughter I hear coming out of me.  I’m not really sure, honestly, how I feel.  Things are funny, I know this because the body chose to laugh.  I can’t feel the humor though.  This is the confusion I speak of.  The medicine doesn’t turn on and off according to the emotions that I want to feel and don’t want to feel.  It attacks them all.  So the highs get muted, especially when I’m in a low cycle.  I don’t know why this is, but everything just feels dull.  The evening ended and the women left, thanking me for the fun night.  I asked myself, “Oh, was it fun?”  It wasn’t that I didn’t have fun.  I did.  Or at least I think I did.  Once everyone has gone home, my husband asks me, “So, how did it go?”  I answer him with raw honesty since he knows my battle, “It went well, I think.  Not as bad as I feared, but I felt pretty numb to it all.  I laughed though.  That’s gotta be good.”  So, that’s how it goes in a low cycle when medicated.  It’s a weird feeling to have your body go through the motions, while your brain remains apathetic.  The toughest part to swallow is that this is better than unmedicated Bipolar II disorder.  I’ve been there before too and it’s equal to the fear I experienced while trapped inside my body during my stroke.

So, that’s it right there.  That’s the cycle I’ve been in.  That’s the cycle that wants to write an uplifting post, but can’t come up with an uplifting thought to share.  That’s one snapshot from a medicated down cycle.  I’m certain that the dreary weather we had in January did not help me fight off this down cycle.  My hope is that the warmer temps will get me outside long enough to shake this cycle and move back to status quo.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the face-lift that I gave First You Must Begin.  It may not be anything extravagant, but if you knew the trouble I went through to even make it look this good, you would be giving me a, “Strong work, Sara.”  As my BFF tells me, “Where there’s a will, there’s Sara.”  That’s how accomplished I feel to have made it this far with my blog.
 Where theres a will

Blogging 101

While I am enrolled in the upper level course of Parenting 505, I am barely making it in the beginner’s course of Blogging 101.  If it were not for the friend who originally suggested that I start this blog and the countless helpful blog posts I’ve read from other more savvy bloggers, I would be at a complete loss.  I have been blogging about my family for eight years, but that didn’t require anything more than typing and hitting the ‘Publish’ button.  Now, I’m realizing that blogging for a larger audience is much more complicated.  For instance, I recently found out that the main reason a blogger will truncate (shorten) their posts and require the reader to click a button to read the full post is to avoid Scraper sites from stealing their content.  It’s all so sad, but it’s a reality.  As a result, I will now be truncating my posts so as to protect my content here on First You Must Begin.


While I do not anticipate that I will ever be an expert on the world of blogging, I take comfort in knowing that I have already learned so much from these past few months of writing on this blog.  One of the more refreshing things that I have learned is how there are so many bloggers out there who are willing to share their knowledge.  A simple Google search stating your question and you’ll find several blogs with the answer you’re seeking and then some.  Such searches have also brought to my attention how many bloggers are really out there.  It’s incredible the talent that can be found on these blogs.

I’m not certain if my own experience has left me more appreciative of other’s work or if I’m just diving deeper into the blogging world, but it’s been a fun process.  Everything felt so overwhelming at first.  I didn’t even want to blog because I felt the world was already so inundated with bloggers.  Now, the irony is that there are even more bloggers than I realized and I’m finding joy in the variety versus discouragement in my own abilities in comparison.

In short, thank you for sticking around as I fumble my way through Blogging 101.  I hope the change to truncated posts won’t deter you from following me here on First You Must Begin.

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