The Return to Learn More WordPress 

Nearly two years ago I discovered a group that welcomes all levels of WordPress users to come together monthly and share tips, knowledge, and Marketing-related expertise.

I came to my first meeting so green that I blogged about it using the app. 

What a Difference Time Makes

While I second-guessed myself and assumed I was not smart enough for this, I allowed life to get in the way and stopped coming to the meetings. 

Answer What is Calling You 

Since that time I have had three different Marketing positions as day jobs. I am still a moonlight creative. Being in each of these positions is stretching me by teaching me a wealth of information, some of which is on the job but I have had to learn plenty of it on my own: Coding, Social Media Marketing and, to some degree, how to integrate various Marketing tools with WordPress websites.

Thus my need for the meetings has returned.

Not So Green Anymore

When I returned to the meeting a few nights ago I knew much more than I did at the early meetings and I felt at home.

Often we think we have to be in college or on the job to get the training and information we need that will take us to the next level in our careers. Often it is a matter of thinking outside of the box.

Part of that for me was going onto MeetUp, finding this group and then going to these meetings.

It has expanded my knowledge base more than anything a college course or job training class has so far in my life.

One bonus: there is no charge for me to go.

Therefore, I return to learn more about WordPress with an open mind.

Fountain for Rejuvenation

Yesterday morning I sat in front of a water fountain for a few minutes in order to clear my head. I have been dealing with several problems at once and it was all starting to get to me.

image

“Fountain” by: Alicia I. Gilbert Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved

Life can just be too much for my mind sometimes.

I think the only time I didn’t worry in life was during childhood. On second thought, I take that back. I used to worry about things beyond my control even then.

After listening to the sounds from the fountain for a minute, I found a way to relax…to “let go and let God” as they say.

Steps to Free Your Mind

The first moment of clarity I had was to work on my problems in order of importance, from the most urgent to the not so serious.

The second thing that came to mind was to let go of anything I can not control.

The third thing was to let go of other people’s problems. If it isn’t my problem then why must I deal with it?

The fourth point was to create steps, on paper, for how I may solve the problem. I don’t  need to walk around with a jumbled mess in my head…write it down.

Finally, sometimes I doodle or create art another way and that clears my mind. Sometimes doing something else frees your mind up so new ideas can come.

image

Original doodle by: Alicia I. Gilbert Copyright 2013 All Rights Reserved

One thing is certain when our minds are too preoccupied we are missing out on life. We miss simple pleasures such as fountains of water. Free your mind and enjoy the sights and sounds around you.

After all of that I was able to exhale and to enjoy my workday. Bonus: I slept better last night than I have in weeks.

What Prince’s Music Taught Us

It has been a week since we lost Prince. I never thought I would ever write that sentence. It is not because of some unrealistic belief that he was not human. It is because I never stopped to process fully what life might be like without him on the planet.

image

Source: Instagram

He was my favorite artist of all time. He still is, even in death. I have been a fan since I was seven years old, and that was at the start of his career. As a child I loved his artistic expression reflected in his singing, dancing, instrumentation, fashion sense, word usage…everything.

Everything about him mesmerized me.

At a time when some of my friends’ parents banned Prince’s albums from their houses, my parents were forward thinking enough to allow us to listen to them. My folks believe in explaining things to children. My parents did a great job regarding what was and was not acceptable for us to say or do as their children.

My mom sat down with me at eight years old and told me all about sex, how babies were created and born, etc. I appreciate the fact that she told me early in life. It allowed me to get the information from her and to not be misinformed or taken advantage of all because of not knowing what constitutes sex. I believe that initial talk created a pretty open relationship between us.

The conversations about sex have continued. Some of these conversations ensue after listening to a Prince song. Of course, the talks have become more mature in nature as I have matured. We discuss a plethora of topics including Menopause and how that affects sex. My mom is one of the few people who understands that there is a sexual spectrum. Some of our conversations have included my father. I appreciate having a male perspective on a lot of this, especially as an adult navigating through relationships with men. I know of no other 67 and 68 year old people who realize all that they do. So I have erudite and cool parents.

Even more amazing is I had an erudite and cool maternal grandmother. She had to grow a little into that coolness.  My maternal grandmother would have been 100. We lost her about 12 years ago. I could tell her anything, and I felt even more free to do so with her than my mother. I state this to show how open and highly evolved my grandmother was, and she was a Pastor’s wife.

When Prince debuted his video for “When Doves Cry” on a show called “Friday Night Videos” my grandmother was watching with me. However, when he stood up in the bathtub she turned the television off. She said, “You are not going to watch this.” Of course I had a fit over that. I was experiencing censorship at age 13.

When my mom came home from work my grandmother said they had to talk. She told my mom that I didn’t need to watch Prince slithering across the floor naked (how did she know what he did, lol). They talked about how the video didn’t show his private parts. My grandmother gave her opinion and my mother listened. The next weekend I was at my paternal grandmother’s house and watched the video with her. I thought I was getting away with something, but knowing my family, this was an orchestrated event by my grandparents and parents all reaching a consensus regarding my viewing the video. Yes, the village raised my brother and I. My mother took me to see the movie “Purple Rain” within the same month. I instantly became more popular at school.

After that my maternal grandmother would watch virtually anything with me. She tried to figure out why Prince seldom wore real pants when he performed, why Madonna was singing “Like a Virgin” in lingerie, why Tina Turner performed scantly clad in her 40s, why the guys in all of the “hair” bands wore makeup and, a few years later, why Michael Jackson incorporated a crotch grab into his dance routines.

I got through the highly sexualized 1980s just fine. Listening to the music of my generation didn’t demoralize me, make me promiscuous, make me do drugs or turn me into a social disgrace. I enjoyed this music and grew up with it while living in the Bible Belt. I was a straight A student, debutante and virgin who worshipped and worked faithfully in my church, all while growing up with this music.

Every generation has music about sex. The music Generation X grew up with is no different.

If anything, listening to Prince’s music made me even more of a spiritual person. Years ago I was in a bookstore and I saw a book on a table that stopped me in my tracks. It has a title that summed up what a lot of Prince’s music meant to me: Sex God by Rob Bell. I bought it and read it in less than a day. This was way before Bell was on OWN. The message of the book is simply that God is Sex and Sex is God. This is why we must be careful with how we have sex in our lives. We ought not to misuse and to mistreat sex. Bell gives all kinds of examples and stories both Biblical and from Pop Culture that, in my mind, back up this premise…this belief.

The Bible was my first connection that Sex is God. Prince’s music was my second connection. Some songs reflect our primal instincts when it comes to sex. The catalogue that we the public have heard, to me, is a reflection of the struggle we have with our animalistic flesh nature interfering with this form of worship (yes, I believe in what Beyoncé sings in “Lemonade”, the visual album). I believe marital sex is a form of worship and that our Father is in the midst, because God is Sex, because the Bible reveals this. Prince, Rob Bell, Beyoncé…are all reminding us of what we already, innately, know.

I think this is why people get uncomfortable with sexualized, yet unpornographic material, with talking about sex with their lovers, their parents, their friends, even their children…even just for informational purposes.

When I see a person with discomfort about the topic of sex I ask him/her about his/her belief system. I have always witnessed a disconnection in each area when this is discussed with the individual.

In my opinion Prince’s music reflects that one can not be disconnected sexually without being disconnected spiritually. Spiritually connected people are sexually connected people, free in their souls and know no image discomfort with their bodies.

As a fat woman who has struggled with body dysmorphia and poor self image I realize what my true underlying struggle was: fully embracing the love of God to the point of fully loving myself, made in His image. Prince’s music was a part of my self acceptance. Like most of his female fans I believed him when he sang, “Could you be the most beautiful girl in the world…” I believed in the possibility of finding beauty in my own “flaws,” society’s word for having an imperfect body.

Furthermore, much of Prince’s work is a reflection of a journey we all take: what is sex, what is sensuality, and what is life like if we are unsure of the meaning and the significance of that.

Prince had a lot of references to God in his work but when he performed “The Christ” on New Year’s Eve 1999 (found on the “Rave to the Year 2000” DVD), my mom looked at me and said, “Prince has found the Lord.”

To quote a line from Forest Gump, “I didn’t know He was lost.”

I think Prince had a knowledge of Christ and the Father well before that time and there are many references before that time in his work. All of his work afterwards really reflects that. For instance my favorite Prince album is “The Rainbow Children.” Some critics refer to it as the “Jehovah Witness album” since Prince was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I am not of that church and view it more as a Metaphysical and Christian album. The title in and of itself is Metaphysical rhetoric. For those who know about Indigos, Rainbow Children, the 3rd eye (Pineal Gland) and so forth, you will understand why I write that. Another thing his music did is reflected that Metaphysical awareness can coincide with any religion…the two are not mutually exclusive.

Prince was an erudite man “with exquisite tastes” who challenged his fans musically by making spiritual, sexual, political, historical, sociocultural commentary and connections with his music.

L.A. Reid made a comment on television that I had already made to friends since Prince’s passing. In “Let’s Go Crazy” Prince sang “I’m not going to let the elevator break us down…” Years ago Prince stated in an interview that the elevator is a metaphor for the enemy. L.A. Reid talked about the irony of his dying in an elevator.

To that I write this: the elevator didn’t break him down. The enemy did not win. From my viewpoint, my belief, his passing is a last metaphor given to us by the Father through Him. The enemy may have you surrounded and it may appear, to our human eyes that the doors are closed. However, this metaphor, is a reminder that the Father opens an Heavenly door that our spiritual eyes can see, and takes us on to be with Him when it is our time, even if surrounded by the enemy. While we all wonder what caused Prince’s death, I believe when that time comes for each of us to die that transcendence is truly affirmation that our 3rd eye is no longer blind. R.I.P. Prince.

Do Our Phones Interfere With Our Experiences?

image

(Craig Ross and Lenny Kravitz 9/9/15 Phoenix, AZ photo by Alicia I. Gilbert Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved).

CHOOSE WHAT TO EXPERIENCE

Last night I had the privilege of experiencing one of my favorite artists, Lenny Kravitz, in concert, as part of his “Strut” tour. Although I have enjoyed his music since 1989, I heard him live and onstage for the first time nearly four years ago during his “Black and White America” tour.

At the time I had an old flip cell phone that took mediocre photos. My friend and I were in the front row. She had a phone that took decent photos. She took photos of him and the band. I never even pulled my phone out. I sang along, danced my little heart out and had one of the best experiences in my life. Lenny shook hands with everyone in the audience. Before the show began a couple sitting next to my friend and I chatted with us. They had their 5 year old son with them. The boy’s father had seen Lenny in concert several times before. “Oh, so you are an LK show virgin,” the man said. “Yes, I am.” I replied with a chuckle due to his word choice. “Let me tell you, you will never be the same.”

He was right. I am not the same. Experiencing that show made me step up my game when it came to my own artistic expression. It also made me want to do more in my life, to be around more people, and to be grateful for each day God gives us.

ABOUT LAST NIGHT

Fast forward to last night’s show. We were at the same venue, and almost in the same seats as last time.

image

(Andra Day 9/9/15 Phoenix, AZ photo taken by Alicia I. Gilbert.)

We got there early and were in awe of Andra Day, who opened the show. She is a legend in the making. I took a couple of photographs at that point. As the audience cheered for her, I found myself intently listening, singing along and zoning out into my own little world during her set.

It is beautiful when that happens.

CONNECTING AT INTERMISSION

While the crew did the finishing touches to the set design I took a restroom break and talked to people in line. Some were not Phoenicians at all but traveled to Phoenix for that particular show. One woman noticed my shirt, which had “Paris ❤ Forever” on it and became excited. “I am French!” This created a great bonding moment between us because I have always wanted to live in Paris, and to experience what life is like there (I will have to write about that later).

CELL PHONES IN THE AIR

When Lenny and his band came out onstage and started the show we were all ready…with our cell phones in the air…myself included. When did I become this person? Why do I feel the need to snap photos constantly? I own a film camera. I have not even moved to the digital age with a digital camera. So, how did this progression happen?

I would have to write that my purchase of a Smartphone a couple of years ago sparked this. Before that I did all kinds of artistic endeavors under the radar. Now, thanks to this micro-computer that I occasionally use to talk to people, I do all kinds of things from shooting videos to shooting photos to posting pics of my art and snippets of me

image

(Audience at Lenny Kravitz’s concert in Phoenix, AZ 9/9/15 with cell phones in the air.)

singing. I am posting this blog post via my Smartphone. When did I become so adept at typing with one finger versus all 10? My typing teacher from high school must be mortified by what texting and so forth has created. Typing was a form of artistry to her. Now we type with one finger and put our cell phones up in the air snapping away, whether it is taking selfies or pics of people in pop-culture, and that has somehow translated as an experience?!

Why do we do that so much now? Is it to feed our egos? Do we do it as a way to one-up someone? I seriously don’t think so. I think we are so hungry for real connection, communication and relationships in our lives, that we reach out any way that we can…this has become our way.

At times it is creating disconnections instead.

At one point early in the concert, I stopped snapping (so much) and closed my eyes. Doing this transported me into my own little world again as Lenny and the band improvised and played various genres of music even though some of the songs were his early hits. I realized at one point one reason his music resonates with me so much: his career took off just as I became an adult. 1989 was a monumental year in my young life. “Let Love Rule” was an offering of how to go about my life while being away from my family of origin for the first time ever. God works through this man via his music.

So, when I kind of came to myself during the concert the stage was being bum-rushed by fans and my friend and I got tussled a little bit in that. As Lenny came down off of the stage and walked straight back with security literally making a path through a sea of people, I realized a woman on my left was singing along, “Let Love Rule” and we just harmonized a bit. She said to me, “You sure can dance and sing. I saw you up here dancing.” It made me wonder what on earth had I been doing. I’d say my dance style is just my self-expression of what I feel. My dancing usually has no names for the steps I am doing.

Now, that is what I am talking about when I say having an experience. I want more of those kinds of experiences and fewer material possessions. I have been blessed to have some things, but nothing comes without a price. The cost for isolation and incomplete participation is our lives. When we don’t fully engage we pay with our lives. We can never get those moments back. We can not re-live conversations and other communal events, like concerts. Experiencing life with friends and family gives us great memories. I would rather pay for tickets to something that allows me to feel a sense of connection with others than to have a lot of stuff that I really don’t need. I am not writing that I want to live a pauper’s life. I am writing that if I live to be an old woman, or if I have the opportunity to experience a few moments on a death bed before I transform and leave this body and the Earth, that I can recount the times I had on vacations, at seminars, in church, at my own showcases, and at concerts like last night’s. I can remember who I was with and the wonderful times with that person or people, as well as the more challenging times. I can say how it all changed my life for the better and made me want to strive for something greater in my own life…like putting down my cell phone some so I can live fully.

As far as last night’s show is concerned, I walk away with wanting to live more in the moment…dance, sing, spend time with family and friends. I want to be fully in the experience of an event, enough to let that event take me away into myself…the highest part of my soul and spirit.

I walk away from this experience with this: put down the cell phone and live baby.

Tales from a Word Press Newbie

image

LIVE INTERACTIVE LEARNING

In my quest for knowledge, I joined a local group, Northwest Valley Word Press group, in order to learn how to use this app with maximum success. I have never reached out to others in order to begin using an app before. Usually, I just jumped right into using apps. Quite frankly, I jumped right into using the Internet in the late 90s. I decided to learn about this particular app in the presence of those who are already proficient in Word Press. Plus, I am a person who loves to create connections. I tend to mix and mingle after an initial time of mostly listening. What makes this type of learning fun is it is informal and non-traditional, in that there are no tests. Your only homework assignment is the one you create yourself in order to develop as a user.

 

APP USAGE LEADS TO APP DISCOVERY

I joined this group through another app, Meet Up. I have joined other local groups through that app, just to meet others interested in some of my hobbies. This is my first time joining a knowledge group via the app. Prior to joining the Meet Up group for this app I had no idea what Word Press even was. Since I am an artist and writer I felt it was important to learn about Word Press. After a little detective work, I decided that this is an app I need to use. It is always a great idea to expand your skill set whether for work or for your own knowledge.

 

READY, SET, GO…

Just one presentation catapulted me into the functionality of this app, for novices and experts alike. For the first time ever, I understand the importance of using plug-ins and multiple apps for creating web content and marketing that content. In just one night, I have learned more about plug-ins than I could have ever imagined. I have learned what Buddy Press is (creating a proprietary social network). I have learned about Word Fence vs I-Themes.

 

KEY POINTS TO GET YOU STARTED

Knowledge definitely makes you powerful. Tonight I learned about the Slack app, and I immediately downloaded it. I learned how to customize a theme on Word Press. The group organizer told us that customizer works well with the themes, so the option to customize a theme is within Word Press itself. I learned a customizer allows you to make your other sites look the same way. You can change things from a preview that does not change your live site until you click save and publish. Believe me, I have used that preview feature several times just with publishing this post. I love it.

 

CODING CONSIDERATIONS

Another thing I learned in this meeting is you can learn Simple Custom CSS to drop in code (per a child’s presentation on a “We Day” television program I have decided to learn how to code too, but I am not there yet). We were told by someone who uses code snippets (in functions.php) that plugins will not work with all companies.
However, those in the group with expertise state that you have to decide where you want to be on the scale of security versus convenience. A case in point: the group’s experts said that editing in style.css can make your site vulnerable to hacking (if it is not locally) I have learned that using a programming editor helps with css.

 

COLLABORATION BOOSTS CONFIDENCE

Without giving everything away that we learned about (the information is vast), I will write this: I think the best way to put this information into practice is in the company of others who have a variety of skill levels with this app and others. Actually, I think this is the best way for me to learn about maximizing Word Press and future apps I use: live and in person so that I can interactively visualize all of this and do some of it (hint: bringing your device to a meeting is critical).

 

NOT ALL OF MY POSTS WILL BE LIKE THIS ONE

Although I am a techie-in-training, my heart is in the Arts so most of my posts will be regarding my endeavors in them. Still, it is important to become knowledgeable about things outside of your core interests. I think it is useful to know some of this, even if it is not crucial to your day job.

 

TIPS ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED

image

Another great thing about learning this way is all of the extra information in a meeting like this. We had a presentation about Content Marketing. These tips are invaluable to us all. The sign in the photo I included is actually for monetary tips at our group’s meeting place (aptly named: Elevate); however, it is appropriate regarding the sharing of knowledge. Not only do I want to put everything I am learning right now into practice, but I want to share tips with those who want to become knowledgeable too. Tips about knowledge in any subject matter truly make the world go round.

 

KNOWLEDGE CAN’T STAY IN A VACUUM

Meetings like this are great for connecting while learning. Build a rapport with others by arriving early and staying after the meeting for a bit. I am not talking about doing a business card blast, a.k.a. how some people network. I am talking about actually socializing, as in getting to know people and allowing people to get to know you. If you socialize while learning information, then you will start experiencing a more enriched life. If nothing else, your confidence will soar. People will always pick up on that.