April 5, 2017
My writing voice feels a little squeaky and unsure. Hesitant. For the month of March I took a break from writing for the blog, because I felt it was something I needed to do. The drive to publish my words here was something I needed release in order to re-orient myself and re-order my priorities.
Did it "work"? Am I re-oriented. Am I re-ordered?
I think yes, but not in some grand spectacular way. The work of the Spirit in our hearts is subtle and secret, and although we like fresh starts and clean slates we never really get one of those. And almost all the progress, in my life at least, is a two steps forward, one back kind of shuffle.
I couldn't wait to get back to my morning writing routine but during my fast I did a lot of reading, journaling, prayer and contemplation during the time I set aside for writing. (And sleeping-in.) And now I sit here, happy to be back to my regular discipline and routine but wondering how I will keep those other elements going in my life, if it's even possible. Or if the depth of my experience in those practices was for a season.
These are things I don't have an answer for right now. I could be tempted to "make a schedule" to "fit it all in" but I think I'm going to let this one play out according to how I feel led, on any given day. And to trust that things will work out as they are meant to. To keep myself open to the Spirit, regardless of what I am doing: writing, cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, watching TV with my kids.
That's all I have to say for now on the subject of moving out of a fast and back into my morning writing practice.
Because what I really want to write about is.... I have a new blog!
The timing of this is ironic. Damien and I have been working on my new blog for over a year, and the fact that I'm finally releasing it after a writing fast is simply coincidence.
I don't usually write about the technical back-end of blogging, but now is a good time to indulge my interest in systems and structures, and while doing so, explain in very rudimentary terms, what happens behind-the-scenes to build a blog.
(If you are a programmer/developer and what I explain below doesn't exactly ring true, feel free to clarify in comments. I don't understand the intricacies of web development and programming and I barely understand the broad strokes, but I've tried to explain, in fairly simple terms, the process of building this new blog.)
A blog is published on a platform. A blog platform is a specific type of content management system. Content management system means exactly as it sounds - a system to manage content. There are a few different blog platforms out there, the most popular being WordPress. And if I was a blogger without a deep-geek web developer husband this is probably the platform I would use.
Many web developers use WordPress, but my husband, who has helped clients solve and find solutions to the mess created by WordPress is not a fan, at all. We've never used WordPress for any of our blogs/websites, and Damien won't support it anymore in working with clients. This is the bias we have in our home. No WordPress. It has its place, just not in our home or in the technology solutions my husband builds or supports.
For a couple years now we've wanted to move my blog from the old platform, Drupal, to Django.
Django (pronounced jango) is a Python-based programming library used to build web applications. Unlike WordPress, Django isn't a CMS but it can build a CMS. It's completely customizable, you can build any kind of website with it, including blogs. You need to be a developer to do this, or hire a developer to do this, or be married to a developer to do this.
Once you have a platform in place, you need a theme, which is the basic structure for how your blog looks and the different features and functions it will have. Thankfully, themes are customizable so your blog can look quite unique even though it has the same theme as someone else. Some bloggers do this on their own, others will hire designers to help customize the theme.
We custom-built a theme using Bootstrap which is an especially powerful framework for developing mobile responsive applications. So instead of pulling something off the shelf, ready-made, we built what we needed from basic components, kind of like lego.
Neither Damien nor I are designers, so my blog does not have that "designer" look, but Bootstrap enables a developer to create a clean, functional, mobile-friendly interface, and it's good enough for my current needs.
Often when someone's personal blog gets a face lift what they are doing is changing or tweaking the theme. Very rarely are they changing the platform, because that requires a developer/programmer skill set and is costly if you were to pay for that. Many personal bloggers will simply start a new blog if they change platforms.
In this case, we changed the platform. We essentially re-built everything.
There are costs and benefits to any content management system a blogger uses.
I'll use a very crude house building analogy to explain the pros and cons for two basic ways you can build a blog/website.
Option 1: You can hire an architect to design and a contractor to then build exactly the kind of house you want.
The architect and contractor will use knowledge, skills and tools they've developed to build that house to your specifications. They don't start from zero every time. They access a "library" of information in the same way a Django developer accesses that library of code to build a web application.
Pro: You get what you want, and it's really well built.
Con: It costs more. And usually takes more time. It's not a DIY project for the hobby builder. If you don't have the skill-set yourself, you have to hire someone.
Option 2: You can use ready-made plans, or perhaps a better analogy is pre-fabricated "parts", and get a great house, which can be exactly what you wanted if what you wanted was what was available.
This is usually a cheaper route but can get expensive and complicated when you want to change that design and add other components, not found in "the kit" so to speak. Or if the components you really want to add to the standard design don't quite fit and then you need to hire someone to make it work.
My husband has done a lot of work for clients in which his job is to help adapt pre-fabricated parts to do something they weren't necessarily designed to do, especially in WordPress. Something can probably be hobbled together, but the developer would prefer to build a better system from the ground-up.
Pro: Cheaper and faster (until you want to really customize). Meets the needs of the a lot of people.
Con: It gets messy (and ugly underneath the veneer of nice graphics and fancy fonts) when you need to make some serious changes to the structure.
If I was not married to a developer I'd go with Option 2. But I wouldn't be able to have what we've built here, and I certainly would not have been able to move all my content from one platform to another without the assistance of a developer/programmer. That's a tricky bit of technical wizardry.
Laurent building a house with Papa last fall
Hiring a developer can be expensive (the money people spend on doing so puts food on our table), and I'm blessed I didn't have to pay a developer, but the cost is the time it took for the work to be done. My blog and writing currently doesn't bring money into the household so we couldn't justify my husband taking time away from income-earning work to work on my blog, unlike the last time we upgraded my blog (but that was just a theme upgrade not a wholesale move to another platform).
Last summer, when we were looking at the time this project would take, we briefly toyed with the idea of me taking over my blog entirely. Building it myself on an ready-made platform, thinking it might be a confidence builder and make me feel better about not having to depend or rely on Damien's skills. And I could also have complete control over the process and wouldn't have to wait for him. (Two key themes in that last sentence: control and impatience.)
In the end we remembered that we actually want to help each other achieve personal goals by lending our particular skill set to support our spouse's desires and dreams. It's where two are better than one. We'd have to practice both depending on each other and having grace for one another, but we decided that's ok. That's the gift of marriage.
So we re-built my blog, together, over many months. I "designed" everything you see. Which isn't to say much, I'm not a designer but I was able to move ideas from paper to digital reality. And I'm pleased with that.
What you see now is like custom building a house and moving in before it's finished. The foundation, framing and basic functionality is in place. And it's liveable and even lovely on the outside, but the laundry room isn't done and neither is the basement. And we still want to upgrade the appliances. You get the idea.
It's not done. But everything's in place that needs to be in place.
I still have to move boxes over from the old house and unpack them here. And already I'm thinking about a few tweaks and changes I'd like to make in the coming months. (And this is where the house building analogy breaks down because you can tweak a website much easier than "tweaking" a house.)
The biggest change about this new blog is that it's no longer FIMBY. I've been making this change in my other social media over the past few months, which you may have noticed if you connect with me in those places.
About the time I had the burnout and breakdown I finally realized this is no longer Fun in My Back Yard. This is heartbreaking work, the work of living. And yes, fun and lightheartedness, beauty, and joy still exist in my world, but unlike the early years of blogging, the dark and difficult is a more prominent feature in my writing, because these things have touched my life in a more profound way. I still love to garden, make stuff, homeschool, and have fun adventures with my family - all the "fun" in FIMBY. But what I want to write about is the wholehearted experience of living, which is both/and not either/or.
A few other things to point out:
These are some of the visible changes. But what I'm most excited about are the structural changes that allow me to better organize, highlight and share thirteen years worth of posts. And provide a good foundation for future writing and projects.
I'll tell you more about the changes in the coming weeks and months and you'll see for yourself as you visit and navigate the blog.
Welcome to my new blog.
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