Patience is a virtue ... wait, no. It's a pain in my 'tocks. by Jennifer DeWitt

Most of us go through life pushing forward towards goal after goal. What happens when you find yourself, mid-life, having done the things that you most wanted to do? What then? How can you easily pivot to uncover new goals? What if you're content to just be the best of who you are right now and wait for the next adventure to reveal itself? Isn't that just as valuable as a goal-oriented life?

Confine yourself to the present.
— Marcus Aurelius

Over the past month, I've really struggled with forgiveness, sadness, loss, blocked goals, wrong goals, new goals, terrible communication, manipulation, anger, embracing my feelings, reorganizing priorities, and being a better listener. Therapy, yoga, being quiet and learning to be OK with not knowing what comes next has been hard work. My brain is being retrained. I'm having to learn hard lessons. Isn't it true that when we put in the work now, we'll be better people in the long run? 

I started practicing yoga two weeks ago at Project 7 Yoga in the Mills50 part of town. Each class is $7 and the place is so low key that I never feel uncomfortable. The instructors are so thoughtful; mindful that we're all processing different things, in different stages of our lives and facing individual struggles. The practice is simple. The thing I love best about it is that it forces me to consider what I'm doing and how I'm feeling at all times. I think my instructor said it best when she called it mental masturbation. You're pushing, pulling, moving, twisting, embracing, and releasing thoughts all during practice. 

What's fascinating is that it's a great partner to therapy. I brain dump what's happening in my life on my therapist and just have to sit there in silence for a minute, really considering the selfish, angry, negative muck that I've raked up. Then let it go. Take my clenched fists of whatever I'm holding on to and just open my hands. Let it go. Be quiet. Wait. 

Waiting has never been my thing. My normal reaction is to run or burn down whatever it is that isn't going well or isn't going my way or isn't going fast enough. Re-learning to commit, and what commitment means isn't easy. I'm constantly in a state of calming myself, forgiving myself. Things don't happen overnight. They just don't. Good things take time. My peace of mind is worth waiting for. So, I'll keep working. I miss chill Jenny. I can't wait to be her again. 

How To Drive Traffic with Email by Jennifer DeWitt

EMAIL MARKETING AND NEWSLETTERS

Using a newsletter and or email marketing is a great way to announce new products and services as well as promoting special offers for your customers. Your number one goal is to move as many eyeballs as possible to your website, where users can obtain more information. No one is going to buy directly from your email.

Contact your customers and prospects at least once a month, if not once a week. The frequency will depend on your business and customer demographic.

Consider sponsorship or a joint venture to build your email marketing list. Find a partner to share the task with to create a new pool of prospective customers.  

Content should be informative and not sales oriented. Recipients will only continue to open emails if you provide helpful information. Think seasonally and regionally when creating content.

Deal with SPAM issues right up front. Have an easy opt-out and refer a friend option too.

Create value so contacts will want to receive it, read it, and forward it to friends.

Follow these few tips and you'll be on your way to a more engaging brand and an increasing bottom line. Always remember to be yourself and add a personal touch to your correspondence. Being human goes a long way when communicating with the masses.

My Favorite Band of All Time - R.E.M. by Jennifer DeWitt

Michael Stipe of R.E.M., Daytona Beach, 1984                                                 Jim Leatherman

Michael Stipe of R.E.M., Daytona Beach, 1984                                                 Jim Leatherman

R.E.M. announced their retirement in September of 2011, and scores of musicians, fans, and blog-writers jumped at the chance to either criticize or champion the band's thirty-one year run. From inception to completion I've been a fan. Secretly or, as of right now, not so secretly they are the reason that I went to the University of Georgia. (Speaking of UGA, here's an interesting blog post from ESPN about R.E.M. and the Georgia Bulldogs.)

My memories of R.E.M. start back in 1985 with the purchase of Murmur and Reckoning on cassette. I remember driving around Orlando with my friends playing those tapes over and over again. The summer of 1988 was a road-trip with my best friend to Athens, GA and we danced until midnight at the original 40watt Club. Peter Buck's now ex-wife served us plastic cups of ice cold Coca-Cola. Then in 1988 the release of Green on my seventeenth birthday, what a gift. That same year I was given one of my prized possessions; a photograph, taken by my friend Jim Leatherman, featuring Michael Stipe and Natalie Merchant.

I spent seven years living in Athens, Georgia. One night in 1993 I looked across the bar at The Globe and saw Mr. Stipe looking back at me. I turned the cover of my book toward him so he could see. It was Milton's Paradise Lost. In 1995, a middle of the night search for the perfect fries and feta landed me in a booth at The Grill and overhearing Mr. Stipe in the adjacent corner ordering a vegetarian hot dog. A 1998 drink at the Half Moon Pub ended up in my meeting Mr. Mills. Sightings around town became more common and I began to think of R.E.M. as part of the timeline of my life. Their music ties me to every significant moment, each place I've lived, and to people and events I normally would have forgotten.

R.E.M. helped me discover that the music I might not like at first could end up being my favorite sounds of all time and I have loved every chord and transition of their journey.

Thank you, gentlemen.

SEO For Beginners by Jennifer DeWitt

3 TIPS FOR FIGURING OUT SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION:

DO YOUR RESEARCH. 

Or pay someone to do it.  

Look, before you even begin to build a website, be sure you're targeting your audience with smart, effective keywords that pull in traffic.  

HOW? 

Keyword research shows how viable your industry terms are for clickability. Yes, I just made that a word. How clickable are you? Do you appeal to your niche market with keywords that rock? Brainstorm a list of words related to your industry and its audience. Start with a list of fifty or more. Then plug them in to see which have the lowest competition and the highest return of clicks. Use tools to find out more: 

  1. Market Samurai is the one I use. It offers a crazy amount of bonus information but it does take a bit of training to get used to. And, if you're just working on your own webpage, it might not be most economical for you.  
  2. Google AdWords Keyword Tool is pretty effective and fun to play with. Most everyone has a Gmail account and you can access Google Analytics on your webpage and even setup an AdWords account. An all-in-one dashboard is handy.

NOW WHAT?

Well, what do you do with these keywords. Also, do keywords expire? The answers are a lot and sometimes, respectively. What you can do with keywords is this:

  • Use them as Titles of your webpages
  • Use them in Descriptions of your webpages
  • Use them as Categories and Tags of your Blog posts
  • Add them into Content in the pages of your website and Blog posts
  • Use them as Anchor text of photos, images, and videos on your website
  • And did I mention content? CONTENT! 

Do they expire? Well, let's just say they can become less popular or perhaps your audience has changed a bit and you need a few new keywords to freshen up your content. Go back and do your research again to see what pops up.  Listening to conversations online and following trends will help you stay on top of modern search terms.

USE WISELY.

Used in conjunction with dynamic blog posts and long-form content, organic SEO can change your page ranking over time. It will not happen as quickly as paid marketing, but it WILL happen. Stay dedicated. Be diligent and the return will happen.  

5 C's of Social Media by Jennifer DeWitt

Creative efforts used to take mass programming hours and publishing was usually left to the professionals. Now, people are not only consumers but also producers of media content. The newest generation of digital natives is using iPads at the tender age of two. Consumers are demanding greater interaction with the brands they love and engaging in more personal relationships with the businesses they frequent. 

A few minutes a day can increase your participation in the conversation. Setting up a personal dashboard for your social media can improve your impact and simplify your updates each day. There are a few specific items to think about when growing your social profile.

  • Competition: Check up on your competitors, simplify your efforts, and increase your traffic numbers.
  • Communication: Basic netiquette still applies. Keeping things positive, respectful and professional online helps you to communicate clearly and responsibly.
  • Content: Creating meaningful content (Photos/Videos/Blogs/Vlogs/Apps) to promote yourself or your business. What to use and when to say stop. Setup a system to organize and manage your content.
  • Connectivity: Being part of a global network of consumers, producers, students, leaders, and friends can empower you to use your skills for good. Connect with others to create meaningful change. 
  • Collaboration:  Our world is getting smaller and smaller through social media avenues. Collaborating can boost your appeal, your brand, and your efforts online. Work with others in your industry to tell stories together.

Sweet Six Candy is back! by Jennifer DeWitt

It's been a few years, but I've turned up the heat in the kitchen and put Sweet Six Candy Company back in business for the upcoming holiday. It's exciting making something so unique and I'm proud to be an Orlando maker again. I'm working on production process right now so there's no ordering available, but it's coming soon. I've teamed up with a friend and applied to have a tent at Grandma Party Bazaar this December. *Fingers crossed* that my application gets accepted. Ann Marie Manspeaker makes some of the best cookies I've ever tasted and she's agreed to partner with me on this venture. We're just going to see how it goes. 

My Orlando - The nostalgia version. by Jennifer DeWitt

I'm so proud to say that I'm a native Floridian, but until recently I've not really been proud of being a native Orlandoan.

I was born at Orlando Hospital and grew up in a suburb called Altamonte Springs. Mine was an idyllic childhood. My family lived across from an orange grove and golf course. We were just a short two blocks away from Lake Orienta where my little sister and I would pick cat-tails and whack each other with them as they exploded into puffs. I knew my neighbors, would cut through their yards, played four-square in the street with their sons and daughters. I'd walk up to the gas station at the top of the hill and get five pieces of penny gum for the walk back.

Now in my forties, I think back on that time, that neighborhood, with such fondness. It's funny how the mind works, isn't it? The negative slowly fading away and leaving only the positive. When I returned to Orlando in 2013, it was because of a great job opportunity at Rollins College. I found a little duplex in Winter Park and kicked off a new relationship with my old city. It was idyllic again. A new Ikea, new art galleries and restaurants and event spaces were popping up. I met my neighbors and joined clubs. The music scene was hopping and connecting with old friends was invigorating.

But after a year and a half something happened. I had become my job. I hadn't pursued many new friendships or community connections. And those that I had, I had let go too easily. I suddenly looked around and thought, "What am I doing here? Is this really the city for me? Am I really committing to being an Orlandoan?"

Then the Pulse Nightclub shooting happened. I'm still reeling from the impact on my hometown's psyche. We're a changed community and we're responding together in ways that I never thought possible. Volunteer opportunities, benefits, celebrations of life and love and the present are all around me. I see them and watch others and yet somehow I feel....unsteady. Like I don't know whether to volunteer or ask for help.

Recently, I just finished a book called This Is Where You Belong: The Art & Science of Loving The Place You Live. In it Melody Warnick describes, well...me. The wanderer, constantly looking for a home. I used to be proud of the fact that I'd lived in so many places in such a short time. Now, I feel I've missed out. Hopping from country to city to country and back again has had its excitement but I never really dug in and planted a life. I'm growing. Maybe I'm growing up a little. I'm thinking that Orlando could offer me that home base I've never had. Or maybe it's the home base I've always had and I'm just realizing it. Maybe I'm finally home. 

The first step is completing the connections in our lives that lead to fulfillment. Faith, Community, Job, and Home. I'm really well versed in the Job and Home departments, but Faith and Community are lacking. I'm kicking off a fun holiday project with a friend that may *fingers crossed* turn into an actual venture. And, I'm finally connecting with a church. I've wanted to for three years now and have run out of excuses. To find balance, you have to go after it. You can't wait for it to happen. So here I go. Look out, Orlando. I'm back. 

Hang onto your cat-tails!