Heartened

The whole kit & doodle!

Welcome to the new digs

I am such a follower. LOL  Seems several people I know are migrating over to these WordPress blogs.  Since I love WP and use it quite often as a CMS for websites, it seemed silly to not give their new blogging server a try.  I’m pleased, very pleased (other than not being able to edit my template myself, but WP says they are working on that).  I’m quite impressed with the quality templates they’re offering and absolutely love the sidebar widgets.  I’m thinking the developers may be able to create header and footer widgets in the near future, which would be a good alternative to full template access.

In case you didn’t know, WordPress is what powers the Soul of Adoption website.  Neat, huh?  Of course, that version is completely customized because as the server owner, I have full code access.  That’s not the case with these hosted blogs, but I’m content.

I’ll add a redirect on my blogger.com blog and start sending people here.  I’m pretty happy with the format WP is offering and, of course, it has one of my favorite features – categories.  Something blogger has long been needing.  I do prefer blogger’s open templates and the fact that you code your links yourself, but that’s a “me” thing and I realize that for most people, the method WP uses for adding links is much more functional.  I’m not complaining, it didn’t take me long to move my links over.

Of course, WP also offers the very cool “static pages” feature.  That’s always a nice bonus, and being able to have pages in addition to posts comes in really handy. 

So anyway, here I am, settling in to the new digs.  Don’t forget to update your bookmarks.  You don’t want to miss anything. 

 

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April 3, 2006 Posted by | Geek Stuff | 3 Comments

Are you bored? Take a stumble!

About 8 months ago, maybe a little more, I discovered this neat little piece of software you can (SAFELY!!! I promise!) install – it is called “Stumble Upon”. What this is, is something called a “browser extension.” Your browser is what you view websites in – you’re probably using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, most people do. If you have any significant amount of computer expertise, you’ve probably thrown Internet Explorer out for the trash it is and installed Firefox as your browser. Guess which one I use?

Stumble Upon is something you install as an add-on to your browser. Fortunately, those of you running Internet Exploiter (my poor, misguided friends, I love you anyway) need not fret. The wonderful programmers at SU have taken pity on you and have created a version which works with Internet Exploiter.

I promise – the Stumble Upon software is 100% safe. It won’t crash your computer, it isn’t spyware, there are no viruses. (But seriously, do yourself a favor – install Firefox and leave Internet Exploiter alone. Internet Exploiter WILL crash your computer, it IS spyware, and it allows more viruses through to your computer than anything else ever will. Internet Explorer SUCKS!!!!!)

Sorry, I can’t help it. Anyway. What is Stumble Upon? Well…I’ll give you the description from their site.

“StumbleUpon is an intelligent browsing tool for sharing and discovering great websites. As you click Stumble!, you'll get high-quality pages matched to your personal preferences. These pages have been explicitly recommended (rated I like it) by friends and other SU members with similar interests. Rating these sites shares them with your friends and peers – you will automatically 'stumble upon' each others favorites sites.

StumbleUpon uses / ratings to form collaborative opinions on website quality. When you stumble, you will only see pages which friends and like-minded stumblers () have liked. Unlike search engines or static directories, this allows for a true "democracy of the web" – all SU members have a say ( or ) as to whether a page should be passed on.

In effect, StumbleUpon's members collectively share the best sites on the web. You can share any site by simply clicking I like it. This passes the page on to friends and like-minded people – letting them "stumble upon" all the great sites you discover.”

Seriously, if you enjoy finding new sites, checking out some of the coolest places on the net, and having endless hours of entertainment handed to you on a silver platter, just by pushing a button – all customized to your own interests, install Stumble Upon.

And no, I don’t “get” anything for telling you about this. You all know what a techie geek I am – this just happens to be one of my favorite toys. I put off mentioning it because I was trying to focus this blog on adoption. If you decide to become a Stumbler, drop me an email and I’ll give you my Stumble Upon user name so we can “be friends.”

If you’re worried, I should mention, I have never ever, not even once, gotten even the tiniest bit of spam as a result of Stumbling.

Ok, real quick – about Firefox – if you want to completely eliminate pop-ups; if you do not want to be subjected to those god-awful “GIVE US YOUR BABY” ads on a “certain commercial adoption-related website;” if you want to avoid those stupid in-line text ads on that same “certain commercial adoption-related website;” if you want most advertising banners, period, to disappear from your view; if you want worry-free browsing; if you want to stop spyware (or viruses) from being installed on your computer while you’re browsing websites; if you want total control over browsing – including only having to open one browser window while being able to view 10+ web pages at the same time; if you just want to enjoy surfing the web and stop worrying about all the bullshit – go install Firefox right this minute. Once it is installed, you can also install AdBlock and the AdBlock Filterset – and be done with banner ads, popups and the rest of that crap. Even if you’re viewing porn sites. -smirk-

Go on, get going – what are you waiting for?

April 2, 2006 Posted by | Geek Stuff, General | 1 Comment

Give me your links

I’ve fallen behind on updating the Linky Links, so pleaseeeeeee be kind and post a link to your blog (or cool blogs you read regularly) in the comments so I can get you (them) added! I’m beggin’ here! All links added to Linky Links also get posted on the Soul of Adoption website! (For which, by the way, I’m still looking for columnists!)

March 18, 2006 Posted by | Geek Stuff | 4 Comments

Soul of Adoption

So I realized that maybe I should actually talk a bit about Soul of Adoption and what I’m trying to accomplish with it, especially since I’m hoping the same people who I know read my blog will be involved in taking SoA to the next level.

I first bought the domain and hosting so we could create a space for people to submit their stories about their own experiences with adoption with the intention of eventually compiling them into a book. We wanted to put together a book of stories which reflected the truth about adoption – that sometimes it is a beautiful, perfect thing for all involved, and sometimes it is not. We wanted a website because no book can contain every story, and no story is ever really complete. Having a site where stories could forever be added, changed and updated was important if we are going to truly express each individual’s truth.

That is still SoA’s primary purpose. The “problem,” if you can call it that, is that I’m probably going to have to build a database from the ground up on which to base the story submission side of things. So for now, I’ve got it configured so people can submit their stories via the discussion forum. Which is why I installed a discussion forum on the server in the first place. It was a quick fix to a long term need – a place for people to start putting their stories.

Then it seemed that people might want to talk about the stories they read – but I did not and do not feel comfortable with people being able to comment directly on a story. No one wants to put their heart out there only to have it ripped apart by some unthinking individual. So, I created a subforum where people could talk about the stories they read without having to worry about “tainting” the original. Then I thought, “people might want to talk about other things, too.” It has been growing since then.

I’m really driven by midnight inspirations. They hit me, and I run with them. Through this whole process, I’ve thought a lot about what sort of “needs” I was looking to have fulfilled through my journey. No site has met them all. I want a space where I can talk just with other adoptees – I’ve got that, through Wraith’s group. I wanted a space I can talk with other members of the plane. Got that through adoption.com and these blogs. Registries, there are dozens. An actual link list pointing to sites by and for specific roles on the plane? Good luck finding one where 3/4ths of the links aren’t dead. So I started building one – and Linky Links were born. Let’s make that a little easier and create a ring. Check, did that. Anyone can join and no one has to keep updating links on their pages if they don’t want to. Cool.

But it keeps growing and escalating. I keep feeling like there has to be some space to bring all of this together, and not only for me and my part of the plane. I don’t doubt that there are first moms who want a totally safe space to only talk with other first moms. Adoptive moms who want a totally safe space to talk only with other adoptive moms. Same for adoptees. And foster. And dads, of course. Most also want to venture out and hang with others on the plane, learning from them and their experiences. So I started envisioning a forum where there is a general “chat at will” section and some private spaces where members have to be invited to participate after establishing themselves for a bit in the general population – let’s face it, no one likes to feel someone is peeking at their private parts. LOL

Now, I know that we all know of sites who try to be open to everyone. I also know that a lot of first moms and adoptees in particular are a bit put off by the fact that these sites are peppered with ads almost entirely funded by adoption agencies. It puts me off, too. I don’t want to be talking about my pain as an adoptee only to glance up and see a banner ad screaming “PICK ME!! ADOPTION IS WONDERFUL!! GIVE YOUR BABY THE PERFECT LIFE!!!” and other variations. On the flip side, most of the sites which focus on the birth family or adoptee, well, they tend to have a lot of “ADOPTION IS EVIL” rhetoric.

There has to be a middle ground.

That’s what I’m hoping SoA will be.

I do not ever plan on allowing adoption agency ads on SoA. Nor will I have anti-adoption ads there either. Articles that are anti-adoption, sure. Along with articles that are pro-adoption. And a few sort of “sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t” articles, too. I’m looking at other ways of making the site self-sustaining, like voluntary donations to support the site. Heck, if I can raise $35/month, all the hosting fees are covered, and that’s plenty. I don’t need to make money off of this or anything else and, if I have to, I’ll support SoA entirely out of my own pocket for as long as I can.

Anyway, back to evolution. So, ok, I got to thinking about the forums. Figured I’d better at least add a space for people to post “searching” posts. Well, we all know what a pain in the butt THOSE can be. Ever tried paging through 1,000 pages of posts? I have – needle in a haystack comes to mind. That’s not good enough for me. Then I noticed that one of the software scripts I get free with my hosting has this classified ads server. Hmmmm – what neat thing could I do with that? Some of you saw today the result of that – a nice registry. Can I really scare you and tell you I did that in one night? LOL It definitely needs some more tweaking. It still isn’t as user friendly as I’d like, but it will be in a few days when I’m done tweaking the code. I don’t want to post a link because I don’t want people putting in ads yet, but if you’re interested in seeing it and testing it by putting in an ad I am going to delete in a day or two, drop me an email, I’ll send you the link.

What is so great about this registry? Well, you have to renew your ad for one thing. The system notifies you (automatically!) 5 days before your post expires. If you renew it, it stays. If you don’t, the system drops it. One of the most frustrating things with most registries and forums is that the contact information is out of date. With this system, if your renewal notice bounces, the ad is dropped. Love that. (Plus it keeps my server space down.) Right now I have it set to renew every 6 months. I may shorten that time. Seems it might be prudent to do so.

In addition, your “post” has drop-down menus for you to select the MM/DD/Year of birth – no more trying 20 different date combinations. Same for States. Also for role (birth family, adoptee, etc.). With the ability to select “other” or “unknown.” And a space for you to type in additional information. All of this is searchable. If you’re looking for someone in Illinois, you don’t have to worry about searching for IL and ILL and Illinoi and Ilinoyse, etc. They will have chosen “Illinois” when they filled out their ad, and you will select “Illinois” when you search for it. Spelling is not an issue here. Love that, too.

It probably sounds complex the way I’m describing it, I promise, it is not.

If someone doesn’t want to search, they will be able to simply (once I’m done tweaking) sort all posts by Month, Date, Year, City, State or Role within the appropriate category. Categories are broken down by decades – again, easy to use. No one wants to have to look in 10 different places to see if someone is looking for them. I know I don’t.

In addition, because of the way I’ve set up the software which “drives” the site, I can set additional people as “authors.” So let’s say Kim Kim, Manuela and Wraith each want to write a monthly column. I can set them up as authors on the site, they can write their columns and post them much the same way they now post to their blogs. Very cool, and it means I don’t have to be the only one responsible for creating content. Even better!

I’ll also probably end up starting an Amazon Associates account. Basically, we create a list of adoption-related books based on the ones everyone says are a “Must Have,” and then provide links for people to buy them from Amazon – and the site earns a few extra bucks. But even better than that, it will allow us to provide free “advertising” for our friends who have written their own books like Bob and Zara – for them, we can feature the book and point to their sites for ordering instead of Amazon.

I don’t know what else SoA will turn into – I know what it will NOT turn into, however:
It will NOT be a space covered in commercial messages about how great it is to adopt OR how lousy it is.
It will NOT be a commercial site run by a corporation – it belongs to members of the plane and will be run by members of the plane.
It will NOT be a one-sided “every other position sucks” kind of place.
It will NOT be an abandoned mess of outdated information and dead links and listings. I’ll shut it off before I let that happen.
It will NOT be a “pay to play” site where you are required to pay money to use it or to register on it.
It will NOT be a space for anyone to make money off of adoption – including paid searchers, lawyers, agencies, etc.
It will NOT be a space to find a child to adopt or to find someone to adopt your child. Solicitation of that nature will never be allowed.
It will NOT be a space where someone feels pressured to hold certain beliefs about adoption, whatever those beliefs may be.

And to sum up what I know it WILL be:

It WILL be a space where every member of the plane feels they can find what they’re seeking, without pressure.
It WILL be a space which supports members of the plane in having their voices heard.
It WILL be a space where the true Soul of Adoption – the people affected by it in their lives, not their jobs – is expressed, explored and explained.
It WILL be a space which people can use as a portal to some of the other great spaces on the internet available to those involved in adoption.
It WILL be a space where members of the plane can promote their books, their music, their art, ensuring their voices are heard.
It WILL be a space which offers companionship, friendship and a supportive environment.
It WILL be a space which challenges our current adoption methods and looks to the future.
It WILL be a space of reunions, and where the truth of those reunions, for “good” or “ill” can be shared.
It WILL be a space of reliable, up to date information and resources.
It WILL be a community created by the true Soul of Adoption – you, and you, and you, and me, and them, and him, and her. Us.

We are the Soul of Adoption, and our voices WILL BE HEARD.

February 7, 2006 Posted by | Adoption Rants, Adoption Void, Geek Stuff | 6 Comments

Linky List Part III

Ok, I had to make some changes to how I had the linkylist code laid out.

So here are the updated linky lists.

If you use the "Scribe" template (which means your blog looks similar to mine), please use this code.

If you use any other template (which applies to most of you), please use this code.

It is really important you use the right code, otherwise, you'll end up with images on your site which do not fit your template.

By the way, I've updated the code with new links, so you may want to replace your old copy with the new. I'm updating them pretty frequently, on almost a daily basis as I come across more blogs everyone is reading. If you take a minute to update your list about once a week, you should stay pretty current. Always feel free to remove a catagory or site you do NOT want to link to on your blog. There is no requirement here for you to link to everyone I do – I'm just trying to provide a good cross-section of resources.

February 4, 2006 Posted by | Geek Stuff | Leave a comment

Soul of Adoption Webring

So I'm not sure how many of you have noticed, but a few of us have been working on a new website. Soul of Adoption

It is still in the early stages of development, and I started another blog to update progress on the site.
Like I said, early stages.

Anyway, to go along with it, I started a "Soul of Adoption" webring. I know some of you are already members of the Blogging Birthmothers webring, and I certainly don't want you to load down your sidebars with more graphics & links. But I would like to invite you all to join the webring – even if you do NOT choose to display the webring links/logo. I personally don't care if it shows up on every site or not. I'm more interested in creating a really good list of blogs relating to adoption, not in "advertising" it.

If you want to join, just go here and put in your information. If you decide you want to add the code to your blog, just copy the code it gives you once you're done filling in the form and add it to your blog sidebar. If you need help with placement, let me know. I can walk you through putting it wherever you want. If you don't want to add the code now but change your mind later, let me know and I'll have the system email you the code. Any blog or personal site relating to adoption is welcome. Please, no business sites, ok?

February 3, 2006 Posted by | Geek Stuff | 3 Comments

Linky Links Part II

As promised, here's where you can get the code for the links list I use. I'll update the code every so often to reflect new sites I've added. When you look at the code, you'll notice several lines without links – those won't show on your blog, they just give you some extra space to add links of your own.
Make sure you read through this completely!

Edited – please read my update "Linky List Part III" for information on changing your code!

January 31, 2006 Posted by | Geek Stuff | Leave a comment

Custom Google

I swear this is relevent to this blog. LOL

I've used Google as my home page for I don't know how many years. Long time, though. It is one of the few megabillion dollar companies whose business practices I generally agree with. (Good thing since Google owns blogger, 'eh?) And I probably spend 20 hours a week using Google for web searches. I'm always looking up new stuff. I love Google! Ok, so anyway, back to using it as a home page.

Google started this new thing where you can totally customize your "Google Experience." Follow this link – Customize Google – and you'll see what I mean. I like this so much that I'm going to give you a quick overview of how to customize a Google page – and no, you don't have to have a Google Mail (Gmail) account to do it. No, Google won't spam you. And no, there is no spyware garbage.

Now, why would you want to do this? Because one of the very cool features of this customized page is that you can set it up to have RSS feeds. "HUH?" you might ask? Let's say "The Adoption Void" is one of your favorite blogs. (You know it is!) You want to know when I've updated it. You want to know when there is some cool new thing here to read. (You know you do!) You just can't get enough of "Da'Void." (You know it is true!) But what a disappointment it is when you eagerly click on me in your favorites, only to find -GASP- nothing new to read!

You can forever more avoid said disappointment by using a "Feed Reader" to keep you abreast of what's happening on your favorite blogs. There are a lot of feed readers out there, some are better than others. I don't like most of them. I'm extremely picky about what I allow on my laptop. Feed readers full of advertisements or conditions in the "fine print" are definitely not on my list. A customized Google page is a nice solution.

Here is a screen shot of what greets me each time I open a browser window. (Yes, I use Firefox – you should too, you know!) These are just thumbnails, so click on the images to see the full sized version – it will open in a new window.

Isn't that pretty? Do you notice some familiar names down the left side of the picture? If you were able to scroll down further, you would see that I'm able to view the title of the first three posts on a whole bunch of blogs – basically all the blogs I have linked to over there on my links list. On the right, you see my current weather, a neat new "word of the day," and some of my favorite bookmarks. Basically, the ones I visit every single day (and usually several times a day). Plus I have the news. Which isn't actually usually there – I'm not too keen on having headlines blasting me with mayhem and death every time I open a browser. I put it there just so you could see it. In actuality, I usually have the RSS feeds from blogs over there as well. With a quick glance, I know when Kim Kim or Wraith or Cookie or any of my other "blogger buddies" have updated their blogs. I love it when I see an unvisited link showing up! There are other cool things you can add to your custom page as well. Certain little games, cute little clocks, googley eyes, etc. Depends on what you like to see. I like to see what my "blogger buddies" are up to, I like to know the weather, I like new words. I also get three "quotes of the day" and a news feed from Rueters – their "Oddly Enough" news. Usually full of humorous news stories. That's the kind of news I like!

So how do you go about setting up one of these pages? Go here – Customize Google – and click on "Sign In" next to the big red arrow in this picture –

On the next page, you'll see this on the right hand side –
Click on "Create An Account Now" (also next to the big red arrow)

Then fill out the form. Like I said, you don't need a Gmail account to sign up. (If you want one, however, drop me an email and I'll send you an "invite" for a free Gmail account – love that, too.)

Ok, so now you've created an account which allows you to customize your Google home page. Now you want to make it nice and pretty, right?
So here's what you do. Go back to – Customize Google – and click "Personalize Your Google Homepage." Suddenly, the page is going to do this neat little shift thing, and a section will open up on the left side. That's where you're going to start selecting what content you want to see on your page.
See?

Then you can drag the content wherever you want on the page for placement –

Now, if you want to get the feed from some of your favorite blogs, all you have to do is click "Create a Section" in that section on the left side. A small text input field will appear where you can type in the address of the blog you want to read. But the address has to be formatted in a particular way!!!

Let's say you want to get the feed from "Da' Void" (you know you do!) You can't just type in http://adoptionvoid.blogspot.com – it won't work. It will tell you it has encountered an error.

Instead, you would use this URL – http://adoptionvoid.blogspot.com/atom.xml

Notice that "atom.xml" on the end? That's what blogger.com uses for feeds from their server. If the blog you want to link to is not on blogger, you'll need to visit the blog itself and look for something that says "RSS Feed" or "Syndicate" or "Atom" or something similar and use whatever URL that offers. Assuming the blog you want is on blogger, all you have to do is add that atom.xml tag on the end of the URL when you type it in to the text field on Google. They'll do the rest. You'll then notice that the blog has been added in the pane on the right and you can drag it around the screen and place it wherever you want.

Now if that isn't cool, I don't know what is!

Remember when I mentioned "other cool things you can add to your custom page as well"? Well, you'll notice that at the bottom of the little pane on the right (when you are in "Add Content" mode), there is a link for "More Content." Follow it and you'll find things like this:

and lots more!

Have fun with it, that's what is most important!
Oh, and two more things – don't panic if you occassionaly get a message which says that certain content is temporarily unavailable. When sites are updating or having server issues, their content won't display on your home page. This is completely normal and nothing to worry about. It will fix itself soon. Also, every once in a while I have to log out of my personalized page, close the browser window, open a new one and log back in because changes I've made to the layout, etc. don't seem to be sticking around when I save my changes – this has happened only twice. It's not a big deal, though, takes me 30 seconds to fix it. Google HAS saved my new page, it just isn't displaying correctly on my computer.

I hope you'll consider using this feature. It is such a simple way of keeping track of what is going on with one another and remaining informed of new blog entries. For me, it is also a reminder to keep track of what is happening with all of you – otherwise, I tend to forget to view my favorite sites.

Enjoy!

January 30, 2006 Posted by | Geek Stuff | Leave a comment

Linky links!

I'd like to ask my readers a big favor – if I am not already hosting a link to your blog on this site, could you please add a comment to this post and include a link to your blog? I would really like to gather up as many adoption-related blogs as possible. Please also include links to other adoption-related blogs you know of. No reciprocal link is required, incidentally. You do not have to link to me in order for me to link to you! If for some reason the "comments" don't allow you to include your links, would you please take a moment to email them to me? heartened1 at gmail dot com (at = @ and dot = . with no spaces!)

I feel it is really important to gather as many links to these blogs as possible.

Once I have a pretty good list, I'll be happy to provide you with the raw code for you to paste into your template so you can duplicate the link list in your own blog. I'm happy to walk you through how to do this if needed.

Also, if you feel there are adoption and/or search related sites which are a "must see," please send me those as well. I would really like to see us networking the sites which are most useful to us all.

By the way, my friend Adam arrived late this evening. Ah, it is so wonderful to see him and to be surrounded by his energy. It always amazes me that no matter how long we go without seeing each other or talking on the phone, we're able to pick up right where we left off. The three of us ended up sitting up late talking, then decided to go get a bite to eat before we turned in. He and hubby were having a great time chit-chatting with each other and I was just happy to sit there and listen to two people I love a whole lot enjoying each other's company. How blessed am I?!

January 28, 2006 Posted by | Geek Stuff | 9 Comments