Friday, November 30, 2018

High Five for Friday (11.30.18)

We had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday and break from school. We missed our extended families and wished that traveling to Nebraska with Tom had been a more realistic option, but the kids and I truly appreciated a relatively quiet week spent at home.
Tom and Grandpa Keith
On a Thanksgiving Day hike...
...that essentially took us into a swamp. Despite our best efforts to
stay dry and somewhat clean, this stretch of flooded path did us in
and we all ended up soaked up to our ankles. We had a BLAST.
Not too shabby! And we loved eating our
Thanksgiving Day feast on Grandma Hallie's china.

I also had a wonderful birthday, which I celebrated on and off throughout the weekend. (My birthday fell on Thanksgiving, and since I didn't want to take away from the kids' Thanksgiving festivities and all I ever really want for my birthday is for my family to cheerfully put up and decorate the Christmas tree, it made sense for me to pretend my birthday fell on Saturday instead of Thursday.) Highlights include: a surprise breakfast with my friends on Thursday, putting up and decorating the Christmas tree on Saturday evening, the delicious cake Hallie (and sous chef Will) baked for me, a gorgeous necklace from Tom, and painting at Board and Brush with many of my friends.
My friends surprised me with a delicious breakfast and mimosas and
delightful nutcracker wine glasses on my birthday/Thanksgiving morning.
I consider myself lucky to call these incredible
(and artistically talented) women my friends.
Hallie's creation. 😍

We finally received the professional photos and video from the dance convention Hallie's company attended a month ago. Tom's working on splicing the three-hour-long video so I can share just our (Rising Star Award winning) dance, but in the meantime, here are a few of my favorite photos.

It feels like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday all blend together now, doesn't it? I joined two friends for their annual Thursday night shopping trip, which happened to be my first-ever true Black Friday experience. It wasn't as frightening as I expected, but I'm told that's because we went to Target instead of some of the crazier stores. On Friday afternoon and after the diehards had gone home to sleep, the kids and I headed to a couple of their favorite stores and found a few deals on stocking stuffers. On Small Business Saturday I stocked up at my favorite local dance shop, and then finally on Cyber Monday I all but finished my shopping on Amazon. It feels great to be (just about) I just have to organize and wrap and ship!
Thursday Night/Black Friday shenanigans. 
Small Business Saturday fun.

Happiness Highlights
Hallie and her nutcrackers. 
My boys at Will's first Aggie game. (They didn't go to THE
GAME, but to the game the weekend prior to THE GAME.) 
Selling lemonade and chocolate...
...and serenading the customers with cello music.
Eating actual ice cream from an actual ice cream shop. For
multiple reasons this wouldn't - couldn't - have happened
just one year ago and I'm so grateful for how far he's come.
New costumes!
Grateful they had each other to climb the tower
with - staying on the ground makes me happy.
I LOVE my new power washer! (Me, as I unwrap my birthday
present: "is it really a power washer?!" Tom: "YES! And you're
going to love it - I've been using it for weeks!" 😂) 
Some of my birthday present books - I can't wait to break into them!
I found her licking the bowl and icing her foot on the
floor of my bedroom...always keeps me guessing, this one.
Talking to her nutcrackers.
Will couldn't find a candle and "doesn't have permission to use matches" (his
words),  so he put a birthday note instead of a birthday candle in my waffles.

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots! 

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

It's November, Round Eight

In attempt to brighten up your Monday, I present to you the 8th installment of one of my favorite annual posts. Here is "It's November", courtesy of my Hallie Claire.

November 2011

November 2012

November 2013

November 2014

November 2015

November 2016

November 2017

November 2018

Slow down, Father Time.

I still can't watch the 2011 version of this video without tearing up. I miss that sweet, spicy, pleasantly precocious two-year-old… 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

22 Days - and 40 Years - of Gratitude

November 1: I'm grateful for my father-in-law, who made the trek from Nebraska to spend the weekend with my boys, help out with projects around the house, and lend a hand on a crazy Thursday evening full of work and extracurricular activities.

November 2: I'm grateful for free champagne at Terminal C.

November 3: I'm grateful that, for five minutes, the stars aligned. Watching 23 little girls dance as one. Watching them nail every leap, every turn, every lift. Watching them seize their moment and leave everything they had on that stage. What a glorious five minutes to be a dance be her mom.

November 4: I'm grateful for safe travels home from Dallas after the Dance Revolution Convention.

November 5: I'm grateful for Hallie's Mini Company Director for many reasons, but tonight I'm grateful for her because she sent her dance mamas home from Mini Company rehearsal with bundtinis from Nothing Bundt Cakes.

November 6: I'm grateful for the right and privilege to vote, and for what I see as small but positive changes after a contentious election.

November 7: I'm grateful for birthday month coupons, which allowed me to purchase two shirts for Hallie and two pairs of Christmas socks for a Secret Santa gift exchange for a grand total of...$0.02. Yep, two cents.

November 8: I'm grateful to have a particularly hard decision behind us, for the peace I - and I believe Tom as well - felt after we made this decision, and for Will and Hallie's efforts to see the positives on both sides our choice.

November 9: I'm grateful I have the recipe for chocolate chip cookies memorized.

November 10: I'm grateful Will's soccer club's management team is willing to stand up for its players and their parents, even when the result of doing so is less than ideal.

November 11: I'm grateful for crisp nighttime, chilly morning, and cool daytime temperatures that are perfect for sleeping with the windows open, walks through the neighborhood, and keeping the fireplace roaring all day long.

November 12: I'm grateful I walked away from Day One of our dance studio's Parent Participation Week without injury!

November 13: I'm grateful for Hallie's teachers, who every day fuel her love of learning and who at every turn show her love and grace.

November 14: I'm grateful to have witnessed a friend and her family officially add one more - the sweetest two-year-old boy, who they have fostered since he was just a few weeks old - to their brood. What a privilege and an honor it has been to watch them welcome Carson into their home, into their lives, and into their hearts.
Is this not the cutest picture EVER?!
November 15: I'm grateful for my crockpot, without which we might never eat during this busy season of life.

November 16: I'm grateful for a night spent together, the four of us, first at sweet Carson's adoption party and then wandering the newly-lit-with-Christmas-lights streets of downtown Bryan.

November 17: I'm grateful that for the first time in months (due to weather-related cancellations and travel) I got to drive Will to/from and watch his soccer game. I've missed talking and laughing and singing and just sitting in silence with him in the car - 90 minutes there and 90 minutes back - and while Tom does an amazing job of providing me with play-by-play texts when he is the parent sitting on the sideline, there is nothing like watching my boy live on the field.

November 18: I'm grateful for the nine day Thanksgiving break (weekend, five weekdays off, weekend) our school district blessed us with this year. This break won't look exactly like what Tom and I had originally planned, but as we wrap up its first weekend, I hope I can make the week ahead relaxing, meaningful, and memorable for all of us.

November 19: I'm grateful for a healthy body that allows me to lift weights, a safe trip to Nebraska for Tom, and that as of 7:30pm this evening, we have wrapped up all of our official Thanksgiving Break obligations and commitments.

November 20: I'm grateful for flow (a yoga/pilates/tai chi fitness class), which every week makes me feel physically and mentally stronger, and for the time to visit our other local(ish) library and stock up on books - new books make everyone happy!

November 21: I'm grateful for the opportunity and ability to easily shop my community's small businesses. (Disclaimer: I LOVE Amazon and Target, but I try to support my favorite local shops, makers, and creators whenever possible.)

November 22: I am grateful for the opportunity to spend special days like this one - which happens to be both Thanksgiving and my birthday - with my babies and for each and every one of the 40 years I have spent on this earth.

I'm grateful to have had this platform on which I could share for as long as I have. I hope I can find a way to extend its life.

Monday, November 19, 2018

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

When all this blogging began, I wrote at two different addresses. I took over for Tom on Wiggles, where he had written and then I continued writing about our kids, and I started A Midwestern Girl in Cowboy Country, where I wrote about adjusting to - and eventually learning to love - life in Texas. After a few years A Midwestern Girl received an update/upgrade and Chasing Roots was born. I continued to maintain both blogs for a bit longer, but eventually decided that doing so took more time and energy than I had to give so I combined the two, trying to blend what I wrote about my kids with what I wrote about the Lone Star State, all at Chasing Roots.

I write because I want to document life, to preserve our stories and my memories. An added bonus was that throughout the years, family members, friends, acquaintances, and then even strangers began to read Chasing Roots. Thanks to both Facebook and the statistics feature of the blog-publishing platform I use, I could see the likes, shares, and page views increase, and while these numbers were not why I started writing in the first place or continued writing year after year, they did make me feel good about reaching readers. My hope was and will always be that everyone who visits Chasing Roots finds something they need: an emotional pick-me-up, a mental reset, an authentic laugh, reassurance, or in the case of my and Tom's parents, pictures of grandchildren.

I knew that Facebook posts - on my personal page and the Chasing Roots page - drove a great deal of my blog traffic. I didn't realize how much, however, until about a month ago, when Facebook changed their algorithm and overnight my page views dropped by hundreds a day. I wish I could say the decrease didn't impact me, that because I write for myself I didn't take the sudden downturn personally...but it did, and I did. And I feel guilty about it.

I have steered clear of expanding Chasing Roots on social media platforms other than Facebook because, quite frankly, I don't like other social media platforms. I use Facebook because, at least when I started writing, it was the most efficient way to disseminate blog post links. But beyond those Facebook shares, I wanted my to writing to stand on its own and do the work for me. I wanted to draw in readers with my voice, my style, and my content. I wanted the blog to grow organically enough that I wouldn't have to use Instagram and twitter and Pinterest to "drum up business".

But I've come to realize - to accept, more accurately - that that isn't the world we live in anymore. Generally speaking, blog posts are too long and our attention spans are too short. We no longer follow our favorite blogs or bookmark blog posts we want to read later. In this 140-character world, we skim past anything that requires more than a one-minute commitment. Even as a blogger, I am occasionally guilty of this myself.

I have followed the blog Young House Love for years. The couple who created the blog expanded their social media presence to include Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter (they also have a podcast, two books, and decor and furniture lines), but they still write beautiful blogs posts. Last weekend they posted on Instagram these comments, which ultimately sum up what bloggers are dealing with now. 

And if they're struggling - with their well-known brand - you can only imagine how those of us with tiny little blogs are doing. 

I've also come to realize - to accept, more accurately - that maybe Chasing Roots doesn't have the staying power I wanted it to have. Maybe my writing can't stand on its own and do the work for me. Maybe I can't draw readers in with my voice, my style, and my content.

I don't blame readers for not visiting Chasing Roots without the Facebook reminder, I don't blame Facebook for changing their algorithm in a way that negatively affects my blog, and I'm definitely not throwing myself a pity party. I'm just reflecting on how I should have, years ago, diversified my social media presence and created a stronger brand.

The challenge here lies in the fact that Chasing Roots is my resume, and not my job. At most, I make pennies on each post. (I often joke that Chasing Roots brings in just enough for me to buy one Starbucks drink a month.) This doesn't bother me though, because 1) the blog is how I document life and preserve our stories and my memories, and 2) the blog is where I direct potential employers when they ask to see samples of my writing. That said, I spend a significant amount of time working on the blog. When I could see the page views climbing and the shares increasing, I knew the time I spent on the blog was worthwhile because my resume was getting the exposure I needed. But now that the page views have dropped dramatically, I need to rethink how I allocate my time.

I find myself at a fork in the road. I could continue on as if nothing has changed, writing three regular blog posts a week and sharing links to these posts on my personal and the Chasing Roots Facebook pages. I could "speed up", expanding Chasing Roots' presence on social media, adding Instagram and perhaps Pinterest into the mix, and/or paying to advertise or "boost" my posts on Facebook. Or I could "slow down", decreasing the number of posts or even stepping away from Chasing Roots completely. At this point, none of these options feel quite right.

So for now, I've decided I want - I need - to continue writing here at Chasing Roots. I can't give it up, but I need to step back slightly. I need to figure out how much time I should dedicate to this space. I need to figure out if I can - and should - grow my social media presence. I need to figure out if I'm willing to designate some of the money I make on other writing projects to expanding this one. While I do so and through the end of the year, I'll post a little less frequently, probably twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. When I have a better idea of where all this is going, you'll be the first to know.

Thank you for journeying with me thus far, and please stick around.

For fun, here's a link to my very first blog post, four-and-a-half years and nearly 1,500 posts ago.

Friday, November 16, 2018

High Five for Friday (11.16.18)

For the first time in a month, all four Ferri spent the weekend at home. After four weeks of traveling - two for Tom followed by two for me - cozying up by the fire to watch movies and watch football and read books (in between a fall family event at school, Nutcracker rehearsal, soccer game, baby sprinkle ice cream social, holiday market, trip to the movie theater, and Awanas, of course) was glorious.
A Night Under the Sea

As much as I love Christmas shopping, I don't have the time, energy, or money to make the trek into downtown Houston for the city's Nutcracker Market. Thankfully, our smallish community has a lovely Jingle Bell Market at which a number of local artisans sell their creations and shoppers like me can pick up gifts for family members and friends. This year a couple of friends and I took our daughters and we had a great time!

Have you seen The Nutcracker: The Four Realms yet? If you haven't, head to your nearest theater forthwith - Hallie and I saw it with friends on Sunday and we both loved it! (Note: for those of you who think of The Nutcracker only as a traditional holiday ballet, you should know going in that the movie is not a ballet in style nor the ballet in story.)
Two angels, a soldier, and a party
boy walk into a movie theater...

Today is the last day of school before our week-long Thanksgiving break. This weekend remains full of activity per usual and Hallie still has dance on Monday, but after that we have quite a few quiet days ahead of us. This is the first time our school district has opted for a week-long break instead of a three-day break, and I think it the extra days off will be good for everyone's mental and physical health!

Happiness Highlights
These boys finished their first "marathon" (26.2
miles tallied during runners club) of the school year!
Lily insisted on wearing a "Texas bow"
for her second grade school picture.
After years of avoiding Hallie 99% of the time, Tux has now
decided that her bed is his favorite place to nap during the day.
We see a lot more of Tux when the temperatures drop.
When he hears the fireplace "whoosh" to life, he tears
through the house and slides into his place on the tile. 
A Tux-heavy Happiness Highlights...I'm just so happy to see more
of him. (But you know when I don't want to see more of him? 3am, when
he sits next to my side of the bed and meows for me to let him out to pee.)

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots! 

Linking up with High Five for Friday here: