Desert Meet-Up

Sometimes the universe lines everything up just right. Calendars coincide, schedules align, and the weather gods exhale balmy temperatures and paint picture-perfect skies. That’s what happened last week when four bloggers got together in Palm Desert, California to enjoy each other’s company, break bread, and talk about blogging.

Donna, Janis, Kathy, Terri

Donna (Retirement Reflections) and her husband were in Palm Desert for a month-long home exchange. Kathy (SMART Living 365) didn’t have to drive too far as she lives in a community just a few miles away. Terri (Second Wind Leisure) had traveled from Sacramento to San Diego to visit friends and family over the long Veterans Day weekend. I live in San Diego and, along with Terri, was more than happy to make the 2 1/2 hour trip to the desert to participate in a meet-up with blogger friends.

When the idea for the meet-up started to form several months ago, I was enthusiastically all-in. I have had the pleasure of meeting all three women individually over the last several years so having the opportunity to interact with them at the same time was something I couldn’t pass up. I was confident that our gathering would be full of stimulating conversation, a rich source of insightful information… and a whole lot of fun.

With Donna acting as the host, we came together to learn from each other and share our love of blogging. From each of our unique experiences, opinions, concerns, and outlooks, we shared openly and honestly about a wide range of blogging-related topics, such as:

  • How do we attract active followers and encourage more comments?
  • The role social media does – or doesn’t – play in the promotion of our blogs.
  • How do we stay motivated and find new and interesting topics to write about?
  • What are our individual niches, and is it important to always stay within them?
  • How do we manage our schedules – are we spending too much screen time?

Our time together was uplifting, encouraging, inspiring… and it ended too soon. Before we parted ways, we talked about arranging a similar meet-up next year when Donna and her husband return for another home exchange. We also discussed the possibility of opening it up to other interested bloggers.

All four of us have published posts today about the meet-up from our unique perspectives. I encourage you to check each of them out and leave a comment (we all agreed that the interaction with our readers was one of the best parts of blogging).

Retirement Reflections

SMART Living 365

Second Wind Leisure

A fifth blog, Roaming About, is worth checking out too.  Although Liesbet couldn’t join this gathering, she had the opportunity to meet with Donna and Kathy a few weeks prior and she has written about her experience. (Lucky for me, Liesbet is currently house and pet sitting in San Diego, so I will get to have multiple meet-ups with her over the next few months.)

Look for more posts about the ideas and inspirations that came out of the meet-up. It was truly a special experience and one that I hope we can repeat – and build on – into the future.

New Year, New Look

Well, I’ve done it… I hope. After four years of blogging (I published my first post on September 5, 2013) and hundreds of posts, I’ve finally changed the look and feel of my blog… somewhat. I was pretty happy with the simplicity of my old theme so I wasn’t interested in making any radical changes, but I wanted to make a few updates and add a feature or two. If you are reading this, I guess that means the transition worked. Yay!

I read somewhere that most blogs last an average of 18 months before withering on the vine. Maintaining a blog is harder and more time-consuming than most people realize. A few of my favorite bloggers have taken a “break” never to return, and I can’t say that I blame them. That I have been at this – albeit with varying intensity – long enough to celebrate my four-year blogoversary is amazing to me.

What keeps me motivated, besides that I enjoy writing and sharing stories and photographs, is the blogging community. Like most bloggers, I like the “Likes,” but I love the comments. The fun begins when a dialog is started, especially when conversing with a group as generous, smart, and supportive as you all are.

And, speaking of being “generous, smart, and supportive,” if you see anything wonky with my new blog design, please let me know. I’m sure it will be a work in progress for a while.

GratiTuesday: Another blogger meet-up

As I wrote about in an earlier post, I have had the special privilege of meeting several of my favorite bloggers face-to-face. Virtual friendships can form in the blogging community as we get to know each other by reading the bits and pieces we share over time. When the opportunity presents itself to actually meet, it is a real treat.

From the moment I “met” Donna via her blog, Retirement Reflections, I knew I liked her. In addition to having several things in common (we are about the same age, retired a few years ago, are active and enjoy traveling, and tend to view life through an optimistic lens), our differences were also interesting to me. For instance, she’s Canadian, a grandmother, and has lived overseas (I’m not, not, and haven’t).

When I learned that Donna, her husband, and dog, Cody would be staying for a month in a desert community not too far from where I live, I jumped at the chance to arrange a meet-up. Fortunately for me she was also interested and, after some back and forth picking a date, we finally managed to meet yesterday for a nice, long lunch.

So, what did we talk about? Blogging, of course!

We both agreed how nice it was to be able to talk about all the ins and outs and ups and downs of blogging with someone who was actually interested. We shared ideas, tips, frustrations, suggestions, and stories. We talked about the many bloggers we follow (were your ears burning yesterday?) and how much we appreciated everyone’s varied focus and writing styles.

We also gave each other encouragement. When I mentioned that I hadn’t been posting as often lately, Donna said that she had noticed and had been missing me (wow!). She is newer to the blogosphere than I am and is still brimming over with ideas. I, on the other hand, sometimes feel that my writing well can get a little dry. Donna helped me realize that I may have a few more things to say before Retirementally Challenged is tossed on the ever-expanding ash heap of long-forgotten blogs.

donna

If you don’t already follow Donna’s blog, I hope you will check it out… and follow… and comment (we both agreed that we love comments and interacting with our readers). It’s well-written, openhearted, and always interesting. After meeting her, I can say that her blog reflects her personality perfectly.

I am so grateful that I, once again, had the opportunity to meet a fellow blogger face-to-face. It is so gratifying to be able to transform a two-dimensional writer of a blog I follow into a three-dimensional friend.