My New Website Look


How often do you redecorate?   I mean, how long can one live with that red shag carpeting that we so loved once upon a time?

So it is with websites.  I’ve learned.

As technology changes, so too must our virtual living rooms. And today’s post is about how mine got its new look.


Web-wise, my website is my home base. It’s the place where I have my most precious virtual possessions. Unlike other social media sites, my website is MINE; I own it. It is the place that I can truly call my own. And, it’s where I feel most comfortable. It is my home.

I loved my first website.

RIP  Website 1 (2012 – 2015) 



I loved the warm colors and the “torn papyrus” look — even after someone said it looked like a dish of hummus.


My friend, Anne McKinsey of AMCK Web and Print Design, designed it and helped me learn how to maneuver within the sometimes tricky hallways of  For both I shall be forever grateful.

Anne specializes in websites for visual artists. Her concepts are stunning.  I hope you’ll visit her site and give her some love. Tell her I sent you.


But, it became time to move on. I needed a new site that would tie my website/living room to those attics and outbuildings that we know as  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram  …   Wow.  There really are a lot of them!

Simply, my old website wasn’t getting the traffic that I wanted.

And, to be honest, the color scheme I loved was beginning to remind me of the red shag carpeting I once also dearly loved …


More Bad hair 3 copy
Loved the little boy who once sat upon it, too. Still do.

… and the bellbottom pants we couldn’t live without. (Seems we knew better than to take a photo)

…. and the wild shoulder-length afro I thought was so very becoming.


Janet 1983 -2


Yes, my 1970s look is one I might have kept well hidden.  But today is a day for celebration. And what better way to celebrate than to get a laugh or two by posting an embarrassing picture of myself?


OK.  Back to work.


Kristin Lamb, the MAMA WANA herself (and social media Jedi), and I had a phone conversation a few months ago. “How to get more traffic to my website,” was my concern. Out of that call came my connection to Laird Sapir, aka Memphis McKay, a webmeister who specializes in websites for authors. She did a complete overhaul.

You’re seeing the results.

I had a blast working with Laird.  She’s professional, talented, direct, and fun. What’s not to like?

Laird “tries to come up with a design that ‘fits’ the person I’m designing for, and the topic of their website.”

So, when I pressed her about working on my site, she said she was “inspired” by my photos of Kazakhstan. ” … the vibrant colors, and the blue in the flag and on the cover of your book. I wanted to bring those colors and textures to the design and then give the content a really clean layout, so that your amazing writing is the thing that shines.”

Frankly, I think she got it just right.  And, I picked up a new subscriber while I was at it. If we’re lucky, she’ll weigh in from time to time.  I hope she does.


Back in 2011, when Anne and I first began talking about creating this website, our focus was on the memoir. At Home on the Kazakh Steppe was about to be published (it would actually take three more years) and I wanted my website to be a place for readers to learn more about the book, the story, Kazakhstan, and me, the author.

This time around, my focus was my weekly blog. The one you are reading.

And So It Goes began its third year this past January.

I’ve been diligently (and eagerly) pumping out blog posts that go live each Wednesday morning at dawn (well, it’s dawn somewhere around the globe). Some weeks I have four or five in the hopper; last summer,  I had most of the thirteen in the Camel’s Hump series done by the second week. But mostly, I write them as I am doing now, the day before.

I’ve met fantastic people through this blog and made many new friends. These are, for the most part, folks I meet on other blogs, who might appreciate a comment I make there and, if the Blog owners use CommentLuv, follow the cracker crumbs back here.

Some blogs seem to “do” better than others. I’m still working on that part. But, by and large we’ve had some pretty lively conversations from time to time. That will not change, I hope.

So, with my focus on my blog, I thought this new website overhaul could also provide the opportunity to unveil a new Blog name.  Perhaps one that honed in a bit on its focus. Perhaps one that would better “define my brand.”

New titles came to me easily.

The problem was, they didn’t stay around for very long.


My first “new idea,” Offend Me, Please, came to me from an email conversation I had following the post entitled “When Cultural Difference is Used As An Excuse.” 

I thought it’d be useful to take a look at it and the ones that followed, leading us — eventually — to the current Blog title.

Offend Me, Please

I still like this one. Unfortunately, the phrase also connotes a lot of angry voices yelling over everyone, with me in the middle trying to get it sorted without having a (virtual) dish thrown at me. Not a pretty picture.

Still, the idea that we often hold back what we want to say — what we may need to say — for fear of offending, is important and it’s one I’d like to look at more closely, understand a bit better.

I once heard one of my (many) Gestalt fascilitators, Phil Belzunce, use this phrase. “Offend me, please,” he called out when one of our group held back, saying, “I don’t want to offend you.” We all smiled at the time. But it gave this particulary person  permission to simply speak his mind.

Phil’s point was about the importance of getting the “offensive” words out into the open where we could have at them. I couldn’t agree more. But the trick was — and is, always — to stay with them, to pull or push at the offending idea until the energy it holds dissolves. And to do it from that all-important I place.

Too many seem to believe that if we just spit out the words, we can  walk away.  We’ve said our piece; that’s what matters. That, to me is actually cowardly.

Instead, and what I meant by OFFEND ME, PLEASE, was that we need to have the courage — both the offender and the offendee — to stand still and tackle the issue head on, whatever it is. Now, that is powerful. That is life changing.

I believe a lot of the political correctness debate is connected to our very civilized desire not to offend.  AND, as a result, we have a lot of resentful, angry people walking around. I’m not going to solve that with my one blog.  BUT,  a series of posts, under the banner of  “OFFEND ME, PLEASE” holds interest for me.  Stay tuned.

The next candidate after Offend Me, Please, was Such Is Life. With it is the explanation that I wrote that would have gone in that little “read more about the name” window that Laird created.

Such Is Life

Fifty years ago (and then some) I wrote a column for my high school newspaper. I called it C’est La Vie, as that was the foreign language I was studying at the time. The following year, when I had switched from French to Spanish, I changed the name to Asi es La Vida.

It gives me school girl pleasure to announce that for 2016 (at least) I’ve renamed my blog Such Is Life. I’m not currently taking any foreign language classes.

I’d be pleased, though, if you’d contribute other language translations for this phrase.  Latin?  Russian? German?

50 years ago? Really?

How About You? came next. Here it is with its little window explanation.

How About You?

How about you, my new blog name, is an invitation to participate in a conversation. It is how I have ended many of my posts over the past few years. Now, it’ll come at the beginning.

Note too that How About You? makes YOU, my reader, a vital part of the ensuing conversation.

Will we always agree? I hope not. But I hope that, at the end, we’ll come away with either a new perspective or a renewed appreciation/understanding of our position.  After all, isn’t that the whole purpose of conversation? Here at How About You? We’ll focus those conversations on culture.


Which brought me directly to the next title, Conversations on Culture

I didn’t get that explanation written, for this one came about right at the time Laird was ready to release the new website.  So, I looked again at what I had been using, And So It Goes, and thought we’d stay with this one for now, release the new website design, then at a later time, announce the new title. Whatever it will be.

But then ….


I realized that I’ve always liked the phrase. I liked it when Linda Ellerbee used it at the close of her reports, and I liked it when Kurt Vonnegut explained why he liked it and used it so much in Slaughterhouse-Five (had to do with Lot’s wife being human).

So, I pulled together a stronger explanation, which you can read in the little pull down window that says, “Read more about the name.”  Or, you can read it here.


And So It Goes

And so it goes — sometimes, So it goes — the lament that permeates Kurt Vonnegut’s classic Slaughterhouse-Five, addresses the notion that certain events are beyond our control. It honors fatalism, resignation, the inevitability of death (among other things), and the consequent acceptance of our fate.

Just as Vonnegut tried to educate his readers to a greater understanding of the human condition, And So It Goes, the blog, tries to educate readers to a greater understanding of the culture that, inevitably and unconsciously, molds us.

We do that by looking at cultures that are different from our own. And we pay special attention to the parts of those cultures that trouble us, that make us gasp, that make us turn away.

Here on my blog, we take the time to take a closer look, to chew on what we’ve been swallowing whole. Adopting the existential notion that we create our own reality, we understand that that reality is also molded by our environment and perpetuated by our culture.

And so it goes.


How about you? Any thoughts on these various titles, the new look, the idea of redecoration in general?

What hasn’t changed about my blog is that I’m eager to hear from you.

Next week: back to Affluenza. 


28 Responses

  1. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    Congratulations, Janet on your new blog redesign! So much to talk about here. In the weird synchronicity of the universe, my blog post this week was about redecorating. Also, Slaughterhouse-Five was offered as an e-book bargain this week, so I purchased it, and I learned last night, that my brother-in-law is doing some sort of annotated version of it. And so it goes.

    I love your photos–your little boy who is incredibly adorable–and your own incarnations of yourself with different hairstyles.

    One of these days, I will have to think about redesigning my own Web page and blog–and how to increase traffic. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  2. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    Thanks, Merril. I thought your blog post this week was about the ops for contributing to the Encyclopedia of Rape and Sexual Violence? Something, as you know, I’d love to do. Just needing a few more hours each day.
    When your brother-in-law has his annotations done, I’d love to read through it. Does he need a Beta reader?

  3. Anonymous
    | Reply

    love the pics.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      well, thank you very much. I had fun finding them.

      I’m wondering if you’d mind telling us who you are? You’ll see your name came out as Anonymous, which is great if you’re donating a lot of money somewhere, but not so much for conversation purposes …. I’d also love to know your Cincinnati connection. Do tell.


  4. C.A. Morgan
    | Reply

    Not sure which title I like best, but I like what I’m reading! (I always wanted to name a blog “Just Ask Me”, but then decided I didn’t want anyone to think I had all the answers, not that they would!) Anyhow, nicely done, Janet!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Cynthia, Glad you dropped in.

      Your title, “Just Ask Me” reminded me of the speaker’s trick to get questions from the audience, “Here’s $10 for anyone asking a bad question.” Then, as each question comes in, she’d just say, “That’s a great question!” and proceed to answer it. I can see a blog where you “dare” your reader to stump you. Hee, hee. Oh this could be such fun.

      Good to see you. 🙂

  5. Charlene Jones
    | Reply

    Hi Janet and Congratulations! I love new beginnings and this one feels like a great start for renewed focus for you. I look forward to the next and the next and the next…

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Charlene,

      Thanks so much. New Beginnings. A top album by Tracy Chapman, yes? Good song too. Great concept.

      See you too.

  6. Shirley Hershey Showalter
    | Reply

    Hey, Janet, great new digs here. Congrats on going through the migration process, something that had me tearing my hair out a few months ago.

    The longer we blog, the more we still need to learn about design, branding, etc. The technology is changing faster than we are.

    But what doesn’t change is that our best work always comes from the fire within. Congratulations for keeping yours alive and all best as you navigate the new waters.

    And so it goes!

  7. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    Hi Shirley, Thanks for reminding me of that “fire within.” It is energizing. And I’ll need it to keep pace with that ever-changing technological world. I think for this post, I had the most fun finding those old pictures. That brought some comic relief.

  8. Susan Joyce
    | Reply

    I like your new look! Colorful!

    Unfortunately, I’m so busy writing and editing that I often forget to publish my own posts on my author site. I admire you for making it happen on a regular basis. Hope it brings you lots of new readers.

    Back to writing.

  9. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    Well, your writing and editing has paid off, Susan, as you now have your dramatic second memoir, Good Morning, Diego Garcia, available.

    But yes, I need the discipline that weekly blogging has brought. It has taken time away from the next book, but not all. Thankfully, we’ve got a pretty dramatic winter up here, so it’s easy to write all winter long. Summer is the hardest time, even for the blog. There is just so much to DO in the yard.

    That’s why I like blog SERIES so much in the summer. I can sit and do them all in one or two sittings. Then, I need only drop back in to chat with Commenters. But mostly, I love writing the blog between Sunday and Tuesday. That gives me Thursday through Saturday for other writing.


  10. Melody
    | Reply

    Looks great, Janet!

  11. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    Wow! There’s a lot of winnowing going on here, Janet.

    Two things stand out on your website: the clean, classic look – and that crazy 70s hairdo. Not bad, actually.

    I subscribed again because I hadn’t been getting notifications of new posts lately. However, I already have two copies of “Fan Favorites.” How did that happen!

    • Janet
      | Reply

      Thanks Marion. These things are so much easier when I hire someone else to do it. I found quite a collection of “weird hairdos” when I went to look.

  12. Linda Hoye
    | Reply

    Redecorating can be a such fun–with a few headaches along the way sometimes. Your new look is fresh and lovely. Any pain experienced during the renovation was well worth it!

    • Janet
      | Reply

      Thank you, Linda. I appreciate that.

  13. L. E. Carmichael
    | Reply

    So clean and pretty! Congrats.

    • Janet
      | Reply

      Thank you, Lyndsey. I appreciate that.

  14. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    Janet,I’m finally getting around to congratulating you on your beautiful new “home”. Happy home warming! It is a fresh new look and the real Janet jumps right out. Love the pictures and the overall feel of it. Very colorful and eclectic.. just like you!?

    • Janet
      | Reply

      Thanks so much, Kathy. It was fun too.

  15. Joan Z. Rough
    | Reply

    It’s looks wonderful, Janet. I like “And So It Goes,” the best. Keep up your great thought provoking writing!

    • Janet
      | Reply

      Thank you Joan. I appreciate you weighing in. Thought provoking writing, huh? It only works, I think, because I have readers willing to be provoked. 🙂

  16. Woody
    | Reply

    Wow! It’s a great new look — eye-catching and contemporary. Sorry to be so late in responding. But, you know, BLTN.

  17. Janet
    | Reply

    Why thanked kindly Dr S. BLTN? Best Layed Tuna Noodle (casserole)?

  18. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Woohoo! Your newly redecorated website is “da bomb!” I love it!

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