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Stories from Jacksonville

New Jax Witty

Articles, reviews, advice, and legitimate research to go along with some back-handed comments. Think of us as Jacksonville's mother-in-law.
  • Coronavirus Family Activity: Find Church Online
    We already have a local church, so we're not looking to replace our home church. In fact, we already started online giving years ago, so our church isn't losing anything in our searching around a bit. If your church is having technical difficulties putting together an online presence right now, you've probably searched for something else. Don't feel guilty about it. This is a weird time, and it makes sense that you're searching for answers.


    One church we found almost seemed to meet the need. Good music, professional online presence, dynamic pastor, etc. However, the message wasn't quite right for us, as the church didn't even mention Palm Sunday and the pastor (in two different weeks) talked about his drinking days in college. I need a little bit of tradition in my church, and this new tradition of pastors all being sinful beings until they found Christ is annoying to me, like political leaders who talk about morals who have multiple divorces and affairs under their belts (pun, yes). Sure, I understand that God forgives, but you don't have to be completely immoral in order to receive absolution. Or to become a pastor.

    Anyhow, we decided Pastor Bluejeans was a little more than we could handle, so it was time to move on. It was a little like deciding to go to a different barber or salon, and my kids were worried about it. But it's actually easier to shop around for church right now. You don't have to worry about personal interactions and the feeling of letting someone down.

    That's why your church's online presence is SO IMPORTANT right now. You really ought to have perfect audio and an edited video (with multiple angles) for your Sunday service. Lighting is the most important for the video, but cuts to other angles with a little movement add a lot to the experience, especially when it comes to the band. Two camera operators, a sound person, pastors, band, and editor (who needs at least a day) to put the video together. YouTube rather than Facebook Live. Simple stuff, here.

    Since Pastor Bluejeans didn't have the traditional church stuff we were used to, I did specifically search for Lutheran(LCMS) churches, starting with ones for whom I've built websites. At the bottom of the list, I added some of the larger LCMS churches with decent online programs. Some of the churches I researched even use Pastor Bluejeans's online format for services. Which leads me to another (VERY IMPORTANT) piece of advice: if you are going to use churchonline, make sure you have a way to archive the videos so people can check out what church is like. I went to several church websites that had countdowns to the next service but no archives. Since I had no way of knowing what those services would be like, I ended up skipping them. Not having a past service to see is probably the absolute worst thing you can do to church seekers, unless your archives are all Facebook Live disasters.

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  • Coronavirus Family Activity: Turn Your Garage into a ... GARAGE
    One of the only real activities most of us have right now is going for a walk. Since most homes are now packed with people, even during the day, the walks I go on result in the need to weave past vehicles parked over the sidewalks in driveways. It seems like many homes have in-laws or other refugees living with them, so our neighborhood feels like it's bursting at the seams. While it might seem like now is a good time to re-purpose your garage into another living space, allow me to suggest you turn it into a garage.


    Hear me out on this one. A garage is an attached or detached shed-like structure built to house cars. That's why it has a concrete floor and a door large enough to drive a car into it. I'm not kidding: garages are actually designed for cars. Not couches and TVs or punching bags. Not bars or pet pens. Vehicles. Automobiles. And some storage, sure.

    Back in Wisconsin, a lot of people do use their garages for parties in the summer. The way it works is that you drive the car out of the garage, set up some tables, add some slow cookers, bring out the coolers, and you have a party. You might listen to the Brewers on the radio or maybe your favorite audio cassette or CD. Sure, it's old-fashioned, but Wisconsinites have been using their garages as garages AND party rooms for years. 

    When we lived in Kansas, people kind of made fun of Wisconsin for garage parties. I assume it's because folks in Kansas ONLY used garages for their vehicles. Or none of them did. I didn't really visit many people's homes there. Either way, they didn't tend to also use them for parties. Floridians probably don't use garages for parties because 1. they tend to store too much other junk in the garage to have a party, 2. it gets too hot in Florida garages to force guests into them, 3. people here tend to store garbage cans in the garage. 

    Pragmatism
    Your car will last longer and look nicer if it's kept in a garage. I have a car from 1986 that still looks pretty good because it's mostly been kept inside. My wife had a car that was nearly ten and looked brand new when it got totaled in an accident because it always stayed in the garage. That's how it works. If you've grown up with all your cars on the front lawn and driveway, you might not believe me, but it's actually true. It's kind of like that couch or TV in your garage: if you left them outside, they'd get pretty messed up, but they can stay pretty nice in a garage.

    Storage
    Some Floridians like the idea of a storage room and don't even have a couch or workout area in the garage. If that's you, I have a suggestion: garage shelves. The previous owners of my house put in shelving all around the perimeter of the garage. I added shelving units to two sides, as well as large storage shelves that drop down from the ceiling. I also added some flooring to the attic area. All told, I have about as much storage as I was accustomed to having in my Wisconsin house (that had a 2.5 car garage and a nice attic above the main living area). Most garages here are much smaller than 2.5 car, so it takes some doing to squeeze the space out of these garages (and it helps to have a small car).

    From a sanitary standpoint, you should keep the garbage and recycling outside. You might be forced to have a water heater and even laundry area in your garage, but I would also recommend against it if at all possible. Mainly, I would say this about house size and storage: if you can't fit your junk in your attic/closet/garage/shed space, then you probably need a bigger house, and parking the cars in the driveway will only make storing all that crap more expensive as you slowly destroy your cars and leave them more susceptible to break-ins. We have found that under-bed storage works well, so prop those beds up. We've also opened up the area under our stairs as a closet, so there's another project for the Covid-19 Time.

    Legal
    Our houses are assessed based on heated square feet. Garages fit into a similar category as  patios, in that it's not considered a living space. Many HOAs will have rules about setting up living space in garages, but it seems a lot of people get around this by just not officially turning the room into an addition. Instead, people will sweat it out or freeze in their man cave-like car sheds. When I had little kids, this wasn't even a thought for me, since those kids would have gotten into my power tools and chemicals. Like ponds and loaded handguns in Florida, garages being used as living space pose real danger. Making the garage into a bedroom might not even be legal, but I'd have to ask my legal team about that one.

    It should be illegal to park cars over sidewalks. Kids and old people can fall down and get hurt, and if it happens to me, I'll definitely file a lawsuit, especially if it's because you have a Billy Blanks workout area where those vehicles belonged.

    Stuff on Wheels
    A lot of exercise equipment and yard equipment is wheeled. I used to have two snowblowers and two lawnmowers in my Wisconsin garage. If I needed to move a car, I might need to move a lawnmower first. And you can wheel your power glider out the one time a month you use it, after you back your car out. Hang your bikes up, stick them on a porch, or just move them around the garage when needed. I do have to admit that our 2003 Florida home has the smallest garage we've ever owned. Actually, it's much smaller than our 1953 house and 1978 house, but it is about the same size as the garage we had on our 1926 bungalow. No matter what size garage I've owned, however, I have always tried to park two cars inside, even if I also have one or two more cars outside. If you are fancy enough to own a car collection, then you should have the money to invest in a 6-car garage. My dad grew up on a farm, and he said that some of his neighbors used to leave tractors outside in the elements, whereas his family always stored them inside. And their tractors, not surprisingly, lasted twice as long as their neighbors'. It's really worth the inconvenience, so go turn your garage into a garage.


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  • Coronavirus Family Activity: Start a Blog
    Here's a fun family activity that can lead to you going less nuts at home: create a blog. It's really pretty simple, and it could help you hit the ground running after the Covid-19 crisis is over. I'll go through some of the how's and why's here, on my own blog.


    Domain
    Choose something you think you'll want AFTER the pandemic. Coronavirus.com is already taken by WHO and lifeathome.com is being used by IKEA, so just name it for yourself or your business. Or the city you live in. Or the role you have. I recommend just buying the .com with Google rather than choosing some Blogger subdomain and then converting it later, but $12 might be steep for you right now.

    Blogger
    Let's keep this simple. Use Blogger. It's pretty easy to get your articles out there, and it's easier than the more fancy systems when it comes to photos, especially if you use Google (Android). You can choose a simple template. Whatever you do, don't think that a Facebook page, Twitter feed, YouTube page, or app is the same thing as a blog. No one cares about your posts on those formats, at least not for very long. By all means, use them to promote your blog, or create cool YouTube videos and embed them in the blog, but just make the website already.

    Content
    Write all the time. While you are social distancing, write about anything at all. You can always delete your post about grilling out when you decide to tie the blog into your business later on, but go ahead and write anything during these weird times. Don't get all depressed when no one reads it. Even family members won't tend to actually click on your full articles. Then, eventually, you'll write something that resonates with a bunch of people, like when I asked the simple question of where Ariel Nixon went. I did not intend my blog to be about hot meteorologists, but I'll ride that article until people forget about Ms. Nixon here in JAX.

    If you can spend the time off to become the expert in something, then you can start to write articles that will generate a lot of hits. Like if you know when the stock market will bottom out and which stocks to buy, people will read what you have to say. You might have to do real-ish research. If you can make the research and articles about what your business does, then run with it, even if you don't currently own the business. Eventually, you'll move on, and then your online content will still be yours, even if all the information in the article was learned while working for someone else.

    Promotion
    Social media is good for promotion. I don't tend to use it. I just try to get my articles indexed with Google in Webmaster Tools. Blogger sites will eventually get indexed and hits, but you can jumpstart it all with Tweets and posts elsewhere. In fact, most of what I've read on the subject says promoting your articles is more important than writing new ones. I think it's all a lot easier if you have good photos and a lot of social media friends. Remember to tag photos properly, too, as those can help send searches your way.

    You can always work on click funnels and marketing later on. For now, get the website started.


    Search New Jax Witty

    Related Stories
    Thanks for reading. See more of my content:

    Satisfamily - Articles about being happy as a family
    Passive Ninja - Web Design in Jacksonville
    McNewsy - Creative Writing
    Educabana - Educational Resources
    Brave New Church - Church Website Design
    Voucher School - Pros and Cons of School Vouchers
    Luthernet - Web Design for Lutheran Churches
    Sitcom Life Lessons - What we've learned from sitcoms
    Mancrush Fanclub - Why not?
    Epic Folktale - Stories of the unknown
    Wild West Allis - Every story ever told about one place
    Educabana on Teachers Pay Teachers (mostly ELA lessons)
    Real Wisconsin News - Satire from Wisconsin
    Zoo Interchange Milwaukee - Community website
    Chromebook Covers - Reviews and opinions

    Brian Jaeger - Resume (I'm always interested)

    Contact Me