Cheeto 3
Cheeto — now known as Captain Ahab — had his leg removed July 27, 2012. I picked him up from Philly’s animal control shelter later that day. Now he lives with Mike’s sister and her husband, along with two other kitties and a little dog.

A while back, it seems like everyone was typing up bucket lists and sharing them. You know — a list of dream travel destinations , life goals and stuff. I never did one because the field is so open. It’s easier (and more interesting) come up with things I definitely do not want to do. It seems I have a lot of these, or maybe I gave it more thought than I needed to. In any case, here is my anti-bucket list:

  • I’ll never visit a Disney theme park. Why? I’m an adult with no kids. I know there is an appeal to some childless adults, like my significant other, who tried to persuade me into a Disney vacation. I think the problem, along with being a childless adult, is that I don’t get Disney. I don’t know why, but I didn’t watch any Disney movies or anything like that as a child, so it doesn’t mean anything to me. I love the Muppets, which I believe are now owned by Disney, but that’s not really enough to persuade me to spend money and PTO time there.
  • I’ll never be a jerk to waitstaff at a restaurant or any other type of service professional. I’ve never waited tables, but I have friends who have, and I know it’s a tough job so I try to be extra nice and respectful. I also tend to have special requests and questions about the food, and nobody’s going to accommodate an asshole.
  • I’ll never get a tattoo. I think tattoos are cool, but I missed the tat boat. I’m not interested enough at my age to start getting them, so the only markings on my skin will be my freckles. I actually did really want one of the SEPTA logo back in the mid-’90s and I went to a tattoo shop but it was closed. I think that was my window, and after that, I just lost interest.
  • I’ll never cut my hair short. I had a bob at three points in my life, and each time I concluded it just didn’t work for me. I’d love to pull off a Keely Smith look, but where would I hide? Even though I wear it pulled back most of the time now, my hair is my security blanket. Anything shorter than a bob? Unthinkable. Even when I’m old, my hair will be nicely groomed and tastefully long.
  • I’ll never purchase an animal from a pet store or a breeder. Since I volunteer at an animal shelter, I know firsthand that there are plenty of sweet animals of all types — including purebred cats and dogs — who need homes. If you really want a certain breed, try a breed-specific rescue. Adopting takes a little more work than going to a retail store or an “Amish farm” (a.k.a. a puppy mill) but you’ll be getting a healthier animal and you won’t be giving financial support to people who mistreat animals through irresponsible breeding.
  • I’ll never get any nail art. When it comes to personal appearance, nails are a low priority to me. I spend my day at a computer keyboard, so they have to be super short. They’re clean and healthy, and that’s good enough for me. I don’t see myself driving to a nail salon and paying someone apply nail wraps, acrylics, rhinestones, chevron patterns or any other intricate designs, and I wouldn’t do it myself at home. (I also wouldn’t go to a tanning salon. Do people even do that anymore? I hope not. I’m pale and I like it.)
  • I’ll never live in a Midwestern or Southern state. I lived in Ohio for three years and it was profoundly miserable. I made some good friends and we had some fun times, but I felt like I was living in a backward, foreign country, and I only moved one state away. The culture is way different.  (I’m applying the same logic to what it’d be like to live in a Southern state, even though I’ve never done that.) Philadelphia — with all its flaws and annoyances — is the only place that’s really felt like home.
  • I’ll never eat meat. I became disgusted with eating meat after watching a movie, Alive, in which the survivors of a plane crash resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. I realized that under our skin, meat is meat. Red meat is the muscle of an animal, and it all looks the same. An animal is an animal and we’re all sentient and can experience pain and fear. There’s no difference between a cat, a cow, a goat, a dog, a lamb, a person, a chicken, a turkey, anything. And I wouldn’t kill my cat, dog or friend and eat them. Here are lyrics to the song “Cats and Dogs” by the hardcore band Gorilla Biscuits that sums up how I feel. Later, I learned more about animal rights and read Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, but it all began because I didn’t want to put a dead body in my mouth.
  • I’ll never get a face lift. Sure, I can be vain, but there’s something a little unsettling about undergoing major surgery to reverse the natural aging process. I don’t want to sound judgmental of those who do get face lifts and other things like this. I’m hoping to age gracefully like my mom did — she was always beautiful and she never lost that, not even in her 70s. So, I’m hoping to ride the coattails of her good genes, but if I can’t, I’ll be okay with that. Even when I feel I look fugly, I can find one thing I like that I can feel good about, like my eyebrows (if I did a good job on them) or my cheekbones at a certain angle.
  • I’ll never vote Republican. I’ve been voting since the ’90s — not only in presidential elections, but in primaries and midterm elections as well — and I’ve never picked a Republican. I’m as liberal as they come, and that’s the hill I’ll die on.
  • I’l never go swimming with dolphins or engage in any activity in which animals are used for entertainment. When I lived in Las Vegas, it sucked to see the tigers and lions and other animals confined to a plexiglass-encased habitat in a resort-casino. I worked for an entertainment magazine and had to see shows involving animals used in magic tricks. And I even went to the circus once when I was little. But now that I have a choice, I don’t want to give my time or money to any person or organization involved in confining and training animals to entertain people. I don’t feel it’s right for us as humans to exert dominion over other sentient beings just for the sake of a fun memory or photo.
  • I’ll never wear a jersey, paint my face and cheer really hard at a sports game. I like being in on the Eagles and Phillies games and celebrations, but I really know nothing about sports. If there’s beer, though (and there always is) I’ll be there and I’ll take a cue from others as to when to cheer.

So, I want to know — what’s on your anti-bucket list? Take some time to think about it, and tell me one thing you’d never do in this life.

Hi! Things look a little different, huh?

I have my own domain and I’m self-hosting this blog now!

Even though I’ve only had this blog for less than two months, I was feeling constrained by the limitations of WordPress.com. Basically, WordPress.com is a really easy way to start a blog if you don’t want to do a lot of tinkering with it. It’s pretty much all set up for you, and given that I’m new to WordPress, I went for it.

But you can’t add custom stuff at all, not even new fonts or colors. You can’t change the layout. You can’t add plugins to tailor your site’s behavior. In fact, you can’t get to the actual code, so your hands are tied in a lot of ways.

I registered my own domain name, byjenlawson.com, through GoDaddy last week, which was cool. And it was so easy — I did it real quick on my iPhone while getting ready for bed one night.

Yesterday, Mike and I found ourselves with a full day of absolutely no plans, which hardly ever happens. So I decided to see about moving my blog from WordPress.com onto GoDaddy and making it a truly self-hosted website. It wasn’t a quick and easy process — I had to call GoDaddy customer support, then I asked Mike to help me, we called GoDaddy again, and then finally it was set up.

GoDaddy has a new hosting product called Managed WordPress for GoDaddy, which means instead of backing up the site and dealing with security, performance optimization and other technical stuff manually, this does it for you, and I got it for only $1 per month for 12 months. (I think the regular price is $6 per month.)

I’m still using WordPress as my blogging software, but I’m using the open source version, WordPress.org, which something like 22 percent of all websites use on the back end. In theory, I could do whatever I want to here on now — there are no limitations! (Not that I know how to do very much at this point, but I’m learning.)

The first thing I did was install Yoast, an SEO plugin that makes it easier to figure out if you’re using the best keywords to make your site more visible to search engines. Then I installed Jetpack, which seems capable of doing all sorts of cool stuff.

If you’re using a hosted platform like WordPress.com or Blogger and want more freedom, make the leap and get your own site! Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t done it before — think of it as a fun challenge.

Once the site was established on GoDaddy’s servers, I did everything myself — I imported the file containing all of my content and activated it and all that jazz. I had a few issues, but there are resources out there with answers. It really helped me gain confidence because yesterday I was overwhelmed and clueless (XML? FTP? WTF?!) and today I took the thing and ran with it!

So, aside from having more freedom to customize the site, why else did I do this? I’m a full-time web content manager. Although my area is words, sentences, paragraphs and punctuation rather than the technical side of things — we use a content management system — I still want to know more about the back end, and all the sites we provide content for use WordPress. This might give me insight into that, particularly SEO strategy.

If you have any feedback or tips on how to run this thing, I’m all ears!

Gratuitous cat photo. My 15-year-old guy Magilla had an extensive dental procedure last week but he's doing fine!
Gratuitous cat photo. My 15-year-old guy Magilla had an extensive dental procedure last week but he’s doing fine!