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FAQ About Blogging

Over the last several months I've experienced a fair amount of blog success.  I've received a number of emails from fellow writers asking me for advice and the "secret" of how I did this.  I thought I'd write down all my "secrets" here where they'll be easy to find.

My first piece of advice is stop thinking there is a secret.  There isn't.  It's just like anything else, a bit of dumb luck and a whole lot of hard work.   You need to be ready to get to work when the dumb luck hits and you strike gold with something you wrote.

1.  Start a blog.  Don't talk about it.  Don't think about it.  Just start.  Go to Blogger.com and sign up for a free blog.  (I prefer Blogger to WordPress because it can monetized easier and we all want to get paid don't we?)  Your first post can be something as simple as your mission statement:  Hello, I'm Liesel and this blog is about my love of hot dogs.  I will be traveling around the world sampling hot dogs and giving you my taste test results.  If you want a few people to read it, email it to your friends and push it out on your personal Facebook or Twitter.

2.  Find your blog topic or theme.  Liesel is going to write about hot dogs.  I have blogger friends who write about movies, crafting, photography, running or their kids and their day to day activities with them.  It doesn't matter what you're going to write about, just pick your topic and go with it.  But make sure the topic is something you feel strongly about, because you're going to write about it.  A lot.  My blog is about me (a topic I never get bored with).  It is my place to vent and to get things off my chest.  It is my therapy.  Because my blog topic is broad, I can deviate all over the place.  If you write about your family you can write about many things.  If you write about hot dogs, you really can't tell your readers too much about the super cute Christmas wreath you made (unless it's made from hot dogs).

3.  Find your voice.  I think this is one of the most important parts of blogging.  I've read a lot of blogs that are dull and boring.  They're dull and boring, because the writer is writing how she thinks she's supposed to write.  Bloggers should write how they speak.  People who know me in real life tell me all the time:  "When I read your post today I could just hear you saying that!"  That's what you want on your blog.  Write like you're having a conversation with your reader.  There will always be blogs that are similar to you, but they won't have your voice.

4.  Write like thousands of people are reading you every day.  Before I had thousands reading me every day, I had no one except my mom and the occasional pervert searching "deep throat punch."  I still wrote quite a bit though.  I wrote, not hoping I'd be discovered, but to get my therapy session in.  But by doing this, I had built up a nice archive of work so when I was finally noticed people stayed and read.  Don't worry that no one is reading you yet, the important thing is to continue writing.

5.  Write often.  I used to write several times a month and now I try to write 3-5 times a week.  The more you write, the more people come back - as long as what you're writing is valuable.  I write whole stories and sagas, but that's not necessary.  A lot of really popular bloggers only write a few sentences each time.  I'm not that good with words.  I can't narrow down a whole rant into 3 succinct sentences.  Whatever you write - 3 sentences or 3 pages, just make sure it's worth your reader's time.  Teach them something, entertain them, move them, inspire them.  Just make them want to come back tomorrow.

6.  Just know that sometimes what you write sucks.  No one is on their game 100% of the time.  Just know that you will have some posts that you put out there and you will say, "Wow, that one was shit.  I gotta do better tomorrow."

7.  Also realize that sometimes your readers will tell you that your latest offering sucked.  Not all blogs are this way, but mine is.  I have passionate readers who are a lot like me:  mouthy and opinionated.  They don't bullshit or candy coat it.  They tell me straight up:  "That fucking sucked."  Which brings me to my next piece of advice:

8.  Get a thick skin.  This is tough for writers.  We are putting ourselves out there.  We are putting our thoughts, feelings, opinions, and heart out there for everyone to read, critique, and comment on.  There are some people who will stomp on you.  They might say, "Liesel, you're so damn ugly and I hate you and your hot dogs!  No wonder you write about hot dogs -you look like a dog!"  I'm not going to lie.  It hurts.  A lot at first.  But you build up that thick skin and you focus on the positive.  You focus on the readers who write to you and tell you that you've inspired them or motivated them or cheered up their cancer treatment and then you say, "Fuck the trolls."  With success comes haters, but for every hater there are hundreds who will love you - even Liesel's asinine hot dog blog.  "Your review of the Chicago Dog was right on!  Love you, Liesel and I would eat a hot dog anywhere with you!"

9.  Monetize your blog.  About 5 months into blogging I started noticing Google Ads.  I thought you had to be a big time blogger to get Google Ads.  You don't.  Blogger makes it very easy to put ads on your blog.  I was getting about 300 page views a day when I put the ads up and so I made a few cents every day.  It was better than nothing.  My ads were in place when I went viral the first time and I was able to turn that into cash in my pocket.  I don't know about you, but I put a lot of hours into my blog and even if I can only make enough to pay for my next Sonic drink every little bit counts.

10.  Start a Facebook page and a Twitter account for the blog and make it easy for your readers to get to them.  Use the BIG buttons, people.  I did not do this before I went viral and I wish I would have.  The first day I went viral I set up both of these and directed my new fans to them.  It's just another place where you can connect with your readers.  I've seen lots of FB pages that only had a few hundred people a few months ago grow to thousands.  I utilize FB more than Twitter.  I find that I am more comfortable on FB, but there are other bloggers who are just the opposite.  It's whatever you want.  I would also add, get a Pinterest account.  I pin my blogs and other funny stuff and I get hundreds of hits each day from Pinterest. Google + is the new girl in town. Try her out too. I can't get the hang of circles and I'm tired of trying to master yet another platform, but it's a necessary evil.

11.  Write for larger blogs or anthologies.  Contact bigger websites and see if you can guest blog or repost some of your better pieces.  This was something else I didn't know before.  There are lots of larger blogs looking for content and you don't need to be a big time blogger to write for them.  Just contact them and see if they're interested in your "Best Hot Dogs of the Midwest County Fair Season" article.  You rarely get paid, but you get good exposure for your blog when you're first starting out. Julie from Fabulous Blogging has put together a terrific list of places where you can submit your blog. Check it out! After you're seasoned, make sure you're getting some dollars, dollars. No more free milk. Make them buy that cow!

I'm always working on new anthologies, so check this link to see the next deadline.

12.  OK, this is great, Jen.  I do all of this already, but what I really want to know is how can I go viral?  Everyone wants to know this little secret.  Here's the thing, my biggest one to date was a complete fluke.  The stars aligned without me even realizing it.  Looking back and analyzing it I can tell you a few things I learned.

You need to write something topical. When I wrote the Elf piece it was several weeks until Christmas.  My post was dormant until about a week later when a major newspaper ran a story about Elf antics and so searches went up and my blog was discovered by a few readers.  My voice and my spin on the story of the Elf resonated with readers and I was passed around Facebook, Twitter and someplace I'd never heard of:  Pinterest, like a venereal disease on a college campus.  Actually, I prefer to think it was more like that old shampoo commercial: "And she told two people, and they told two people, and so on and so on..."

I have managed to get a few more viral posts and they were all topical.

Another crowd pleaser are lists.  Readers love lists.  Two viral posts I have are lists of rules for daughters and rules for sons.  Both were my punchy take on sweet, sappy lists making the rounds of the blogosphere.  Again - my voice was what set them apart.

And just because my voice is snarky and sarcastic, doesn't meant that's all people want to read.  There are tons of sweet, wholesome, heart-warming posts that get passed around too.  They just weren't mine.  They went viral, because they were true to their writers' voices.

14.  Comment and "network" with other bloggers.  This is where I fail miserably.  In theory it's a wonderful idea and I've seen other bloggers do it with great success, but not me.  I've never been a real joiner of any kind.  I feel very phony networking and there is no way I can pretend I like someone's shitty blog when I don't.  And you know me - if I don't like someone's blog, I'm definitely going to have to say something about it...

No, if you ever see me comment on a blog, it's because I absolutely wanted to, not because I did it for networking purposes.  If I was a better blog networker I'd probably have double the followers I have now, but I just can't do it.

I hope this helps and answers your blogging questions.  If you have more, add them in the comments and  if I know the answer I'll update this post.  Good luck and get writing!

55 comments:

  1. Perfect Baby Infant Massage05:43

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  2. This is very helpful and well-written. Bravo.

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  3. This was great! I am looking for ways to branch out to new audiences. Thank you so much for sharing. Funny ladies need to stick together. If you have a chance to give me some feedback, good karma will be sent your way. Or, at least no effigies will be burned in your honor... ;) Thanks!

    http://www.momaical.com/

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    1. Hey Tracy, check out my blog - maybe we can help each other!
      http://lorihokie.blogspot.com/

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    2. This WAS great! Now I need to figure out how to put it into practice.

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  4. This advice was so very helpful. Thank you for paving the way and lending a hand. :)

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  5. Laura18:02

    I've been poking around and almost almost almost...and hiding in a corner trying to feel out if I should blog. Been home for two months now with a newborn (enough to drive me nuts....with joy of course. tooootal joy.) and I wanna! So I stumbled upon your blog through babble, and love it, and feel it, and then to see you say the magic words - "Just start" Done and done. Thank you. I'm going to check out blogger now, and have wordpress in the wings.

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  6. i just found you because i'm a dud. i have been writing for oh ... about 17 months, eighteen, no nineteen (because of freakin' leap year) days and um... 8 hours. i found you on facebook. i wish i found you sooner. my blog is all over the map but it's all about me, so i guess, like you, it's not all over the map. thanks for your advice. your post about the Time Magazine inspired me to write about a time I achieved revenge on my big brother. http://grassoil.blogspot.com/2012/05/snark-revenge-and-mary-janes.html (take a peek, in your copious free time.)

    keep up the great work! -Grass Oil

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  7. My boyfriend and I own 3 Sisters Chocolate, a chocolate shop and bakery in Jacksonville, FL. I just started blogging about wedding cakes and other wedding related stuff but I feel like I'm floundering. This post was incredibly helpful. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

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  8. You inspired me to start a blog! Thank you! www.crapthatbugsme.blogspot.com

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  9. I did it, for now nobody read it since I haven't told people I know. I am still deciding the privacy issue.

    www.livinginmex.blogspot.com

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  10. This is the most helpful list I've seen...I'm going to share it with everyone who thinks they can't do this. I started laughing before I even read your posts...when I saw your web address. Thanks for taking time to put these tips out there!

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  11. Jen. You rock. Nuf said

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  12. Thanks, bitchcakes (it's a term of endearment). I sooo need to monetize. I think I make things harder than they are.

    GREAT advice here. I like the idea about writing for a big audience even before you have one.

    Re: Going viral. My last post was about herpes. Think that will be the one?

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  13. i love your #14.. i can't do it either. I've tried. Kind of. But bottom line..I barely want regular contact with my friends and family, much less dozens of online personalities.
    However, I'm going to keep trying. baby steps. (see..I'm commenting.. ;)

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  14. Jen - Yeah, reading the comment above mine. I barely want regular contact with friends and family either! I love your honesty, and thanks for being confident enough to put helpful tips out there.
    Cathy

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  15. Thanks so much for this list! I found your blog through Robin of Robin's Chicks and love your writing. Great list, and great blog!

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  16. thanks for this. i just bit the bullet and started a blog. no posts yet and have no clue what I'm doing, but I took the first step. I'm a bit afraid of friends and amily reading it, or someone realizes I'm writing about them....how do you approach that?

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    1. That can be tough. People will ask me all the time, "Are you going to blog about this?" I tell them honestly Yes or No. Many friends will say, "This can not go on the blog" and I respect their wishes. I used to be really anonymous and it was easy then, but over time my identity has been revealed to those around me. I always change the names of the innocent and guilty and I always try to keep it to "types" of people, ie., douchey dads rather than Phil the douchiest dad I know. If someone confronts me and says, "That was me you were writing about," my response is typically, "What makes you think that? Guilty conscience?" If the shoe fits . . . Good luck with your writing. If you're concerned about what others think then make your blog completely private so it's just for you to vent to a black hole.

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  17. First and foremost, a big THANK YOU! 2012 was a toughie in some aspects.So when I came upon PIWTPITT thanks to your Elf post, I read a couple of your others, that shared my views, (Honey Boo Boo & Akin posts) & I was hooked. Thank you for the laughs and I found it very cathartic.

    So, now I have jumped in and started my own, (feel free to visit. sadiesgathering.blogspot.com, but of course your not obligated) but I feel like a dinosaur with a pair of scissors. Any suggestions for serious "hand holding" help?

    Some questions that pop to mind are- any way to do a .com at the end instead of blogspot, or will that just come as I get traffic, (hoping someday I will)? Because I am in no search that I have done, no matter how specific I get.

    My friend said she commented and didn't think it worked... does one have to be with google, or did she maybe just not "publish it"

    Gotta run, but thanks in advance.

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  18. I started a blog in 2010, but I didn't actually start writing in faithfully until last November or so. I'm going to follow the monetizing advice. I was thinking that I needed to already have a large following before monetizing, but you're right. If it's already in place, then if a post does go viral, I can profit from it. I'm a writer by day and night apparently. So, all advice to actually make money doing this is sweet. Thanks for writing!
    http://penpaperpad.com

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  19. Awesome info! I love to blog!

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  20. If you can get back to me, I would greatly appreciate it; how do you get the second level of tabs? Where you list home, Jen's favorites, contact me, etc. I finally shrunk the type size and got all 5 of mine to show, but I thought I could have a lot more but I don't know how to expand the area where they show.

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    1. Sadie, Are you on Blogger? If you're on Blogger you can use the PAGES feature. Those are all PAGES. You can add them and then Blogger just puts them across the top.

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    2. Yep... I stretched out my area that the pages are put and was able to see them, but I was curious as I add them and get more than one line across the top, how to get a second line.

      Also, I think my adsense was disbled?! I have not clicked on any add on my site, so just wondering why? I have only been on one month so just trying to figure it all out. Really need someone who understands to stand beside me and tell me what to do when I ask "ok how do I do this?" over and over. Sadiesgathering.blogspot.com is my blog. Thanks for getting back...

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    3. Jen,
      Sadie K here again- need to edit above- I know I should have written "ad" instead of "add"... just frustrated with blogger, work on my site every day, have friends who tell me they comment, but I haven't seen any... feel like I speak a different language. If you get a chance would you please visit and let me know what you think I am doing wrong that adsense would disable my account? I have an ad area so.. oh well gonna go and watch my Thursday night vice shows- "Scandal" and "Elemetary".

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  21. Thanks for the list. It's full of good ideas that I have been looking for.
    Scott
    chaotickidsclutter.blogspot.com

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  22. gonna contact you through your email, because I need answers to a few questions. Nope you are not the only one I have turned to, just hoping since you are running this, you'll understand what I am asking.

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  23. Me again! Just read your post about the companies & women..AAAARRRRGGGGG! No wonder they're losing sales; they're completely clueless about 51% of the population. As for your baby pains, I say stop at 2; you and your hubs have 2 good hands each so with 2 kids that's an even match- some days.
    Now for my question- anyway to do dropdowns for my pages? Not there yet but I'll need them soon. Also, do you have any idea why Ad Sense would not approve my application? I even had an ad on there till yesterday, but got a "content does not meet our criteria". After some research I saw somewhere that you won't get approved these days unless you are on 6+months or have 30-40 posts. Makes sense, but why doesn't Google just say that in the guidelines? If you know please let me know either here or on Sadie's Gathering or email me at sadiesgathering@gmail.com. Thanks!

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  24. Great advice, thank you!

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  25. This was a very helpful post. My problem is that I am TERRIFIED of putting my blog out there. I love to write, I love writing about my kids and how they drive me crazy and spin my house into chaos. I WANT to put it out there, and I post on twitter and Pinterest but haven't really told anyone so I've got like 20 views since I've started. Like you, I suck at commenting and networking. I rock at reading though, and love your posts. And after reading todays I DID follow you on FB and signed up to get emails from your blog, so you can brag to your hubby that you at least got one more follower today.
    Christie
    www.myspecialkindofcrazy.wordpress.com

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  26. Nice! Thanks for sharing!

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  27. Does anyone know, can you do drop-downs on blogger?
    Also, how do I stop the popups? I get them every time I edit a page or post, or anything administrative?

    Reply here or go to sadiesgathering.blogspot.com and leave a note for me there.

    Thanks to all!

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    1. I don't know how to do drop downs. Have you tried googling? Blogger might not have that feature? Pop ups can be blocked with a pop up blocker. https://support.google.com/toolbar/answer/9171?hl=en

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  28. Awesome, thank you for sharing!!! I am just getting started... I work full-time and it figures, most of the time when I am inspired to write, I am at work. ...so I guess technically I'm getting paid to blog??

    I don't have any followers yet, would love some!!!

    www.oneshamelessmama.blogspot.com

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  29. Thanks this is great advice! I found you way before I started blogging when me & my friends started passing around that Elf post like a hot potato, laughing our asses off. :)

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  30. I like Blogger. It gets the job done easily.

    Google Adsense says I don't have enough content yet, and I plan to continue adding, but my question is, with censorship rules regarding "adult content", do you have any recommendations where they draw the line?

    I want to write as unfiltered as possible. Not looking to truly offend people, but I like to curse a lot. Will they accept me if I use a lot of "adult" language or do I need to replace the word sh!t with poop everywhere? Thanks

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    1. I've been censored from ad networks before. I don't know if there is a secret formula of how many fucks or shits they can take before they cut you. I guess you have to decide if it's more important to make a couple (literally) of bucks off your site or express yourself the way you want. There aren't many bloggers out there who are getting rich from AdSense. It's nice to have, but if they told me I had to change my content, I wouldn't do it.

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  32. Still curious about drop downs...

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  33. Thanks for this. I appreciate hearing tips from a real blogger. I'm new to this and still working on the thick skin part. Also, now that I have some followers on facebook I feel like I'm in a pressure cooker! Gotta stay true to myself because I think we've all read enough bullshit on facebook. Thanks again.

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  34. These are really great tips! Thank you so much!
    I've been trying to find a way to write from home and actually earn a stable income for about two years now. I'm certainly not looking to get rich, or even make more than a few hundred dollars per month. I know I can write very well, as I've been told by friends and former co-workers. Plus, I have an awful lot of crap to write about! Thinking it over....

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  35. Thanks for this! I just started a blog a few weeks ago, so here I am following tip #14 and commenting - I am also bad at phony networking :) But here is a plug for my most recent post - if you are curious what PST (Playground Fatigue Syndrome) is or what a reverse pedophile picture is, give it a gander. Thanks! YOU ROCK by the way. http://basementblogging.tumblr.com/post/67374225598/do-you-or-someone-you-love-suffer-from-playground#sthash.mNkywnOn.dpuf

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  36. I want to punch you in the throat! I love it

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  37. How do you protect your content, and your photos?

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    1. Here's a good article to help you: http://pegfitzpatrick.com/2013/08/12/how-to-protect-your-blog-content/ If you're on WP there is a plug in for Content Copy Protection. I don't know if Blogger has such a feature. My photos are mostly free stock photos, I rarely take my own. I'm not sure how best to protect those.

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  38. Let me just start by applauding you loudly....Reading your shit makes me feel like I have a lost twin out there somewhere! I am loud, rowdy, opinionated, have a colorful language and thought process, LOVE being witty, sarcastic and sharing the tough love truth of the world. I absolutely LOVE your blog and cannot agree more with every word. I have wanted to blog for so long being the witty colorful thinker I am and your FAQ section has been quite helpful and inspiring. You must know you rock thank you for your blog!

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  39. This is really good, Jen. Also very encouraging. Thanks!

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  40. I just stumbled across your blog. Love it. I blog too and I have to say your advice is spot on! Especially number 3...find your voice. I love when people tell me I speak like I blog or blog like I speak. Too me that's the ultimate compliment. Oh and I love how you use words like asshat! I use that and butt beret. My blog, on blogger, is Baker Project if you'd like to check it out...or not! I can write the content but can't make you read it until I master mind control!!

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  41. I really enjoyed this FAQ. And I'm not just saying this because I'm a quick learner and already implementing #14. Thanks for taking the time!

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  42. Thank you! Number 4 has been the best advice I've gotten. I am a work in progress (aren't we all) but I wanted to tell you that I appreciate the time you spent putting this together. And that I am 3/4 of the way through "I just want to pee". Great stuff. The one about the girl going to the spa and having some strange chick nonchalantly throw a washcloth over her vag during a body scrub? Just about made me pee myself.
    Jill
    www.rippedjeansandbifocals.com

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  43. Got a blog- Sadie's Gathering, been at it for over a year. Just started using a laptop and gets me so frustrated from time to time. Main thing tonight is where the flip did my comment section go? Would like the comment section to be like here- anyone can comment. If anyone can help- would greatly appreciate it- just email me at sadiesgathering@gmail.com Thanks!

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