The Back to the Blog Movement

I have taken that title directly from Kerry Clare’s post on her blog: Pickle Me This. If you haven’t read her post I strongly encourage you to go click the above links and read it. But even if you don’t it’s okay, I will be quoting heavily from it.

“I blog to make sense of the world,” is the way that I’ve always explained my attraction to blogging, the way that I use my blog as a workbook, a scrapbook, part of a process toward understanding. But in the last couple of years, the world hasn’t made very much sense at all, and in ways great and small, I’d started to suppose that blogging was futile. Certainly people weren’t reading blogs anymore, and enticing readers to do so required wading into the mires of social media, where standards of behaviour were abysmally low and one gets the sense that with every scroll, the world becomes a place that’s slightly worse.

Kerry Clare: The Back to the Blog Movement

I think the decline in genuine personal blogs in the past few years is a real tragedy. There are so many – too many – ways for people to (over)share their lives on the internet these days that the world of social media seems filled with a whole lot of noise. Back in “the day” people wrote blogs because they had something personal to say, because they were processing something, because after years of writing in a diary it was nice to have someone to share these thoughts with. Then the monetization of blogs got a hold of the movement. Then Facebook. Then Twitter. Now Instagram (and I’m sure there are others but I’ve stopped at Instagram – a platform I both love and hate depending on my mood and the time of the day). Some of my closest internet friends I met through the blogging community almost 20 years ago (TWENTY YEARS Jen! *insert old ladies of the internet joke here*)

I noticed the shift almost 10 years ago I was contacted by a marketing company asking me to cover the opening of a new shoe store. They were looking for Calgary’s hippest bloggers (their words). I asked them if I they had actually read my blog. Moira was a baby and I was struggling with this new identity of motherhood and the lack of sleep that accompanies all newborns but in particular ones who are born TEETHING (oh, hindsight). Anyway. I directed this company to some actual hip, young, pretty local bloggers but they kept at me until I went to the store (not the opening – that was in the evening and I was on a very tight night anxiety schedule at the time) and talked to the people and picked out a pair of ridiculously expensive boots that they gave me for free. And then I didn’t write a blog post about it because I honestly had nothing to say about a shoe store – even a decent one. I still feel guilty about it and have never agreed to do anything like that ever again – because if you think I felt overwhelmed then then imagine how I am feeling these days with the constant SELL SELL SELL of the internet.

The boots are gorgeous by the way, and I still wear them on occasion .That teething baby will probably be wearing them soon.

Over the years I’ve tried to figure out what kind of blogger I am. Even though I wrote about motherhood in those early days of motherhood I never wanted to be labelled as a mommy blogger. I devoured craft blogs but I could never commit to something like that either. I tried to be a book blogger but I hate writing book reviews and am quite terrible at it. I tried to be a food blogger but the market was already saturated then with new vegans creating recipes and, to be honest, I feel like an idiot every time I pull out my phone and take a photo of my food in public (and at home). Even now I don’t think of myself as a “cancer blogger” although I do use this space on occasion to work through what I am going through on that front.

And I think that is what the best blogging is really about. As Kerry says in her opening sentence, “I blog to make sense of the world.” I find this is still true for me. I blog to make sense of my world – and by not blogging I haven’t given myself the opportunity to organize my thoughts and see where they lead. I too am affected by the shortened attention spans our phones have created. I too am affected by collecting “likes” on posts and scrolling by the lives of other people while not living my own in the “authentic” (barf) way I want to.

It has been over six months since I’ve last posted on this blog. My last post was a goodbye. We packed two backpacks and took three girls on a month long holiday to Ireland. I posted about it on Instagram but for the most part those memories are starting to fade. Also, those snippets on Instagram were never the whole picture – the travel fatigue, the stress of organizing our family from one stop to another. The stress of the Mister navigating the totally whack Irish roads with a wife who really wasn’t feeling great for most of it because she had large cancerous tumours making her uncomfortable with every movement. There are members of my family that now refuse to get back on an airplane.

Things happen and I think about writing about them, but then I feel guilty for not writing and that guilt keeps me away. It’s the same thing with the other writing I’m trying to do. Because I haven’t been able to label myself as a blogger in the new world of blogs I’ve felt like a fraud. But what are labels anyway? Usually something to throw off. Maybe I’m not any kind of blogger which makes me every kind of blogger. A blogger’s blogger if you will. And I think it is great if you can figure out a way to make a living writing for your blog but I’ve never been able to do that, I’ve never had enough of a following or a loud enough voice for people to hear me. But I’m still here and I’m still writing and with Kerry as an inspiration I’m going to do what I have done every day since I’ve been diagnosed with cancer: get up and try and try again. Get sick. Stop. Fail. Get up and try and try again. Succeed. Get sick. Etc. It’s the only life I know right now. With all the noise out there I think blogs that focus on the words and not the flat lay or the aesthetics are needed more than ever.

What if we stopped spending our time on websites owned by multi-million-dollar corporations that are demonstrably making the world worse all the time? What if the forty-five minutes I spent this evening having my brain turned to jelly trying to fathom the perspective of some guy on Twitter cheering on a right wing politician had been spent on anything else? What would life online be without the bots and the manufactured outrage, stupid algorithms, the trolls and the racist uncles? Totally meme-free, with unlimited characters, and nobody’s sharing any fake news article created by a shady network in Outer Siberia.
It would be a blog, of course. Right back where we started in Web 2.0, with stories and voices in a range that the world has never before been able to read, voices not in chorus, but not so polarized either. Connected, but not in a thread, more like a quilt, if we’re thinking in textiles. Niche onto niche, something for everyone. With room enough for stories, and questions, and nuance, and reflection, and changing your mind. And also for changing the world, in the small and subtle ways that blogs have always mattered—turns out I’m not ready to give up on that one just yet.

Kerry Clare: The Back to the Blog Movement

Last day of school, first day of vacation

Tomorrow we are off on our month long Ireland adventure. Not sure if I will get a chance to blog about it. Part of me wants to and part of me wants to just disconnect as much as possible. It’s been a hard week with so many celebrity suicides and non-celebrity suicides and I have felt like social media is the wrong place to be when you are feeling sad and sensitive. I feel like everyone in our house is a bit of a mess these days. It’s time to go sit on a beach or a cliff (but not too close!) and reconnect with my little girls and my mister for a while. I won’t be able to resist taking loads of photos though so I’m sure many will find their way to Instagram.

 

The nice thing about pulling the girls out of school early for vacation is that we get to come home and spend most of the summer in our city which is really the best time to be in the city. I’m looking forward to getting away but I’m also looking forward to having a month home before I have to go for surgery. I’m going to try not to think about surgery or cancer while I’m away. (At least as much as my body will allow me to not think about surgery or cancer.)

 

See you all soon.

Thirteen Days

In thirteen days the five of us will be getting on a plane to spend a month in Ireland. But in between today and the 13th of June I feel like we have eleventy billion things to get done. This weekend alone is nuts with the Writer’s Guild of Alberta conference, a birthday party for the girls to attend, a night out of town in the mountains with the Mister’s company, and a quick drive back to the city the next morning because Oonagh has her first violin recital on Sunday afternoon. Maybe this level of activity is normal for a lot of families but it really isn’t for us. A typical weekend for us consists of having zero plans – or maybe one thing planned – and just seeing what happens.

 

Also this is the extent of our luggage for the five of us:

Plus small backpacks for the girls to bring their stuff on the plane for the almost 24 hour journey.

We are all getting really excited. (Oonagh keeps asking if she can pack and, “can’t we just leave right now?”) However, waiting to travel is an exercise in living in an odd sort of limbo. The first time we took off on a long road trip we made the decision and left the next week. Last year’s trip was similar. But this year we are traveling to a different country which requires a lot more planning – and a lot less stuff.

I’m excited to be traveling so lightly and to show the girls just how little stuff we really need to live. (There will be zero f**king Shopkins traveling with us.) But in the mean time I’m trying to make sure we pack all the right stuff and continue to enjoy our life and not just be waiting to leave. I don’t want the girls to miss out on the day to day joys of the end of their school year or all the good things June has to offer in our city. (We really need to plan better and leave town when it is -30 out, not when things are just getting hot.)

I also have: a sweater to finish knitting, a new piano teacher to interview (because we try and have our activities as close to the house as possible), a child with strep throat to keep an eye on so that it is gone before we leave. There is the meeting with the breast surgeon to try and get my surgery nailed down for the latter part of the summer, and other various medical tests.

Plus there is the writing conference starting today which had me stress eating Mexican Chili chips in the kitchen at 8:30 this morning before I realized what I was doing. Today I’m going to a memoir writing workshop with the amazing Sharon Butala even though I don’t think I have the right kind of memory to ever write a memoir. Tomorrow I’m going to a workshop with author/blogger Shawna Lemay from Transactions With Beauty. This year I promised myself I would get out of my comfort zone where writing is concerned and, honestly, I don’t think I have been doing a great job at that. But it is a process, not a destination, right? Much like writing.

And Mexican Chili chips are delicious, even at 8:30 in the morning.

 

My first newsletter will be coming out this Monday. It includes a recipe for super easy & healthy cookies – which are basically like oatmeal in cookie form. I don’t really believe cookies need to be healthy but when you are supposed to avoid sugar AND want a cookie you need to do something, right? If you want the recipe you should sign up for the newsletter.

 

 

The last time I ate a meatball sub. To be filed under: I can’t believe we are still dealing with this shit

Next Friday the people of Ireland are voting whether or not say Yes or No on the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution which gives the unborn child equal right to life as the mother (as adopted in 1983). That’s putting it in very simple tones. Abortion has been criminalized in Ireland since 1861 and what the 8th Amendment really does is give the unborn child more rights than the mother. The only way a woman is allowed to have an abortion is if she is going to die from having the child and even that isn’t always taken into consideration.

From The Conversation.com:

Instead of stopping abortion, what the 8th actually prevents is doctors intervening to protect the health of their patients if that would jeopardise foetal life. It prevents elected and accountable politicians from making laws to respond to real-life need. It says that as long as a woman is still alive when her child is born the state has done its duty to her and, more importantly, to her child.

There are so many fantastic articles out there right now about it and here are a few:

This one has a great video explaining the whole thing way better than I can

Here are the 170,216 reasons to Repeal the 8th amendment on Friday, May 25

I’m not Irish and I can’t vote but I’ve been following along very closely because it seems unbelievable to me that this is still a freaking issue.

So here is my story:

Oonagh was a planned c-section because I had already had two c-sections in the last four years and the risks were too great. But I went into labour early and while I was lying on the operating table the Obstetrician called everyone over to see how my uterus was being held together by a thin piece of skin that “looks like stretched Saran Wrap.”

“Another 20 minutes and both mom and baby would have died, good thing we got her on the table.”

It turned a happy moment into something traumatizing.

Then the Obstetrician asked if I was planning on having my tubes tied. Since we had already decided that this would be our last baby I said that I was.

“Good.” She replied. “I’m taking out extra because you can never, ever do this again.”

I was later told that should I get pregnant (the chance was small but still a possibility) I would not be allowed to carry that baby to term.

And you know what, the thought still makes me really sad. Not because I have an overwhelming desire for another baby but because I just love my husband so much and my daughters so much and, lets face it, we are really good at this whole baby making thing. But my option was abort or carry to term and most likely leave my family without a wife or mother.

Imagine right? Oh wait, I can easily imagine because two years later I was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

You know who else usually shouldn’t have babies? Terminal cancer patients. An attempt to do so would most likely leave my family without a wife or mother.

Sensing a theme here?

Women in Ireland have been denied abortions even if they are terminally ill. They are denied medical treatment if there is a chance that treatment will harm their baby because doctors hands are tied due to legalities and both doctor and mother can face up to 14 years imprisonment.

 

But here is a different story.

When I was 19 and ridiculously in love with my then-boyfriend we got really drunk one night at a Christmas party after being apart for months. The next morning was a hungover, panicky did we or didn’t we debate (most likely did). We went to a walk-in clinic and got the morning after pill and then went to Subway and got a meatball sub that I ate half of and puked up. I don’t know what the morning after pill is like these days (this was over 20 years ago) but back then it was kind of like taking a whole bunch of birth control at once. The doctor told us that I most likely wasn’t pregnant even if we did because of the time in my cycle but he gave me the choice to do what I felt comfortable with. The pills made me sick and my boyfriend slept in my parents basement that night because he was worried about me but to be honest I have thought more about that disgusting meatball sub over the years than I have about this incident. We dated for six years after that and were always super cautious and never had a scare again. Now we have children with other people and great lives and once in a while we will email each other about kids books (mostly Harry Potter). All because I had a choice.

The woman in both of these stories deserves equal rights to a choice no matter what the reason.

So why is this bothering me so much since I don’t even live in Ireland? Well, what I do live in is a fairly conservative province with a known anti-abortion activist who is the leader of the United Conservative Party and wants to be our next Premier. There are also people who leave anti-abortion propaganda in my mailbox as they troll the neighbourhood. The mailbox that my children excitedly check daily. My front lawn looks like I run a daycare so if these people really cared about children they would not leave their hate literature in the mailbox of a home that is over run with children.

Also, these pamphleteers are usually older women – why? Why you gotta love God more than your own sex ladies? But maybe that is a different conversation.

If you believe that women should have autonomy over their bodies then any reason for an abortion does not matter and is none of your business. It certainly isn’t my business and it really really isn’t the Church’s or politicians business. And let’s be honest, it really isn’t men’s business either. At what point in history has a group of women ever sat around making decisions about men’s reproductive rights?

So I care what is happening in Ireland because I care about what is happening to women all over the world. A Yes vote doesn’t just effect women in Ireland – it effects women every where because every time a woman is given more power over her own body the scales balance out just a little more for all women.

 

 

Reading With My Daughters: Sophie’s Masterpiece

 

Sophie’s Masterpiece by Eileen Spinelli, Illustrated by Jane Dyer.

I bought this book years ago as a discard from our local public library. Moira was most likely a baby at the time I bought it but I will confess to buying picture books before I even considered having children so I may have had it for even longer than I have had children. Oonagh pulled it out again the other day and, even though I have probably read this book hundreds of times, it still makes me weepy at the end.

 

The story is about a talented spider who just wants to spin beautiful things but because she is a spider her work isn’t always appreciated. Sophie lives in a boarding house and one day discovers a young woman who is going to have a baby (alone!). After being kicked from one room to another Sophie is too old and tired to move but the young woman doesn’t freak out and leaves Sophie alone (which is what we do in our house when we see spiders for the eight months of winter we live through each year – the other four months we take them outside). The young woman is too poor to be able to afford a blanket and so Sophie weaves one for her.

 

Sometimes the girls laugh at me when I get weepy because Sophie gives her life for that blanket, and sometimes they are getting teary right beside me. It’s a beautiful story and the soft illustrations by Jane Dyer (who illustrated that staple of children’s home libraries: Time For Bed) are pretty much perfect. Even Moira still enjoys it when I read this book aloud and I’ve been reading this book aloud now for 10 years – and sometimes I find her reading it to herself. That’s the sign of a great book.

(Also I’m so grateful that the girls still want me to read to them I thought I would do a whole series on the books we read.)