It’s been an interesting week here, in which several signs have made me realize again what I am supposed to be writing about. It’s funny how sometimes you, as a blogger, get tunnel vision watching stats and striving for growth and page views and SEO. These are the tools of the trade and we all get really great at understanding them. We watch our posts for engagement and comments and we tick them off and file them away with headings like: improved or needs improvement, or blogging goals for the year. We worry on a day when the stats dive and we question sometimes what happened there. We wallow. We question what am I doing wrong? Then a post about some dessert you made goes through the roof and is shared on Facebook 100s of times and comments are so positive and you say to yourself: okay then clearly I have to write more about desserts and you find yourself, aproned, dusted with icing sugar and flour, five pounds heavier than your usual weight, writing about products and staging parties with desserts trying to duplicate that success. But it’s like trying to capture a genie in a bottle. These things like viral, are rarely duplicated and when we can’t repeat the formula for success we start to question our blogs, our worth, our writing. (I watched a roundup post about gluten free food go crazy this month on my blog and I sat stupefied wondering what or how or why it happened.) And after your fifth or sixth post about desserts you think, what the heck? What am I doing? I have a degree in astrophysics (not really) or English Literature (yes really) and I am writing about pie, or vacuum cleaners. WHAAAAAT??? Why? Why am I doing this? And how the heck did I gain five pounds and which weight loss company can I pitch so I can post about losing said five pounds.
But this week two things happened. I invited a speaker on FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) to come to the adoptive parents group that I help facilitate in London, Ontario and I couldn’t even keep up with all the RSVPs. People were coming from Goderich, St. Thomas, Hamilton in a snowstorm to see a speaker who would talk about caregiving and FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. For the record FASD is a brain injury caused by prenatal alcohol exposure.) And it was a great event, and the speaker was highly entertaining and inspiring and supportive. Workers attended and some caregiver’s parents showed up ( so a child’s adoptive grandparents learning how to be a better parent and help support their son or daughter while also learning what works better for their grandchild. I can’t tell you how much I love that dynamic because I might start to cry. ) and everyone seemed to get some help or support or new nugget of info from Jeff Noble’s talk. Check him out, follow him if you need support. (FASDFOREVER.com). And in a room full of old friends, and new contacts, and some total strangers, I remembered again why I started writing right after we adopted our second daughter. I found myself nodding like a bobble head at every comment. That’s so true, I thought. That is me. That is my daughter. That is us together making sense of life on Mars. I remembered some of the reasons and some of my strengths in parenting, connecting and supporting. It felt good and it fit like an old pair of jeans, before the blogger butt set in.
When I started blogging, it was a way to make sense of this life – the one people sometimes call life in Holland. I call it life on Mars. Then again I guess since we are about to try to colonize Mars I may need to pick a new planet as special needs metaphor. ;? Special needs parenting and writing is a small field, such a tiny niche really. I remember why I resisted that box for awhile. It is sometimes depressing to be speaking Martian all day. You burn out. Period. But it is the space where people connect with me, my family and my writing. It’s the unique thread that tired all of us together inside a room listening to Jeff Noble talk. We all get this surreal life. And it is privileged and beautiful and back breaking and so very hard.
The other thing that happened this week was that a reporter, a dear old friend from my daily newspaper reporting days, DMed me. Because that’s what we do these days, or we PM on Facebook. My people know they can always hunt me down there, even when I can’t recall how to answer the phone (Right, Margarita?) She wanted to talk about a national study that’s been released from Centre for Addictions and Mental Health about the economic costs of FASD. She recalled my name and a portion of my story. So, we started to tell that story again. As we grow the story evolves, even if it always starts the same. Regardless of any of that…I started speaking Martian again. The story went live late last night. You can find it here: http://www.lfpress.com/2015/02/25/a-costly-tragic-legacy or here:
And that was my second lightbulb moment. There are a lot of caregivers living on metaphorical Mars. Dozens have messaged me and emailed and asked if I know of support groups in Stratford or St Mary’s or on line. I have seen dozens of friends and fellow caregivers around North America sharing my Facebook post with the link to the article about FASD. And I have heard from some who said I just printed this out and sent it to our school board in Wisconsin, and I took it in to my son’s teacher. Some have asked do I know how to get the school to do an assessment once and for all? Can I help with X or Y? And my heart is full from the amount of wonderful kind comments. And I remembered too that it is the hardest thing in the world to parent our kids with special needs, even when sometimes it can also be the most rewarding thing as well. I find myself speaking Martian again. Oh I still speak a bit of SEO, but I am fluent in Martian. Turns out I never lost it. I just stopped speaking it for awhile.