One thing’s clear — re-evaluating blogging

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Since Mom and Dad died in January I have undergone a lot of confusion and soul-searching about life—from large general philosophical questions like “What’s it all about?” “What’s the point?” to small particular practical questions like “What do I do with my Wednesdays now?”

The event of Mom and Dad’s death, and I call it a singular event because that’s how it feels to me, has been, and continues to be, a transformational one.

I know my life and times are changing, but I can’t always articulate exactly how.

Today one thing became clear.

I’m refocusing this blog and the title of it on Random Thoughts from Midlife. I had switched the main title of my blog to my name from advice I got online while trying to figure out how best to market my book. I’m heading back to my original inspiration and letting my other blog-website (such as it is, a mere stagnant skeleton waiting for me to return) bear the burden of my name.

I first started this blog in January of 2011. On my “About” page I wrote:

I have a father with Alzheimer’s, and a mother who is trying desperately hard to take care of him. I have two living sisters and one brother. We lost my younger sister Annie to cancer in August of 2009. She was permanently and severely disabled at birth. We loved her dearly.”

That’s what it still says today. It’s just one more thing about my life that needs to be updated now that Mom and Dad are gone.

I started my blog because I wrote Annie’s book. That’s the simple truth. I wrote a book and I was trying to figure out what to do with it. The online research I did continued to talk about how I needed to have a platform—a completely foreign concept to me at the time.

I knew a blog could be an important building block of the elusive “platform” so I thought about what I might possibly blog about. Several years prior to this I had the notion of writing a magazine with stories and photographs called Random Thoughts from Midlife. I went so far as to jot the title down on a scrap of paper and stuff it in a drawer. The fate of many of my ideas.

Forgive me if I’m rambling. I know some of you will stick through this to the end with me and others won’t. It’s something I need to do regardless. Thank you if you’re staying.

Since Mom and Dad died, writing has been one of the larger questions I’ve grappled with. Maybe I don’t need or want to do it anymore, I’d think. What am I doing with my blog? Does it need a more specific direction? Should I give it up altogether?

It really all boiled down to What do I want to do now? Some of my lack of direction came from the empty nest feelings that I directly transferred to the care of my parents. Dad had Alzheimer’s. Annie died in August. My youngest left for college in September. It was an easy shift to let the care of my parents fill the hole left behind by my children.

When I was in college, the second time, earning my English degree, I took every course in Women’s Studies that was available to me. Several of these courses used journal-type writings from women—not famous literature, just simple accounts of their lives. The slave narratives I studied in several courses were a similar inspiration to me. Just simple people, perhaps living complicated lives, who chose to tell or write about what they went through. I saw these stories as a gift to the rest of us who might now be able to see more clearly, understand more deeply.

In my view, and you might not agree, midlife is a time period that is undervalued by society at large. As we head out to pastures no one is interested in what we’re doing anymore. They’re all watching the three-year-old thoroughbred races.

I also think that technology has somehow undermined the perceived value of the experience of our more mature members of society. Who needs to ask Grandma how to make a pie crust when you can Google it and get expert advice from 4 or 5 individuals with their own television shows?

I think midlife is a fascinating time of life with many of life’s largest issues at the forefront. I think all of our lives are important even if our faces are not on Hollywood’s big screens or we aren’t a star athlete or the head of a major corporation. We all count. I believe that some of the greatest wisdom can be found in what society may consider the least of us. I am grateful for the technology, that on the one hand threatens to devalue us, yet gives us the opportunity to speak and have others hear our voice.

Some of the topics I’ve written about on this blog include:

Adult children
Being a grandparent
Physical problems of aging
Travel
Hobbies like photography, gardening, and genealogy
Taking care of aging parents
Alzheimer’s
Losing a parent
Long-term love of a spouse

Many of these are common things that those of us, in the middle of our lives, are concerned about, value, and live with.

I think my original idea was a good one.

Welcome back Random Thoughts.

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If you’re a blogger, I’d love to hear why you started your blog, why you continue, and what you try to do with it.

If you’re not a blogger, thanks for reading my blog. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this post.

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Author: CMSmith

I enjoy reading, writing, gardening, photography, genealogy and travel. I have opinions about many things, but am trying to age gracefully and not continually tick people off with them. Sometimes I can’t help myself.

64 thoughts on “One thing’s clear — re-evaluating blogging”

  1. Firstly, I’m sorry to hear of you loss. Losing a parent is hard and it does make one contemplate life and other issues. I have a photography blog on WordPress which I started as a way of both recording my photos on-line and sharing with friends. I also have a book blog which is sadly rather neglected this year, I have been running monthly give-aways and posting the odd review. I started the latter blog because I loved reading and wanted to share my thoughts with others. Last year I had so many books to review it did become a bit of a chore, so I have stepped back from it and hopefully will return to it in full vigour.

    1. I see by your name that you like books. I like photography too, and just decided to throw everything into this blog. Recently I switched my author website to a wordpress blog and I hope to focus more of story writing, and self-publishing activities there and keep my random photos and posts here. We’ll see. Like you I have stepped back and hopefully will return to it in full vigor. Thanks for leaving your comment.

  2. Welcome back! And I agree, middle age is undervalued — by society and even by ourselves. I know I struggle with feeling valuable… that said, I started my blog to get me writing more and it’s worked. I write every day and since starting blogging about two-and-a-half years ago, I’ve finished one novel and written two more. It seems to stimulate me to know there’s someone out there reading (at least sometimes) and also writing begets writing. Like you, I write about a wide range of topics, and sometimes it’s a chore (the blogging) but I really enjoy it and love the part where I’m interacting with my blogging friends! Thanks for a thought provoking blog, Christine, and glad you’re continuing the original idea!

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Julia. I had forgotten that I also started blogging as a way to encourage my writing. Sadly, I haven’t been nearly as successful at that aspect of it as you. I do not write everyday, although it continues to be an aspiration of mine. Maybe once the dust of this year finally settles I will be able to get serious. Maybe. But doubtful. You’re doing good. Keep going. You’re an inspiration.

      1. Thank you, Christine…some days are easier than others so I really understand (and you are writing more… your blogging is reaching many of us in such important ways!). I feel so fortunate to have such inspirational writer friends who truly (by blogging and being there to check in with) do keep me motivated — so I thank you for your kind words, and know that you are also an inspiration to me, my friend.

  3. When we listen to the whispers within . . . we get it right more often than when we listen to all manner of well-meaning advice from others.

    Welcome back to Random Thoughts from Midlife. 😀

    1. Yes. Where were you when I was scanning the web, compiling documents, and desperately seeking those answers? Only kidding. You were probably there all along and I was just too busy searching to see you.

      1. I don’t know where I was “then” . . . but, in January 2011, I wrote a post about the reasons for blogging. It might interest you as you re-evaluate where you are heading from here.

        Is blogging a waggish waste of time?
        Don’t ask ME . . .

        Only YOU can answer that question.

        As with any activity in life, mindful awareness of the WHY is THE KEY. Once you understand WHY you blog, you’ll know whether you are using your limited time on the planet effectively:

        http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2011/01/08/blogging-a-waggish-waste-of-time/

  4. I think focusing back to random thoughts from mid-life sounds good, but I don’t think it’s going to change much of what you’ve been writing. You’ve been writing from your heart the whole time, even when sharing your sales stats and frustrations over marketing Annie’s book. I love seeing your yard and hearing about Arthur’s adventures.

    I’m still blogging to record my life, stay in touch with friends & family, and keep in touch with the new friends that I’ve made through blogging. Having friends like yourself, Darlene, & others is just nice. But I don’t feel the urge to do it like I did.

    A big struggle for me is how much I should write on my blog vs. showing my photography. My pictures get such rave reviews. I enjoy the photography, but I want to write. If the photos are what getting all the attention, I’m not sure if I should focus on them or if I should cut them back to bring more focus onto my writing.

    Do you ever see Steve Schwartzman’s blog?

    http://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/

    That would be easier for me than what I’m doing right now and probably be more fun too. It’s much easier working on photos late at night than to be writing. But the things I write contribute to people’s lives also. Such a conundrum.

    Nancy

    1. I just added Steve’s blog to my Feedly account. Photo blogs are easy to follow because they’re a quick read. I think if you have something you want to write about, that’s what you should do. If you’ve taken some fantastic pictures, post them. That’s the beauty of this. You can do what strikes you at the moment. Even though the advice is to pick a theme or purpose for your blog and stick to it, I’m having much more fun this way. I’ll never get rich at it, though. 🙂

  5. I was hearing more people talk about blogs, and decided I wanted to try my hand at it. I continue because, like you, I’ve found other like-minded people that I’d never meet otherwise. I try to share the beauty I find around me, and a little about my life.

    I was so afraid you were going to say you were giving up blogging. I’m delighted that you will continue. We have a voice, and we will find each other and share life’s moments. There is someone who will benefit from our experiences.

  6. Your post really resonated with me today because I think we are both alike in the fact that we blog from our hearts—that is what your blog has always been to me. A sharing of your life and life events that only you can write about but that others can gain insight from. I think midlife is an amazing time in so many ways. There are so many “mommy blogs” and those are all well and good and satisfy a certain segment of the blogosphere but I also think we need to continue to maintain the “midlife” blogs. “We” have the experience and the wisdom and can share the life lessons that we have lived through and are living through.

    I have always felt your compassion and empathy reaching out through your blog whether it be when you have shared about your parents, Annie or even when you have shared your concerns about the deer that you haven’t seen for awhile around your property. It all comes through loud and clear and it is a good thing!

    I would so miss you if you gave up blogging. As would many others. I am privileged to have found you and support you in your continued journey! You have become a friend (one I hope to meet in person someday!) and I offer my support along with all the others who have commented!!!

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Beth Ann. This turned out to be a good post idea because of the comments I’m getting about why my blogging friends are doing it. I didn’t foresee that. I remember reading about your father-in-law and brother-in-law when you were going through the tragedy in your family. We can learn from each other, and even if there isn’t anything to learn, knowing we’re not alone in what we may be going through or the joy in life we’re experiencing is just a nice thing.

      1. EXACTLY!!!! I think the feeling that someone else has experienced a similar thing is key here—-you are not alone and there are so many things that we can learn from one another. Even if it is just the encouragement from another that tomorrow will be better is a good thing. Keep it up!

  7. Hi Christine .. glad you’ve been able to make some decisions .. and are making the adjustment to blogging for your book .. and random thoughts ..

    Midlife – is a funny thing … especially as it’s much later in life now …

    I blogged to give myself something to do that would stimulate me while my mother and uncle were ill … and which, in fact, stimulated them too – as I always had something interesting to talk about .. and this now continues on – I blog to educate myself … and thus give others my look at life, as and when I feel like it, and about which I feel like … I try and keep the historical element and don’t personalise it too much …

    I’m not particularly structured … but that suits me and seems to suit others ..

    I have your book to read .. and reading might just come into play sometime soon ..!

    Good luck with the new look and take on life – cheers Hilary

  8. I started blogging as an off shoot to writing.

    And your remark about being uncertain about writing in the wake of your parents deaths strikes a nerve. I’m finding it so hard to even try to focus on writing right now.

    1. I think we have to go through some kind of transformation with the loss of our parents. Life goes on, but it is a new life and we have to learn to be comfortable with it. Give yourself a break and don’t expect too much right now.

  9. Would care to see other type writes like 5 paragraph anecdotes, humor, or wisdom and perhaps some poetry you may have written. I agree midlife is meaningful years as we have been molded with griefs and joys. I always felt 50-60 the best . Oooops. I turned 64 last month.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Carl. I really haven’t written a lot of poetry, just few things here or there, probably nothing worth sharing. But who knows, maybe I’ll compose something fantastic some day soon.

  10. Like you, I started out because I had something to say. Then I learned about using it to build a platform (which I don’t think worked very well for me). But I’ve pretty much just wrote whatever I felt like writing about. That’s what I’ll continue to do.

    1. I think we have to be very strategic and focused to have the whole platform thing work out. I guess I’m not willing to sacrifice my freedom to do what I feel like for it. Sounds like we’re of like minds on that one.

  11. I guess I’m lucky insofar as I started blogging because I didn’t see any reason not to and I continue because I like it. I’ve promised myself that if and when I stop enjoying it, I’ll stop doing it. Yours is a beautiful blog and one of the first I started following … Whatever you call it, it’s always a treat to visit.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I guess that means I’ve been at this longer than you. Who knew? You seem to have a lot more energy at it than I. At least for right now. I enjoy it too, as long as I don’t get concerned about any milestones, or measures of success. I just have to keep my head straight on that one.

  12. Christine,

    I read your post and your wrestling resonated in my soul. I so highly respect you and have experienced similar struggles to build a platform to sell a book. In fact, I had just written similar thoughts down in my journal right before I read your post.

    I find it so ironic that the contemplative people of this world are forced into a lifestyle of marketing in order to garnish book sales. Doesn’t it seem like a backwards system? The marketing craze is anything but contemplative, the very quality needed for good writing.

    We’ve both worked so hard to do all that the experts told us to do; and yet for me, the platform building path took me further and further from the reasons I wrote my book in the first place. Those writings resulted from honest attempts to sort through my creative life and to return to my artistic roots.

    Then this year, I left the classroom and took a job as an instructional support specialist, training teachers, planning professional development, and overseeing and expanding the high-tech literacy programs I know will help hundreds of kids. God had other plans for my creative energy, and I had to embrace a left turn in my imagined path.

    With all of this said, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will continue to blog and share my thoughts and artistry with the world, whether that ends up being for only 1, 1,000, or 100,000. Writing is good for my soul and sharing with others expands my spirit.

    You have a gift of putting the human experience into words. Please continue with your writing, blogging, and sharing with others. You have inspired me along my self-publishing path, and I can’t bear to think that you might not be in the blogosphere.

    I’m so sorry to hear about your parents. I’ve been out of it this year and didn’t read blogs much. My heart hurts for your loss! Thank you, friend, for the gift of inspiration you are to me.

    1. It’s so good to hear from you JoDee. I think just having gone through the experience of putting our thoughts on paper, organizing them and then actually finalizing the project into a book is reward in and of itself. A job well-done. Pat yourself on your back; forget about the platform and just enjoy. I love the creative things you do and share.

      I plan to continue blogging for a while. I’m just taking it one day at a time. The loss of my parents in such rapid succession was jolting. I’m muddling along.

      1. Thank you Christine. I’m so shocked to hear about your parents. After reading your book, I feel like I know your family a bit, and so it makes me very sad to hear such heart-breaking news.

        I’m going to follow your advice and just enjoy all of the creative things I’m exploring. I also like your approach, “…take blogging one day at a time.”

  13. Christine, so many losses and transitions in a short span of time, relatively speaking to a life’s time. Saying “I’m so sorry” sounds insufficient, but I am.

    I started blogging in simple ways: a knitting blog, then a devotional blog which morphed more than once,OK three times, and then I began writing my memoir and that blog evolved into my current one (a part of the “you need a platform, dear writer” push). Currently, I’m rethinking that blog’s purpose and will be following a similar pattern as you have outlined here as I spend more time writing my memoir.

    I look forward to the coming weeks and reading what you have to share with us. Midlife is always about change, but some of those changes are harder than others. We recently lost my husband’s brother to a rare dementia taking him from us in 18 months. I know the caregiving that goes into loving and caring for the dementia-infected family member. I send you my best wishes.

    1. Thank you for your sympathy, Sherrey, and for reblogging this. Several of your followers have showed up here which was a nice surprise. I love seeing new faces.

      I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s brother. I know that must have been difficult. I wasn’t prepared for the loss of a sibling when my sister Annie died. It really places our own mortality right in front of us. Our siblings walked beside us through all our years. It’s hard to lose that piece of our past and our identity.

      I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who is rethinking or has rethought their blog. I’ll have to stop over and see what you have going. Good luck with your memoir. I did a whole series on self-publishing while I was on that journey.

  14. Reblogged this on Healing by Writing and commented:
    Christine Grote offers her personal thoughts in this beautiful blog on midlife, women, writing, and yes, blogging. I encourage you to visit and see what precious nugget you find.

  15. Dear Christine, I am so sorry for the difficult loss of both your parents, As I was reading through ( to the end of this) post, I recalled what a beautiful tribute to your parents your memoir about Annie was. I feel as if I had known them, so in some small way , can feel the burden of your loss. This is such a relevant post on connecting with our own purposes for why we blog. Yours appears to have developed a life if its own. You have many rich stories to share. Blessings on your journey, Kathy

    1. Yes. It was a relatively sudden loss of our mother. I was not prepared for that. We had been losing Dad to Alzheimer’s for years, but the final letting go was still difficult. We lost them both within two weeks of each other. It was a crazy time. Sleeping pills and chocolate are what got me through. And hot baths. And my husband. And so many other kind people. One of the bright spots we should never lose sight of- the kindness of people.

      I know my parents are woven through each page of my memoir. I’m afraid I will not be able to speak about the book with a group any time soon.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  16. The WHY is always a big question! Why not?
    I’m glad to have found you, via Sherrey who I met through the April A-Z blog. I so enjoyed her posts and continue to do so ..
    Building a platform… sounds scary and yes it is to me at least. I’ve blogged on a variety of topics and the comments are always so interesting. They broaden my view and give me yet another way of viewing whatever it is I blog about.
    Loved your post thank you.

    1. Why not is actually a response one of my readers gave. (Although all things being considered, I can think of a few why nots, especially if I consider the time spent on this activity.)

      Thank you for stopping by. I’ll have to see what you’re talking about over at your blog. I like to broaden my view as well.

  17. Blogging for me is the pause that refreshes. When I started my blog just months ago, February 13, I felt a need to express my thoughts and connect with others. Truthfully, those are 2 things I missed most when I retired from teaching. When I sit in my writing chair, my fingers connect me to all sorts of interesting people, like you!

    I also felt nostalgic too, feeling the need to revisit my Mennonite background from the rear-view mirror.

    Now life has changed, and we will at some point need to settle the estates of my dear Mother and Aunt. Also, a brother-in-law may be coming to live with us. As you imply, life rolls on and so we roll in new directions–right!

    1. Congratulations on starting your blog. It is a great way to communicate with others from the comfort of our homes while still in our p.j.s with a steaming cup of coffee, or tea as in my case. I think more than anything else, it is the camaraderie more than anything else that keeps me going. Although it is a great way to express my thoughts, as you say.

      Sounds like you are dealing with a lot in your life. I hope everything goes as smoothly as possible. We are through most of the heavy lifting of settling our parents’ estate. It is a heart burden.

      I’ll be by as soon as I can to see what’s on your mind. Thanks for stopping by.

    2. Hi Marian,
      I tried to visit your blog, but it is not linked to your Gravatar (the little picture of you and your name on this comment). If you visit Gravatar.com you can link your blog and then when you leave a comment others can find you. Let me know if you do that.

  18. Thank you to Sherrey Meyer for re-blogging this – I really enjoyed reading this piece and look forward to following more of your work. I would also be interested in taking a look at your author blog as well. I am a new blogger and have been blogging about mostly writing related things to go alongside my book – however I have taken a role with another blogsite which enables me to post blogs about more personal things, more specifically my disabled son, and that I find hugely cathartic. I think it is brilliant that you are using this space to write from the heart, often that is the best material. 🙂

    1. I’ll say. In fact I did say “thank you” to Sherrey Meyer. I love having new visitors and several of her loyal fans followed her right over here.

      I hope I can follow your avatar link to find the blog about your disabled son. That topic touches a soft place in my heart. I don’t know if you are aware that I had a severely disabled sister, Annie, who was a year younger than me and my memoir Dancing in Heaven is the story about her life and death.

      As I said, my author blog is in pretty sad shape right now. I had a website and then I decided it wasn’t worth the money I was paying for it when I could do it on wordpress easier and cheaper. But it’s been a rough year and I’m a little off my game, so the site is simply not done. I’m sure I will post about it and you might even hear the fireworks when I finally get it off the ground.

      Maybe you’ll inspire me to get moving on it. 🙂

      1. I do hope so- your words are a pleasure to read. I shall follow your journey and hopefully you will be able to follow mine too. It’s a blog called parentspace where I am one of the contributing writers, my normal blog is about my writing journey. All the best. 🙂

  19. I’ve been quietly enjoying your posts since I discovered your blog over a year ago, Christine. Like you, my blogging motivation and inspiration has waxed and waned over the years and my focus has morphed a few times. I am glad you are continuing to blog; I enjoy every one of your posts. Hugs and warm wishes.

    1. Thanks Linda. Yours is one of the blogs I consider myself in solidarity with. I am hoping that I can get back to a more regular routine of reading blogs. I miss it. I’ve been wrapped up with managing the photos, videos, slides and memorabilia from my parents. I just finished a huge project of scanning and placing the photos I think we should keep into scrapbooks. That took a very long time. But now my dining room table is once again cleared off—it has been the repository for my parents’ things since January.

      Slowly I’m getting my life back.

      Thanks for the hugs and warm wishes. I’m following your countdown with interest.

  20. I’m sorry for your losses. Your dear ones are in God’s loving embrace. As for your blog/s, it’s wonderful that you’re rethinking it, and by the looks of it, you are doing that by following your own feelings. They may run counter to what blog gurus preach, but in the ultimate analysis, blogs are reflections of our Selves.

    God bless…

    1. Yes. The comments were great. You just never know what people are going to respond to. I got more responses than normal because Sherrey reblogged it and I think a lot of her followers stopped by. Always nice.

  21. I can only say for me Christine… Life in my Mid Life has never been so full.. I too am grateful for blogging it puts us in touch with others and LIFE… real Life..

    Sending thoughts and good to see you are coping Christine… xxx

    1. For me, I think the empty nest is a big factor. I never worked outside the home, or at least not much, so my children and family were my only vocation. I lead a quiet life now compared to what it used to be like with four children, two parents, and a disabled sister. Much has changed in a short period of time. But I will catch up.

      1. Now is the time to create your own ME time…. I have to snatch it. LOL.. but enjoy, your so deserve to take time now and explore your own needs and wants.. What Hobbies do you want to so..Be Creative… and time flys by..
        You will catch up…. I know when my children flew the nest.. how quiet it was in the evenings or at weekends.. but I have always worked full or nowadays part time.. yet my part time has gone into nearly full time recently as I am relief support worker, but fill in for annual leave and illness… This past month I have worked some back to back long shifts.. So needed that ME time Out..

        I know all will fall in place when you and other doors start to open..
        XxX Much love

  22. I’m a blogger and definitely at mid-life. I’m still trying to blog, but not been as active lately. Can’t always get my head in the right spot. My life has been consumed by caregiving for a sick spouse. I’ve got two blogs. One I started to share what was going to be a journey to freelance writing to earn a little extra income and the other is for everything rural homekeeping/homesteading. I still need to earn extra income and still writing, but am kind of taking a meandering writing path right now. I’ll see where it goes.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I have my ups and downs with blogging also. It can take up a lot of time, and it sounds like with the needs of your spouse, your time is limited. I’ve looked into freelance writing a little, but the journey does seem a bit intimidating, so perhaps you will find a following if you light the way.

  23. I think whatever you write about that seems important to you will be relevant to someone else. My blog started out as a Halloween blog intended to generate revenue for me. It has evolved into something totally different. Like we change, blogs change.

    Good luck!

    Lee
    Wrote By Rote

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