Finding Balance

Lately I’ve been doing some thinking.

Crazy, I know.

Not about another healthy and delicious raw ball, though you know how I love a good ball (or better yet, a good ball pun). Not even about gluten free baking, since I’ve been kind of lax on that front ever since Bunky’s birthday. Baking burn out, anyone?

What I’ve been thinking about is this blog, what it’s about, who it’s for, why it’s here. Yeah, that kind of thinking. I believe they call it existential.

My first existentialist experience.

Read this in high school.
My existential introduction.

It didn’t come out of nowhere, this sudden burst of brain function. It came out of necessity. Have you ever lost a friend or upset a relative from something you wrote and published on your blog? It’s possible I’ve done both, though I’ve only got documented proof on one count. So far.

Out of respect to my friend, I’m not going to talk about the specific post, but it got me thinking (see above) about what it is to blog. In a way, blogging is like journaling. Long before blogging, I was a journal-monger. I loved, loved, loved, buying gorgeous journals and writing the crap out of them. My first journal ever was red velvet and had dates on each page. I wrote a handful of entries in kindergarden. Bunky is nearly in kindergarden. (Yes, that’s still blowing my mind.)

Some of my first journals, or diaries, had locks. Keys, combination locks, you name it. Of course those never really worked, but it was symbolic, like a proverbial Do Not Enter sign, though it’s possible my brother did anyway. The point is they were supposed to be for the writer. And maybe her kids, someday.

pink diary

But online journaling, or blogging, is public. Duh. I mean, that’s not a news flash to me or anything, but when I started this blog no one was actually reading it. You build readers over time. You make connections, friends even. It’s kind of awesome. Over the two years since I began, more people than I realized were reading. Including some friends and family. It’s certainly not a secret that I blog, but I also don’t tell every single person I know about it. Perhaps because sometimes I write personal stuff; and sometimes that personal stuff happens to also be about other people.

When I started this blog in June of 2011 it was by sheer instinct. It’s in my nature to write in order to understand, and I did NOT understand celiac or what it meant to be a parent of a celiac kid. There was a vague fuzzy idea that maybe what I wrote would resonate with other people dealing with celiac. Maybe I would find help and offer some at the same time.

I was pretty sporadic at first, not finding my rhythm (or time to have one) until Bunky’s first anniversary of her celiac diagnosis. That is really just one year of regular blogging, which doesn’t sound so long now that I’m thinking about it. During this year I’ve written about the challenges my family faces, but also about our successes. I’ve documented my struggles with birthday parties, holidays that focus on food (which ones don’t?), and what to eat while out in the world. Sometimes I just like posting pictures of my rapidly growing children. I also post recipes, more regularly than I ever imagined.

I recently read this awesome post called, How To Blog, by Jenny who runs Dinner, A Love Story (great recipes + great writing). Among other things, she is very into mission statements and well thought out posts, as she spent years writing for magazines. Maybe that’s my problem. I don’t always think so much (ha). I still write on instinct. Partly because I have such minimal time, but also, perhaps, out of habit.

Do I need more focus or a mission statement? Am I trying to find and offer solidarity, or am I trying to educate and illuminate – or all of the above?

I may work on a mission statement, but for now it’s got me thinking about this space. Here’s what I DON’T want – for people in my life to be afraid to hang out with us for fear that I will write about them (in a less than flattering light) on my blog. Here’s what I DO want – to write honestly about living with a child who has celiac.

Any writing comes with risk. I know that from being, well, a writer. But my writing before blogging was fiction. I could (usually) hide behind made up names and made up stories. I could change incriminating details if I wrote from experience. Even then there was risk. We all know how easy it is to try to read between the lines of our favorite fiction writers. Did that really happen to them? Is that character based on their spouse/parent/child/friend/lover? But in the end, a fiction writer can always find safety behind their chosen genre. It’s just a story, they can say. Blogging about your life is a different kind of story. It’s your story, and sometimes, other people’s, too.

True story: I always try to be respectful when I write, especially about people in my life. I know that the things I write might be read by well, anyone. This is not a totally negative space – I don’t think so, anyhow. It is not my intention to just rant and rave my upsets and frustrations about celiac indiscriminately. But when writing about my experiences with my daughter’s celiac, I often end up writing about community and family, because that’s where food is, people. And food is what divides us from everyone else.

Gluten Fest flickr USDAgov

Can’t eat any of that.
flickr USDAgov

Does this sound dramatic? Maybe, but it’s still true. Here’s a quote that taunts me on a daily basis: Food is such a small part of life (an actual quote from an actual book for kids who have celiac). Food is HUGE in our life. I should know since I think about it 24/7.

So, how do I honor those closest to us and also write about our challenges, that occasionally involve some of those same people? How do I write honestly and with respect? Do I stop writing about certain things, certain people? If so, am I doing that out of necessity (um, so poor Bunky doesn’t get blackballed to every birthday party and so we don’t get disowned by relatives) or fear?

shhh poster

If friends and family are reading this, I hope they will understand my appreciation for ALL their efforts, even the ones that happen to fall short through no fault of their own. No one is perfect on this gluten free road, certainly not me. I still make mistakes regarding Bunky’s diet and I suspect I always will, so perfection is not what I am seeking from my loved ones. We carry no expectations that others should cater to our dietary needs. That’s our job as Bunky’s parents. We BOOF (Bring Our Own Food), it’s cool. What we’d like is compassion, support, but mostly acceptance. Acceptance that this is our family’s journey. For the rest of our lives.

The word I chose to work on this year was nurture, but maybe it should have been balance because that’s what I think this is all about. That’s what I need to work on. But balance isn’t a one-shot thing, it’s ever changing, elusive, shifty. It’s something I will probably always struggle with, on the blog and out in the world. But I’ll give it my best shot.

flickr D Sharon Pruitt

flickr D Sharon Pruitt

I’d love to hear how all you fellow bloggers deal with the inevitable collision of real world feelings and the words you write. Have you ever alienated friends or family? Are there topics or people you just don’t write about? What keeps you in balance? Any thoughts and advice are welcome, just keep it constructive. I’m a sensitive gal, if you couldn’t already tell.

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16 thoughts on “Finding Balance

  1. Dana, hi,. This is such a good post, it’s really thought provoking and is making me think about who is reading what I write and how they may perceive it. I’m the same as you, I haven’t openly told everyone I know about my blog, as I worry what some would think of what I write and it is very personal writing about living with a chronic illness, as I’m sure you’re all too aware of with Bunky’s celiac diagnosis. i have told some close friends and family and their response has been really postive. I havent actually thought before about how friends and family may feel about being mentioned in my blog, that is something I need to address I think. public journalling is a good anology i think, somehow it feels private even tho others are reading it. P.s food is HUGE in my world too, as it should be I think!

    • Hi Jess, thanks so much for your comment! It IS so personal dealing with a chronic illness, and inevitably people in our lives come up in our stories, but I’m trying to be more thoughtful about how (and if) I write about them. Learning curve never ends, I guess!

      I’m glad I came across your blog. I’ll be keeping up 🙂

  2. Dana, I think that we all deal with our “situations” in different ways. Blogging is just one avenue…and if I could write like you do (so great), then I to would be elaborating my blogs and having to worry about whom I was discussing. Lucky for me I’m a sucky writer and my objective is just to supply people with the only thing I can….gluten free food that they can make!

    This blog is about you…and Bunky….and your family. There is no malice involved and no ill regard to others, just posts on the life that you are having to deal with, and the cards that you’ve been dealt.

    We both know that things could be sooooo much worse. Having said that our hurdles can still be big and small depending upon the day. This is our avenue to vent, educate, and update people on how we are dealing with it. We can’t, and do not expect everyone around us to deal with it well, when we ourselves can’t always do the same. But should be able to have an opportunity to deal with this lifestyle anyway we choose.

    You are an amazing mom and a fantastic writer….do you need any other reason to blog. Personally I would miss you terribly if I couldn’t visit celiackiddo when I had a moment….

    • Oh, thanks SO much Jenny for your very kind and supportive comment. I’ll still be here blogging away (I can’t help myself) but I may try to think just a wee bit more, ha, before getting too personal about certain people. I read somewhere that if you always please everyone you’re not doing something right – HA! – so maybe ruffling some feathers is inevitable. All in all, despite the sadness about my friend, it has been (yet another!) learning experience that I think will ultimately be for the best. Thanks again for being a reader and a friend 🙂

  3. I read on a blog along time ago a great piece of advice. It was that “the children belong to us when they are young” but to keep it sane. So as my oldest hit his teens, I backed off on talking about him. I don’t discuss his life outside of “The Teenager” with a few random photos. With my husband I try to respect his need for privacy. I don’t talk about who he works for. He doesn’t read my personal blog because as he said to his mom “I don’t need to read it, I live it” Lol! He sees my personal blog as my diary and stays away. Which is sweet of him. As for taboo topics…out of respect for my living relatives I don’t rant about my childhood and the wacky religion. That kind of thing. And I know my MIL reads my blogs so I keep it sane. But yeah…I know I learned the hard way to not over share publicly. It isn’t easy and not everyone reads it the way we wrote it.

    • Sarah, thank you for this truly great advice. It’s hard to imagine (!) Bunky as a teenager (even though she totally acts like one sometimes, ha) but it makes sense to step back when she’s older. I would have died of mortification if my mom wrote stuff about me that anyone could read! And makes sense about keeping things “off the record” regarding your husband and his job. I think it’s easy to “forget” how accessible our blogs are and how certain things should be private. So true about how not “everyone reads it the way we wrote it” – I couldn’t have said it better! Thanks again for weighing in here, I really appreciate it.

  4. I agree COMPLETELY! I’ve dipped my toe in the ‘offending friends and relatives” pool in just one post (I think) when I banged on about how without a diagnosis of coeliac disease it is sometimes difficult to get people to understand I’m not doing this gluten-free thing just to be fussy and attention seeking. I really was sick, it really did make me feel better, and I’ve since discovered there are a whole lot of other tests I could have done to test for coeliac as the one I had isn’t always accurate. But, I’d have to consume gluten again regularly for six weeks to do those and I really don’t want to, as even then I might turn out to be non-coeliac gluten intolerant! So I do tend to gloss over the insensitive comments, the ‘raised eyebrows’ and the frustrating experiences. Athough I’d like them to be different I don’t want to offend the friends and family concerned, even though it might be a huge part of what happened to me this week. I try to mention the times when people got it right, in the hope that those who get it wrong might read and learn! Doesn’t stop me wanting to rant on though. That said I’ve had a lot of support from veggie or vegan friends as I guess they’ve maybe been deemed ‘difficult’ at some point in their lives with regards food choices. I guess the only way to avoid offending anyone is not to speak at all. But I think there’s a greater good to be had from sharing your experiences with such a potentially wide audience, as someone in a similar position out there might feel less alone and a bit more in control by knowing about you and your family. I know it was a relief and comfort to me to find bloggers writing about things I could relate to.

    • Thanks so much for this thoughtful comment. And I can totally understand about not wanting to go back on gluten! My husband feels the same way, and we both felt that way about Bunky. She was blood tested (high positive) but we started her on a gluten free diet before an endoscopy, and when they told us she’d have to eat G again for that test, we were like NO WAY. You know, even if you got an official “diagnosis” of celiac or even an intolerance, some people would still raise an eyebrow here and there, sadly enough. That’s been our experience, anyway. I really like your point about writing about ways people get it RIGHT and hope those who don’t might be tuning in. I think I need to be a bit more careful not to use this blog just to vent, and if I do, to do so in a constructive and helpful way. I imagine if the tables were turned, I would certainly mess up here and there and wouldn’t want my mistakes blasted about on a blog. Thanks agin for reading and chiming in!

  5. I enjoyed the post since this is a topic every blogger has (or should) consider. I write humor posts, and I try to strike a balance between portraying the world as I see it and not offending people who might have a starring role in my stories. It’s a difficult line to walk, and I’ve already had a few near misses with hurt feelings. As you said in the post, fiction is much easier . . .

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Traci. Finding that balance is tough, as I know too well. It’s interesting to me that I hadn’t really thought about this (very much) before, but you’re absolutely right, anyone blogging about their life, and by proxy the lives of their friends and family, needs to keep this balance in mind.

  6. Never, ever apologize for who you are. I love your blog- mainly because it resonates with me on a very personal level- I too am raising a child with Celiac and it comes with a bucket of challenges. But we’re not the only ones doing it- and the only thing that got me through our first six months of a diagnosis were people like you who weren’t afraid to share their story- there are bumps in the road and people that you are going to offend. (I wouldn’t worry about it though- if someone is determined to be offended, it’s probably going to happen whether you write about them here or not.) My extended family has had a REALLY hard time accepting that Celiac is a “real” disease and that it actually does harm my son’s insides- part of you writing ALL of this drama down is helping other people realize that this is real life… well- real life with a Celiac.

    I know I’m not a very real blogger and I hit and miss when I make posts- but for what it’s worth- I think your little space here on the internet is just about perfect. So here’s to you- and whatever balance you decide to add- I’ll keep on coming back.

    • Thank you SO much for this Jess! It’s really hard when family doesn’t get it, and worse, second guesses that it is actually a disease 😦 It IS hard raising our celiac kids, perhaps especially when it’s not FOOD that is the issue, but people, sigh. However, despite everything, our kids are thriving! I saw those pics of your son, he grew so much in one year, and Bunky too!

      And as far as I am concerned you totally are a real blogger!! (And now that I finally added you to my new Bloglovin thingie, I will be able to keep up with your lovely posts.)

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