OFFICIAL LIVE BLOG - TRANSCRIPT - Identity/Passions: The Transformational Power of Blogging
By Lori Luna on August 21, 2009
Kate Inglis: Is that better? Okay. So, I mean, I was actually recovering from a c-section and having these babies in the NICU that I was literally afraid to go down and even look at because they look like little aliens. I mean, they were beautiful in a way, but really it’s just so scary and I felt like a fist. I felt like a human fist and I felt like one of those wailing women that you see in pictures from war zones and I felt all kinds of things at once and I think if I didn’t keep writing about it that I would literally, I don’t know, I would literally explode.
And it was hard for people in my life to see that because it’s not easy when you love somebody to have to bear their gore and to have that gore kind of on display, but when something like that happens to you, and I don’t know if anybody – I haven’t really gone into the story, but they were born three months early and one of them died after six weeks and the other one is fine and wonderful and he’s two, but it was such gore and it was such horror and it’s the kind of story that makes people really step back from you and that’s an amazing thing to see when you explain what’s happening and people ask, “How are you doing?”
And then they kind of recoil like, “Please don’t answer. Please don’t actually tell me how you’re doing because you might say the D word or you might, you know, start to cry and then I’d have to look at my shoes and just say, ‘Fine.’”
And so it’s a weird thing because – and I’ve said this – I keep feeling like I’m gonna stay stuff I’ve already said on the blog, so pardon me if I do, but it’s like walking around with this big hole exploded through your chest and everybody looks away and the blog, for me, was a way of saying, “Don’t you dare fucking look away,” because if people look away, then you’re even more isolated than you already are by nature of horrible luck and when something like that happens, it’s such ridiculous shit luck that you can’t even possibly anticipate, and the rest of the world is oblivious and the rest of the world wants to look away.
But there’s something about, for me and the blog was almost kind of sadomasochistic in a lot of ways because I wanted to force people to keep looking to a point where they would see in the NICU some peace and some beauty and it’s so cheesy to say hope. I don’t know if I ever felt hope, but to see something else other than just pure pity and horror and gore.
So the blog had a lot to do with that and to try to write about them in a way that would make it impossible for people to turn away and that also helped me to not turn away because I had to go down there every day and when I had to force myself to write about it in a way that made room for things that are beautiful and hopeful, then that kind of forced a discipline of hope onto me, which takes a lot of practice in there with all the beeps and machines and the tubes and stuff.
But it was a beautiful thing and my son who died was a little sorcerer and I don’t think he was ever meant to stay, but he was pure magic and what he did, he cast spells. I mean, every time I touched him, it was like everything just disappeared completely and it was so beautiful and it was so hopeless and I was so grateful that people didn’t look away because if you don’t look away, if you stay with that person and keep eye contact and just nod, and you don’t need to know what to say, but you just stay there and don’t make them feel rushed and don’t make them feel sort of horrific, that gives you time to say, “God, look at how the light bounces around in all that blood and guts and that hole in your chest. That’s really pretty.” Or, “Look, I can see through to the other side. That’s amazing. How are you still walking?”
And then the other person says, “I know. It’s crazy. I’m still walking around and I’ve been through this explosion.” So, that’s what blogging was for me. It really helped me to – it was just the discipline of looking for something other than despair and also tracking the despair too because there’s a purpose to it and it makes heat, which is something that keeps you walking, so that’s kind of what it did for me.
Ponzi Pirelli: I think we’re gonna change the format a littlie bit since we only have one microphone up here and ask questions, so have any of you felt the same way? Can you relate and do any of you want to share your stories? We have a microphone coming to you right now.
Aliza Sherman: Yeah, it’s interesting to have somebody up on stage saying all the things that some of us in this room actually went through and lived and I actually don’t know if I have a question, but just because we have the forum now, let’s just share our stories because through that, we empower ourselves as well as empower others, and I think the biggest thing that you said was you feel like a fist and you feel like you’re going through a war zone and people recoil and I think that’s the biggest part of it is I went through eleven months of untreated postpartum depression.
After four miscarriages, the fifth pregnancy is now my three-year-old daughter, but it took me only until the last six to eight months that I actually think I might love her and when people ask, “Don’t you love motherhood,” I always say, “No. I don’t,” and I’m not apologetic and I think that the more of us that go through this and own the feeling that you have and understand this as part of a process, it’s not that you will never love your child or you might not every love your child, but this is your experience. This is your life and to accept who you are and what you feel first and foremost and surround yourself with people who walk with you through that process because we aren’t alone, but because we don’t always speak about it, bloggers do, but because we don’t always speak about it in face-to-face circles, we feel alone.
So, you know, I was there. I’m still halfway a foot in it, but I no longer feel the need to apologize for saying motherhood is not a picnic. It’s not a party. It’s not butterflies. It’s not bunnies. It’s hell. It’s a struggle. To finally touch love is an enormous accomplishment, but I’m not entirely there, and so I accept each moment and I think we need to accept each moment.
Kate Inglis: Absolutely.
Ponzi Pirelli: What is your name?
Aliza Sherman: Oh hey. I’m always like, “Always announce who you are and what you do.” Aliza Sherman and my mommy blog is called Baby Fruit.
Kate Inglis: Beautiful. Thank you.
Supafresh: Hi. I write anonymously as Supafresh. I write a blog called Fresh Widow and I would say I follow a lot of young widow’s blogs. There’s 132 at last count and most of the military people are completely in a separate community, so that doesn’t include the recent increases, and we have had sort of a different pattern, but it’s kind of similar in that most of us tend to not write – unless we were already keeping a blog, most people don’t write through the illness and then the death of their partner, but they tend to get the energy about 18 months or two years after and then that coincides often with dating and sort of a resurgence of life.
And so you’re sort of writing from this more powerful place, but it’s just – it’s an interesting pattern and I think it’s something to keep in mind about grieving, that it – Abigail Carter, who lost her husband in 9-11 and wrote a book says that grief has a defibrillator effect and that it can jolt you into an awareness of what’s coming, and for me, the blog has been about not only telling the story about what happened already, but about telling the story about all the little tiny turning points that led to things getting better and coming out of the shadows.
And part of that is acknowledging that the shadows were there and I think, yeah, as another small, very isolated group blogging has let a lot of people who don’t live in – it’s just a very small – it’s hard to unite and people who live in smaller more remote areas to find for the first time anybody to validate their experience, which is horrific. I had the same feeling of I had a huge hole and people didn’t want to deal with it.
Kate Inglis: And a lot of people don’t get too that despair is really honorable and it’s really important like and anger – anger makes heat and heat makes us _____. [Unintelligible] Got one in the back.
We have one more in the back, Ponzi. Thanks.
Kristin Hyde: Hi. My name is Kristin Hyde. I run a blog called – I used to run one called Mama Says Ohm and now I run one called Hope Revo and Kate, I actually came across your story when we did Mama Says Ohm and I’m hearing a lot of people saying, that, you know, like they really need to work through their negative feelings and work them out and open them up. I’m not one of those people.
I do the opposite. I find something else to focus on or something positive, which is kind of my route, but I wanted to say when I came across yours and what your saying now almost doesn’t match what I read. Like, what you – the pictures you took and the words that you wrote were so almost uplifting. I don’t know if that makes sense.
Maybe several years from now when you go back and read it, you’ll kind of see that, but your posts actually celebrated the life of your son. Like, it was devastating when that hit and everything that came after that, but even then, I still felt like you give people hope to work through that if they came through a similar situation, if that makes sense. And anyway, envious and beautiful work and I just wanted to say that.
Kate Inglis: Thank you. [Unintelligible] It’s just really hard work to put it in there. I think I’ve probably _____. To be honest, you’re right. I think I’ve probably felt a lot better _____ than I wrote, but there are some posts in there that were tough, but I think it was just – it was just a matter of practicing and it was the same with photography. I wouldn’t let anybody shoot them, take pictures of them with a camera because there’s nothing worse – I think there’s a couple of NICU moms in here that might agree that there’s almost nothing worse than a picture of a premature baby taken with a point and shoot. Maybe I’m just really anal. But – well, that’s probably true too, but it’s kind of a universal hospital truth that it’s a horrible thing and that was a creative challenge that distracted me, to try to make him beautiful and to try to make Ben beautiful and it was also, I think, a little bit of a protection as well, to have some glass in between my eye and them, but anyway, yeah thank you so much.
Kristin Hyde: Did you see – I know this is probably a different style of writing, but your continuous writing on your blog, do you think that prepared you for writing your book or is there any connection between the two?
Kate Inglis: Oh, I think I have – this is – I have a book coming out in October, but it has nothing to do with dying and sick babies. It’s totally – it’s completely different and it’s just a lot of fun and I think – I had the opportunity to do more of a memoir kind of a piece, but I think it was a bit tapped at that point from writing about that, so I had to do something fun, so the book is completely unrelated. Yeah, it was just fun.
Kristin Hyde: It represents the transformational part of blogging.
Kate Inglis: Maybe, yeah. Maybe the ability to move on to it, but yeah. Anyway, we’ll move on to – what’s that? Oh, it’s – you can find out more about it at Dredcrew.com, but I feel like a total schmuck now, so let’s move on. Move on, everybody. So, who’s next?
Ponzi Pirelli: So, I’d like to introduce Daniela Capistrano and I have the question of how has blogging influenced your career path and did you choose when you would debut your voice or did your audience define that moment for you?
Daniela Capistrano: I think that answer will probably open up bigger with questions, but just in a nutshell, coming from a small town in Sacramento, California, there wasn’t a whole lot of resources, particularly for women, about working in the film industry, about working in new media, and so I had to seek out online, you know, those resources and part of that was just kind of – I don’t like to call it lurking, but you know, I’d find people who were doing what I wanted to do and I’d read their blogs.
So I’m kind of on the reverse where my blog, if you visit it, it might not seem very personal to you, but it actually – it is because what I’m trying to do it what others did for me, which is share information about my career and things in the media that interest me as a way of inspiring others and it’s actually – it’s working that way. Students reach out to me through my contact form.
Parents reach out to me, especially now that I’m doing more work with young people, but initially my first attempt at blogging was like on Live Journal before I knew what blogging was or if that was even something that was a word yet. And my best friend found me through a short story that I wrote on live journal. She like messaged me and was like, “Oh, I really like that.” It was about like a secretary who kills her boss or something. I don’t know.
And so she was from New York and we started – I would read her posts about New York and everything that she wrote was so inspiring and this was before I knew who she was or saw a photo of her and we just became really great friends and a few years later, I decided to just sort of sell everything I owned and save up a little cash and move to New York solely based on what I saw through her eyes and I don’t think I’ve ever given her enough credit and I’m not gonna say her name and embarrass her, but if it wasn’t for that, if it wasn’t for the access to someone’s personal stories and her courage to share what she was going through, I don’t think I would have ever had the courage to – ‘cause to me, New York didn’t even exist in my mind.
I mean, this is now, you know, this is pre Friendster and MySpace and all these profiles. It was just like this thing I saw on a map and I’m like, “That’s where people work in media,” and I mean, I don’t know if you guys are familiar with the production company, Killer Films. They made films like Boys Don’t Cry and One Hour Photo. They’re based in New York, so I was like working in this movie theater and Christine Vashawn was someone who I really looked up to and I was like, “Well, I need to intern for her, so I guess I better move to New York,” and I just kept calling their office, like every day until they finally gave me an interview and eventually I did it and it was always such a shock when these things would happen and what I finally realized now is like if you don’t look – and this is gonna sound so cheesy, but it’s true.
If you don’t look to the things that you want and keep engaging with the things that you want, you’re never gonna have them, no matter how many people help you or no matter how hard you’re wishing. It’s like you have to always be looking to what you want and I know that if it wasn’t for people sharing their stories through blogs, I wouldn’t have what I have now, so I just try to give that back. So that’s my story.
Ponzi Pirelli: That’s amazing. I mean, just the power to transform yourself by being proactive.
Female: ____ _____.
Daniela Capistrano: Oh, it’s danielacapistrano.com and you can easily find it if that’s – my name’s really long. On Twitter I’m dcap – D-C-A-P and there’s a link there as well, and right now, another thing that I’ve noticed when I read blogs is often a lot of times what’s going on in someone’s real life is reflected in the blog and that’s certainly, in my case, like right now I’m working for this – in a volunteer basis, this media literacy organization called The Lamp in New York and so everything that I try to write is really about like a faction of what’s going on in my life right now and what I hope is that – what happens is that I’m a producer for MTV news, so if you Google my name, a lot of times the first things that come up are articles or things related to MTV and my name’s attached to it.
Now, it’s not that I have a problem with that, but that’s clearly like this much of who I am, so what I hope is that when people Google my name or search for more stories that I’ve written or things that I’ve worked on, they’ll find my site and then as a result, they kind of just peel back the layers and find out new things and hopefully, like, I find that a lot of like young people coming out of like film school and journalism school, they’re so like – they have like a one track mind, but what they don’t understand is that you – there is nothing wrong with like embracing your interests and it actually makes you a lot more appealing to potential employers when they see that you’re, you know, a well rounded person in like an authentic way that as long as you just, again, just keep looking to what you want and are true to your own interests, it just ends up benefiting you.
Ponzi Pirelli: And do any of you have anything to add or questions that you’d like to discuss? So, I think we’ll go to Kelly. She – oh, we do have one.
Alexa: Hi, this is actually particularly related to what Kate was saying as well and – oh, my name’s Alexa. Sorry. And then also then what Daniela was saying about seeing things reflected in people’s blogs. When Kate was talking and then, I’m sorry, I don’t remember Mama Says Ohm’s name, about thinking that there was a difference between that she found Kate’s posts very uplifting and Kate was talking about the sort of feelings of having a baby in the NICU and my daughter was born very early as well and I think one of the things that blogging really helped with was I think – I mean I’m sure it’s the same way for lots of different types of intense situations like that, but it’s like there’s sort of the tragedy and comedy mask and you’re expected to wear one or the other and not both, and you’re supposed to be either very uplifting and there’s lots of, you know, scripture verses and everything will be fine and my aunt was born weighing a pound and was kept warm on a brick and now she’s secretary of state or whatever.
Kate Inglis: Yeah, shoebox in the oven. Yeah.
Alexa: Yeah, and then on the other hand, it’s you’re supposed to be sad all the time and there’s not always a lot of room for the very complicated experience that it is with both things that are uplifting and things – and finding things funny and I got lots of emails when I would post something about something funny in the NICU and from people who just did not – who were sort of offended, frankly, that I was making a joke about something while my daughter was on a ventilator.
Kate Inglis: I loved that. I love your writing.
Alexa: Well, thank you. Not everybody did. [Laughter]. So, I just think it’s really important to show sort of just the sort of complicated mess of things in a way that, like Daniela was saying, so that somebody else can come across that and see sort of reflected their own experience or that you don’t have to be either dealing perfectly with everything or walking around in, you know, black all the time, so –
Kate Inglis: I think that’s a really, really good point and there – those are the blogs that I gravitate to towards the most and when people are able to – I mean, I find it really hard two years out to become something else, because I didn’t want to have a blog with a black background and be a grief blogger, and there’s a place for grief blogging. Absolutely, but for me, I didn’t want to be defined entirely by it. I mean I was for quite awhile, but it’s a big leap to write about high heels again or to write about your kids driving you crazy again because then you feel guilty for not being serene and grateful because you went through this horrible thing and I’m so far from serene, it’s not even funny.
So – yeah, I mean I think you did a beautiful job of that and everybody copes with it differently, but I think the important thing is finding – and that’s the great thing about blogs is that you can always find someone who speaks your language and there are lots and lots of people out there who write about cherubs and angels in heaven and there are lots of people out there who write about dust and nothingness and randomness and lots of people who write humorously about life in the NICU and lots of people who write really blackly about life in the NICU and all of them are absolutely 100 percent valid and that’s what I love about the whole community is because there’s pockets within pockets within pockets and little circles and you can always find a belonging, I’ve found anyway. But, Daniela?
Daniela Capistrano: I guess one thing that has come up a few times recently with parents that I’ve been talking to has been their concern about what their children disclose online and so this kind of relates to my job, in a sense, because I don’t know if you guys have noticed this as parents. You probably have, your kids are constantly being asked to react, to react. Respond now. Send us your video. What do you think about this and we’ll give you this prize and we’ll give you that prize.
On one hand, it’s teaching them how to communicate, but on the other, it’s teaching them to be really impulsive and I think that it’s really important to know what your kids are writing about. Obviously, you want to respect their privacy. If they have a journal, you don’t want to crack the lock and be, you know, invading their space, but, you know, it’s good to know like where they’re writing and who’s responding and what’s important to them to write.
If they’re writing like on their MySpace blog or whatever, you know, site that they’re in and it’s public, you know, having a conversation about that, like do you understand what you’re sharing and how people are responding and how do you internalize what people say to you and if you’re already blogging, it’s like do your kids know what you’re writing about and what do they think about it. I mean, to me it’s such an amazing way, especially with what you were discussing. I don’t know if you have younger family members who have come across it or said anything to you, like younger cousins and stuff.
Kate Inglis: I think they’re banned.
Daniela Capistrano: But you don’t know. They might read it on their own.
Kate Inglis: I doubt it. They’re a little too young.
Daniela Capistrano: Oh, okay, well it’ just such a great way to start communicating with your kids. I mean, it just – it boggles my mind, the digital divide of _____. I’m only 27, but there was no such thing as like mommy bloggers when I was younger and to have had that opportunity to connect with my mother that way would have been like amazing and that’s why even though I’m so overwhelmed still with how many like women are here, it’s such a beautiful thing and I’m just so glad that you guys are probably already on that journey with your own children about helping them understand the ways that they can share and help others. That’s all.
Ponzi Pirelli: I agree, and I think that’s a huge topic and that’s a great topic to bring up and talk about online as well. We’re gonna move to Kelly Russell Donner from ordinaryartblog.com and she’s far from ordinary.
Kelly Russell Donner: It always makes me nervous when they say something like that because now what if I am just ordinary when I speak to all of you? [Laughter] They’re like, “She’s the liar, not me.” Right?
Ponzi Pirelli: You could never be ordinary.
Kelly Russell Donner: Thank you. I wanted to start by telling you this little story. I was once at a writing conference and I was probably 18 or 19 and the instructor said, “When you turn 30, what do you hope to be?” And I’m sitting there with this piece of paper. You know, I’m not even knowing. I stumbled into this. I don’t know how I even ended up there and I ended up writing down, “At 30, I hope that I an own everything that’s inside of me,” and then I crumpled the paper up and I threw it away because I thought, “How dare I even breach or think about this idea of owning what is inside of me,” because at that point, what I thought was inside of me was ugly, and I was the clichéd overweight, awkward, nose in a book, you know, this height in seventh grade, so, you know, the boys were like at crotch level, which sounds like it should be really interesting, but frankly it wasn’t, and – at all.
And so here I am, this really awkward, uncomfortable person who doesn’t own her own skin, who doesn’t have a voice, who is not empowered in any way, and I grow up and in snag myself a husband, I don’t know how, you know, he was really drunk when we met and so, you know, and he marries me, crazy man, and I’m still – and now I’m this grown woman and 30 has come and gone and I still do not own what’s inside of me.
But I sit down to blog and I’m writing and I’m putting words out there and, you know, I’m talking about my children and I’m talking about things that are great and people are commenting, but I’m not owning my own language.
And then one night, I decide to write a post. When I was 19, I went to a bar with my friends and they were all prettier than me because they were thinner than me and they could flirt with the boys in the bar and I could not do it without what I considered liquid gold, so I drank and I drank and I drank myself into an oblivion and I was kicked out of the bar.
And I remember it was underneath the train tracks and went out into the snow, and my friends were fed up. They were fed up with my behavior ‘cause this was a pattern of me, you know, at the bar getting totally drunk ‘cause I thought I could then socialize, but then I made a fool of myself and they came outside and they left me.
They said, “You know, we’re not staying out here with you. You figure this out.” And I don’t’ have many memories. I remember it being very cold and I’m getting emotional, and I remember two men, and I don’t really remember anything other than that, and I could very well – I’ll say to you, I could have very well said, “Hey boys, come and fuck me,” because I don’t remember, but I do remember waking up and I do remember my underwear being missing and I do remember being rubbed completely raw and this ache not only between my legs, but inside of me and I couldn’t tell anyone this.
How could I tell anyone this because I was culpable. I did this. I was the one that got drunk. I was the one that got kicked out. Right? This is me. This is my fault. I’m a whore.
And so I kept this story inside of me for a very long time. I was a Take Back the Night when I was in college and I don’t know if any of you have ever been there, but it’s survivors of rape and sexual assault and I’m standing there talking to a woman and out of my mouth jumps, “I was raped. Holy fucking shit, I can’t believe I just said that. I just said that and no one heard me, right?”
But the woman is now ready to embrace me in her arms and I want that embrace. I need that embrace. I need someone to hold me and tell me that I was not at fault, but I’m afraid I was, so I lie. So, I tell a story about being raped where I wasn’t drinking and I wasn’t wearing a short skirt and I wasn’t doing all the things that I thought made me at fault for that.
And I told that story to her and the community of survivors embraced me and I lied to every single one of them. I lied to counselors. I lied to my parents. I lied to my husband, and the first time I owned it, the first time I sat down and said, “Hey, didn’t quite go down that way,” and maybe I was still not at fault was on my blog.
And then I went back into my room and I literally rocked – I rocked ‘cause I was terrified that all I was gonna get from these lovely women who were used to me writing about Jackie made a poop today the size of my fist were gonna be like, “What the hell is she writing – who is this – I don’t like this woman now. I don’t like this dirty whore.” And that’s how I felt, and they didn’t. They didn’t. You didn’t.
Instead, people commented and they said, “You’re lovely and you’re beautiful, and I had a boyfriend and I didn’t want to have sex, but I did and I laid there silent and I, you know, and I didn’t – he knew I didn’t want to and yet he still did and am I wrong?”
And people and things flooded in and I tell this story because one, I need to own it. I need to own it and I’m owning it right now and two, because it was a seminal moment for me on my blog. It changed everything. If you go back into the archives, and please don’t ever go back into my archives, but if you did, you would see a completely different blogger. My blog has totally changed.
I have come to own so much of myself and to realize scars an all, you know, there are things about me that are beautiful and there are things about me that are ugly, but that’s okay ‘cause that’s what makes me a woman. That’s what makes you beautiful people is because we have these scars and we have to live through them.
And I have found that this idea of owning what and who I am is what fuels my writing now. I love the community. The community astounds me, but you are the icing on the cake for me. I write for me. I write because if I don’t’ write, I will go crazy ‘cause I need it like oxygen because I need to put on that blog page the fact that I exist and I am real and some parts of me are dirty, but love me anyway. Please love me anyway.
And I’m saying it to myself and then you lovely people come and you say it back and you love me too, and isn’t that so empowering for all of us? If you told me last year that I would be at this panel, I would have said, “No way.” I would have pissed myself first and then I would have been like, “No way! BlogHer, you terrify me. You lovely, lovely people terrify me,” because I, you know, I just couldn’t have imagined it, but this year, I said to myself, “No. I may not have the right shoes and I may not have the right waist size and I may not be the most popular blogger – half of you are probably like, “Ordinary Art who?” The other half are probably like, “I loathe that lady.”
But the thing is, I’m here because I believe in me and I think especially as women, that’s something we’re not supposed to say. Sorry, men. Maybe, you know, I’m not – not to segregate, but I think as women so often we’re told we’re not supposed to say, “I love me. I’m proud of me and I want to promote myself and I’m here to say that today, not all parts and I’m a work in progress, but blogging allows me to hold up a mirror to myself and to own my own history. And I spoke on this panel because I want to say to all of you, own your history, whatever it is. Own it. And in fact, I hope more of you will share it right now.
Ponzi Pirelli: I’d love to hear someone come forward and talk about something that they’ve written about happened _______.
Male 1: I just want to say, I love your shoes. [Laughter]
Kelly Russell Donner: My Shoes? My shoes? I have good shoes! Yes! Thank you.
Female: Really ____ ____.
Kelly Russell Donner: Yes.
Female 1: I don’t have a story, but I just wanted to say thank you for having the courage to come and say it out loud today.
Kelly Russell Donner: Oh, thank you.
Female 1: Awesome.
Ponzi Pirelli: She’s definitely not ordinary. Right? No.
Kelly Russell Donner: When I’m home in my mom sweats which is normally what’s happening, the kids are crawling on me, I’m ordinary.
Female 2: I think that what you said rings true a lot for me because in the adoption community, which is where I blog, people don’t talk about the bad things that happen. I’m gonna cry and I’m sorry, but they don’t talk about the bad things that happen and when I started talking about them, people were like, “Oh yeah, I get that.” And I’m like, “Wait a minute. It was all roses and candy on your blog. What the heck are you talking about?” And it became – and I can’t talk about it with my family because they think I should be – I’m sorry.
Kelly Russell Donner: Don’t apologize.
Female 2: They think I should be so happy because we adopted these twins and everything should be great, and it’s just not.
Kelly Russell Donner: _____ like that. You know, I’m an adoptive mother too. I adopted my son and I’m going through something right now where we’re thinking of maybe doing some testing with him, and I know I’m supposed to be so grateful, but sometimes it’s hard. I remember going through three miscarriages and then having my son and then having my daughter and feeling like I’m not supposed to talk about motherhood being hard because it was so hard for me to have children. So you know what? If you can’t own it, maybe you can’t own it on your blog, but there is places where you can. You can reach out and I will – I want your URL.
Female 2: No, that’s the only place I own it. That is the only place I get to own it and it’s so funny because all of the other adoptive mothers are like, “No, I know exactly what you’re talking about,” and I’m like, “Wait a minute. You were the one who convinced me this should be all roses and candy. What’s the deal here?” And they’re like, “Well, we can’t talk about it because it’s supposed to be all roses and candy and what if – ours was an international adoption and we know our government reads our blogs. Like, we see them visiting our blogs,” so I’m like, “You know what? I’m done. I don’t care if the government says I can never adopt again. I’m gonna be honest.”
Kelly Russell Donner: And think of how many women now who are going through that process will stumble upon your blog, and please let us know the URL so we can all go there –
Female 2: It’s a really funky URL because when I started blogging, I had no idea this community existed and the only community I knew existed was the adoptive community and it’s a very tight, very small community and so it’s a really funky URL, but it’s abc123via.wordpress.com. I have cards if anybody wants some. [Laughter]
Kelly Russell Donner: Yeah, give me that business card.
Female 2: Like I said, it’s a really funky URL, but that’s – when you started telling your story and how you – that’s when I became real because I couldn’t say that my family thinks I am the worst person in the world because I had a really hard time – oh God, I can’t believe I’m crying. I had a really hard time when they came home. I mean, went from no kids and 22 months of a fight to get them, then to two to twins that had no clue what was going on around them and I wasn’t sleeping, they weren’t sleeping, they weren’t sleeping on a schedule and I was – it was bad and I called my mom crying one day and she finally said, “You know what? I realize you didn’t give birth to these kids, but I think you have some depression issues,” and that’s where it all started, and I was like, “I can’t do this anymore. Somebody out there has to have gone through this.”
Well, my family wasn’t one of those families. They had never adopted before, so – I feel like I’m monopolizing this and I’m really sorry. But that’s – when you started telling your story, that was the thought that went through my mind was, you know, that’s the place I get to own what I feel and I get to say what I want to say.
Kelly Russell Donner: I’m so happy you have that place.
Female 2: And thank you for telling your story today.
Kelly Russell Donner: Thank you for telling yours.
Female 2: Even though I’ve never read your blog before, I guarantee you I will now.
Kelly Russell Donner: And I will be on yours, so let’s exchange cards.
Female 2: Sorry.
Kelly Russell Donner: And I really appreciate –
Female 2: To whoever sent the Kleenexes.
Kelly Russell Donner: And I really appreciate that you’re doing through your moment of catharsis with all of us because by verbalizing it, you are empowering yourself and we get to be a part of that and, you know, we get to be with you and let you know that we care and we really appreciate that you chare that with us.
Female 2: Well, I never expected to come to BlogHer and cry, so sorry.
Kelly Russell Donner: Well, I expected to be crying the whole time actually.
Kelly Russell Donner: I’m actually having a good time. I’m like, “Wow.”
Female: I think it’s like remembering the ‘60s. If you didn’t cry at BlogHer, maybe you weren’t even there. [Laughter]
Kelly Russell Donner: I think somebody needs to Tweet that. It’s pretty good.
Danielle: Hi, I’m Danielle from knottyyarn.com and you’re all beautiful and wonderful. I’m not a joiner and I never thought I’d ever be here because I couldn’t fathom the idea of being at a conference full of women who were talking about babies and stuff that I’m not interested in. [Laughter] And I’m happy to say that’s not what I found.
What I wonder though is how are you all going to go forward being such a big part of this community, being part of this panel, sharing what you’ve shared, being transformed in the way that you’ve been transformed, what do you expect or do you have any expectations or do you have any ways that you would recommend giving back or being a part of something. It’s important what you do because I think people forget with all the advertising and sponsoring why people blog in the first place. So I wonder how you feel about going forward.
Daniela Capistrano: This was an answer to your question, a huge learning experience for me. I’m so not accustomed whatsoever to large communities of women. Like, I know very little, honestly, about BlogHer and part of me coming here to was to learn more about it and start to participate a bit more. I tend to be kind of like a lone wolf type girl, but I realize through blogging that it is like a two way street and what I’m hoping to gain from this experience is to start blogging about more personal things that are very difficult for me to talk about in the hopes that it just does help other people because I see just in the very basic things like I’ll ramble on about some geeky thing about Avid and Final Cut and all of a sudden, I have all these students contacting me and I’m like, “Oh my God, what’s going on?”
And I forget that everything that I put out in the world whether it’s online or in person affects someone indirectly or directly, so that’s what I hope to do from here is hopefully meet, you know, more ladies because all of you have such like interesting stories and that’s why I kind of had to leave early last night because I got so like, whoosh, I’m just not so used to – I work so much often with men and it’s a totally different energy and it’s a great energy, you know, it’s fine, but I just – I really want to be able to come into my own, I guess, more and this is just such a fantastic opportunity. I’m very, like, humbled by it and glad to be here.
Kate Inglis: I’ll say one more thing about that and I don’t think – is mine working? I don’t think it is. I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing. I’m not gonna be remotely transformed by this experience. I’m just kidding. [Laughter] That kind of came out wrong, but yeah, that’s right.
What I was gonna say is more about all of you. After going through what I went through, I eventually met Bonnie, who’s a beautiful, beautiful person and some of you may know her. She writes at cribchronicles.com. She’s not here and that’s a crime. She’s a maritimer like me, but I met her through blogging and she was the first bereaved mother that I met. She had had a little boy named Finn who was born much too early and died and that was her first.
And so we found each other somehow and then I found myself in her living room in PEI and entering her space was just like this giant exhale and I was just – I don’t care who you are or what you like to do, what food you eat, what you look like, you know me and you’ve been in the exact came place I’ve been. And that was huge and so after that experience, and I know probably so many of you have had the same experience where you find that circle within a circle within a circle and you’re like, “Oh, these are my voices. These are people who are just like me,” and it’s really invigorating and so after that, I started and Bonnie right away helped, we sort of co-founded Glow in the Woods, which is a community for parents.
We started it out for women, but then of course it just grew and of course we wanted to be inclusive, so it’s for parents who have experienced infant loss, and we didn’t want it to be cherubs and angels ‘cause there’s so much of that online already for people who have – who come from a religious angle and healing from that and we wanted to not necessarily talk about the babies, but talk about us as mothers and fathers and women and men and we had a very specific vision for it, and I would say to all of you, do that because there’s nothing quite as magical and wonderful as having a vision for a community.
So what Glow in the Woods is is it’s six or seven of us – it’s seven of us now I think writing collaboratively and sort of sharing that space with discussion boards and more of a mandate to not have it just be one person’s story, but to have it reflect a variety of stories, but to have it be something of a living room and a gathering place where people can sort of come in and shake off the shock or not and just be in the company of like minded and similarly experienced people.
And so, for the adoptive mom, I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name, but you know, if you feel like there’s a void out there, like, “My God, everybody’s writing like everything is so fucking rosy,” and, you know, I can imagine it’s a similar thing. When you have a child who almost dies or dies or you have infertility, multiple miscarriages, whatever it is, you feel like a kid pisses on the floor and you can’t go, “God, ____,” and like put your fist through the drywall, you know? Not again. Not more piss. Please. Because you’re supposed to be this, like grateful and, “Well, I’m so lucky,” and if I can’t even have the grace to hug my children more, none of you are going to be able to because of misfortune or whatever because we’re all human.
And so anyway, I would just say start those gathering places. If you feel like there’s a void, find three or four other women that are the same and it’s just – it’s a different tone when it’s not just a personal blog, when it’s a living room. And so I would just encourage, because a lot of people have come to me and said, “What about a place like this for miscarriage? What about a place like this for parents who have lost toddlers and older children?” I don’t know because I haven’t been through that, but start it. Do it. If there’s a void, do it. So yeah, I just wanted to say that.
Kelly Russell Donner: I’d like to answer your question because I’m sort of – I hate to say it, the anti-blogger. I’m not out there and I just sort of sit in my room and I write and then people show up and I’m like, “Wow, oh my god. How’d you get here?”
And I’m – it’s kind of silly, I know, but I’m gonna make a point of getting out there. I’m gonna make a point of knowing that there are other women that I need to – and men and people that I need to connect with and that’s sort of something that learned from this conference because I really came here all, you know, just kind of disgruntled. Oh, I don’t like anyone and, you know, because it was fear. It’s fear. It’s fear that you’re not gonna like me. It’s fear that I’m not somehow – I’m gonna turn back into that – there’s always that fear that I’m gonna turn back to that awkward adolescent with her nose in a book that, you know, that didn’t own her voice.
You know, as empowered as I feel that I am, there’s always that, well what if slip back? What if I lose it? What if somehow, you know, I lose that voice? And so I’m definitely going to get out there and I’m gonna find you all. I am. I’m gonna be hunting you down and finding out what your stories are and really listening because that, to me, is the importance of blogging. You just need to really listen.
Yes, we’ve been marketing ourselves and there’s brands and there’s money and there’s all that stuff, and I – you know, and you’ll see a lot of me out there complaining about that stuff because I’m not gonna lie, I do because I write and I want to write and I want to hear you write, but I understand that’s empowering for many of you and that’s what you’re doing to better yourself and your situation. I have to be understanding of that, but I want to hear your stories. I want to know you. I want to learn the flesh of you ‘cause I’m putting my flesh out there and I want you to learn it. And so yeah, that’s – I mean, I already found you, but I’m gonna find the rest of you. I’m gonna be more out there. That’s my promise.
Ponzi Pirelli: So, I haven’t introduced myself ‘cause I kind of got sidetracked in the beginning, but I would like to talk about branding and advertising. So my name is Ponzi Pirelli and I blog at Ponzarelli and I’ve also co-produced Nomedex for the past four years and what I found through that experience is that you can change the way things are done in groups of bloggers. You can completely change the way things are done and it’s because we come in not knowing what the rules are.
We come into places where we just want to do the right thing and we want to be a part of the community and that’s kind of what my place was. I wasn’t a conference producer. I didn’t know how to do that. I just knew that I really wanted all these awesome people to come together and I knew if they did, that magic would happen, and I would handle the sponsorship side and Chris Pirelli would handle the content side and I didn’t know that the usual way that that works is that you pay to play, which kind of means you would pay for a speaking slot to get your sponsorship, and because I didn’t know that, I never allowed it and it was so much better to keep the content and the sponsorship separate because then we got quality sponsors.
We got sponsors that totally believed in what we were doing and there’s a few times that you just have to say no. You know, it’s not a good fit. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t sponsor bloggers. You should, but maybe it’s just not the right fit for that blog. So you’re empowered. You can say no and you can find the right people for sponsorship and advertising, if that helps.
Daniela Capistrano: Yeah, we really want to hear from you so if you have any questions for any of us, we are open books really or if you just want to share, what are your stories, what are your questions, what are your thoughts? Now is really all about you guys.
You had a hand? Yeah, you – do you mind? _____ ___ sorry.
Female: Oh, I’m sorry, my fault.
Jamie: I was just gonna – I wanted to thank you guys for coming and sharing and being so brave as well as everyone else who has shared their stories and I’m kind of with Daniela. I kind of want to be where you guys are in sharing more stuff and being a part of the community and so for you guys who have kind of broken that barrier of kind of like as you were saying, Kelly, going somewhere and telling a story that you had never told before and kind of letting people into your life and with you, Kate, talking about something very intimate, how did you get to that point? Like, how did you get that courage? How did you overcome those fears and I’d like to hear, I guess, from anyone else too who can kind of, you know, maybe give us some tips for the rest of us who are still working to get to that point. I’m Jamie and my blog is Shame on Shamus.
Kate Inglis: I can start. I feel like I keep patting myself ineffectively. It never felt to me like anything brave or courageous. There was never – I mean, I guess there was that moment of choice after they were born where it was actually presented to me as – and now you will be private or now you should be private, and that was kind of a comment and I don’t mean to condemn that way of thinking because as Kristin said, a lot of people very effectively just carry on and distract themselves from it by keeping busy or putting on lip gloss.
You know, and I kind of mean that metaphorically, but and lots of people do that to great effect, but for me, it wasn’t like there was some moment where I thought, “Oh, I’m afraid to say this. Should I say this? This could be ugly.” I don’t’ know why. I didn’t ever see it as courage.
After they were born, like a few hours after, I was high as a kite and lying in the hotel – in the hotel bed. I wish. Jesus, these beds are fricking incredible. Yeah, not a hotel bed, a hospital bed and all stapled and cut open and completely in a fog and it was as dark as it could be in a hospital, which is never dark and always kind of hums and vibrates and I woke up and I could hardly move, but I just woke up from a dead sleep and I had to grab a pen and a piece of paper and I couldn’t see what I was doing, but it was interesting to look at the next day ‘cause I was like _______ all over the paper ‘cause it was kind of like non-drunken drunken rambling, but so there was no choice.
It was like it was like pulse or breathing or anything else, so it didn’t strike me at – for me, it was never anything that was kind of like, “Oh boy, here goes.” Post. I never had any moment like that because I think there are ways of writing ugly and gory and despair and rage and doing it in a way that is honorable to all of those things as a part of the gauntlet that you all have to walk, whether it’s baby loss or infertility or divorce or the loss of a spouse or anything.
Those are honorable moments and honorable intersections that you have to fucking char – you know, you have to just walk through them and there’s no going around them and I think there are ways of honoring that without necessarily feeling – I don’t know. I think that it can be done in a way that isn’t just purely ugly because I guess I’m just a believer in having – in beautiful gore and I think that anybody can find that balance. It’s just practice and I think it’s – the practice of writing, I think, is what helps you to see that gore differently and say, “This is turning me into the person that I am supposed to be,” and it’s fucking hard and it hurts and I kind of wish I could just be oblivious again and God knows I wish it didn’t turn out the way it did, but at the same time, he wasn’t supposed to stay and I was supposed to go through the experience of growing him and trying to have him have a viable life and that trying – I mean it sounds incredibly egocentric to say that, that he made me who I am, but all of the journeys that we go on and all the pain that we experience is supposed to be ours and so I don’t see any shame whatsoever in writing about it, I mean, within our own boundaries and with the logistics of having, you know, relatives who read your blog and whatever. You find ways of carving out that little safe space, but yeah. For me, it wasn’t courage. It was just, there was no other question. So –
Kelly Russell Donner: But I think boundaries are important. I think you do have to think about this idea that if you’re going to put something out there, there are ramifications. It’s on the net. People are reading it and you have to do what you’re comfortable with. You have to be able to share in a way that, you know, it gives you what you need to take from it, but the consequences aren’t so weighty that it kind of squashes hat feeling.
I mean, there are things that – as much as I will put out there and I do put out so much, there are things I won’t write about. There are just areas that I don’t go, but they’re less about me because I go there, you know, when it comes to me. I need to go there, but there are some people in my life who I don’t touch their issues even when their issues adversely affect me because it’s not – I worry about the ramification of what will happen.
I think in terms of – and I don’t know what some of the things are that you’re thinking about that you want to get out there or – but I’d say create a space that’s safe for you and know what your own boundaries are before you do hit that publish and know that anyone could be reading it. But, don’t censor yourself so much that you don’t get from it what you need to get.
Did you want to – you had your hand up before and we didn’t –
Female 3: No, you had a perfect segue because my story is probably longer than we have time for; however, I’ll just share kind of the basic – what you just segued into is perfect. My name is Lisa, by the way. I write, As the Girls’ Mama. I have two daughters and I’ve been blogging for six years and I got very, very involved in my blog and in the blogging community, but I haven’t been so the last couple of years and that’s what I wanted to talk about.
I went through a divorce and I chose not to write about any of the problems that I had been having with my husband on my blog and then about a year before the divorce, I had some depression. I had never had depression. I’d never been diagnosed with it anyway, maybe retroactively, but not before and I got – I was encouraged by others who had been through depression and had written about it and so my now ex husband encouraged me to write ‘cause my blogging had been an important part of my life.
So I wrote in great detail about starting the antidepressants and how difficult that was and what that did to me. I wrote in excruciating detail. And it was. It was painful for my followers to read and I had been quite a cheery person and writing about my precious daughters and then this. The reason I felt like your comment, Kelly, was a good segue, because there are ramifications and when I went through my custody hearing my husband used those posts against me to try to take my daughters from me, and that was really painful. I had to sit there and listen to my own words read in court and that was really hard ‘cause I’m a damn good writer and –
Female: I love that you said that.
Lisa: I kept thinking, “If I just hadn’t written this so well, this wouldn’t sound so bad.” But it was very painful, so I had to shut down my blog. I still write, but I write only for a private audience and I’m trying really hard to figure out how I can make it public again, but not be fearful.
Kelly Russell Donner: Can I ask, do you have custody of your daughters?
Lisa: We have joint custody at this time, but it is not a finished process because my ex-husband is an Air Force pilot and we currently live in the same town, but we won’t always ‘cause I’ve told that fucker I’m not following him around anymore. [Laughter] So, I don’t quite know what to do, but the idea that that could have happened to me, I never imagined ‘cause he encouraged me to write those posts at the time and so there are consequences and there are ramifications to how much we put out there.
I do still write even for myself. I started a separate blog, also private, and I do the things that you were talking about and I write about those, but it’s like a very small group of people. I’m grateful because, like you said, if I didn’t write it, I don’t know what I would do. I’m a writer. I’m an English teacher and I’m a writer and this is who I am, and I don’t guess I have a question, just wanted to share my story because it is a consequence and it is a ramification that anyone could be reading and even my very own husband – ex husband, you know, took and used my own words against me, so, you know, now I guess my question is for myself, not for you, but how do I gain that courage back and how do I –
Lisa: Yeah, and I’ve thought that too.
Kate Inglis: That’s what I would do. I would start completely fresh. I wish I had done that sometimes ‘cause there’s stuff that I can’t write about either.
Kate Inglis: You know, I think all of us have those feelings, but anonymous is _____ _____.
Female: Good way to go.
Ponzi Pirelli: Thank you for sharing that.
Lisa: I’m being urged to talk here. Anonymous doesn’t stay anonymous. I started writing as Why Mommy and I never told anybody my name. Actually, eventually I let a couple of people in on my name, which was Sam. It’s not Sam, it’s Susan, but I was so afraid that I wouldn’t even let that much in and it took a major life changing event and then a lot of difficult, difficult decisions to become less anonymous.
So, whenever you start as anonymous, it’s a great way to start getting things out there. In fact, I was going to suggest the same thing, but you have to know that somewhere along the line, there’s going to be a detail or a slip or something you need to share that you end up sharing or publishing that has similar writing and someone googles it and bam, and once somebody knows, somebody else knows and somebody else knows and pretty soon, your dad is sitting there reading detailed accounts of how messed up you were after days of chemo, you know, things that you don’t talk about in person, but things that you felt you could share, that you had to share on your blog and it can be a wonderful thing, but anonymous is not always permanent.
Ponzi Pirelli: There was a – this gentleman had a hand.
Male 2: I just want to speak to Kelly’s experience of sharing something that heavy and being affirmed and having that kind of relief. I grew up in a 12 step program. I got sober when I was 19 and so it sounds like a kind of similar experience that we have with the fifth step. Like I say, I grew up, I mean and we told each other, like – and it became kind of easy just to you know, like you know, “I was in a tent with my buddy and sucked him off.” That kind of thing. Hey, that stays in this room, too. [Laughter]
But so, we could do anything and I guess I bring this up because when I started parent blogging and I guess I’m just looking for affirmation or whatever, when I tried to express what it is to be a parent, kind of the culturally accepted image of what a parent is versus the parent I am is so disparate that I still have trouble speaking about it not comically, you know, so that’s kind of what my blog tries to move towards is trying to express just that distinction in –
Kate Inglis: What’s your site?
Male 2: It’s the wind in your –
Kate Inglis: I’ve read it and I absolutely love it. Yeah, it’s fantastic.
Male 2: Okay. It’s fantastic.
Female: I haven’t. What is it really?
Kelly Russell Donner: The wind in your vagina.
Male 2: The wind in your vagina. [Laughter] Black hokey Jesus or you can – or you can call me John, which is a lot less flashy, but Black Hockey Jesus. So –
Kelly Russell Donner: John, do you know what I do, though, to answer that. I think about – I have two children, you know, I have a son and a daughter and I love them both equally, but I think so very much about my daughter when I post and I’m not thinking about the image that – I’m not worried about what you think about me as a mother and I don’t mean that as an insult, but I’m not worried about the image. I think about my daughter when I write and I want her to grow up to be, you know, I want her to wear shit kickers and be like, you know, I want her out there and I don’t, you know, I want her to be strong and tough and I want her to read those posts and say, “My mommy is bad ass.”
I want her to, “My mommy owns it,” and so when I sit down there to write, I don’t worry that someone’s gonna judge me a bad mother or a bad person or you know, not fitting in the stereotype ‘cause I do not fit. I’m a mommy blogger I guess, but I don’t really fit in that box, whatever that box is, but I think about her, you know, and I think about when I share those things, you know, out there, they may not like it, but someday she’ll read it. So –
Ponzi Pirelli: [Unintelligible] I was thinking if everyone has a Twitter account, if you could just post your URL or say I really liked the panel or whatever and then use the hash tag blogger authentic, then all of us could search for that hash tag when we’re back at home next week and find each other’s blogs.
Kelly Russell Donner: Do you know, I just learned what a hash tag is so I am on it! I am so excited! [Laughter] Yes! I know, I didn’t know. I didn’t know. That’s a cool idea.
Female: Unless there’s another question or ______ say something. Oh.
Female 4: Kind of playing off of what the last two people, that whole concept of anonymous, I am not anonymous. I blog under my name, my first name. My husband knows about my blog. A few people in my real life know about my blog, but most of my family doesn’t and a big part of – I actually had one blog for a year and it became basically just this giant bitch session for me to complain about my in-laws and how insane they were and how mean my father-in-law was to me and I got scared to death one day that somebody might accidentally stumble upon it, even though they’re not very technically savvy.
They don’t know anything about blogs and I shut it down, closed it, deleted it. On Blogger, when it says, “Are you really sure you want to do this,” you’re all – and I kick myself for doing that simply because I wrote some really good things on that first one and I wish I could go back to it, and I stopped for a few months. I just stopped and what I started crying when you said that you write for me, you need it like oxygen. It is so much of that for me. I had to pick it back up again.
I missed the people that I had connected with. I missed having that outlet and people ask me, “Oh, what’s your blog about?” And it’s not about anything and I just – somebody already has a blog with this name, so I hope it’s not copywrited, but for me it is cheaper than therapy. It is so – and it has allowed me to start to own the damage inside of me and I come from – and I have never been assaulted or abused or anything and I – there’s a part of me that’s like, “God, I wish something really bad had happened to me so at least I have an excuse for feeling the way that I do and as crazy as I do and as inadequate and damaged,” and I write about it a little bit, but I come to from a place of humor and as a defense mechanism and I write about things and my husband reads the blog sometimes and then doesn’t tell me that he reads it, but I know he does because I can tell in my site meter that you know, his work – “I know that you read this. I can tell that you do that.”
But it’s such a place – it’s a place where I feel very safe, but also very unsafe in a lot of ways ‘cause my husband will then, in an argument later, say, bring things up and use it against me or like coming to this thing, my in-laws have my kids and it’s like, “Oh crap. What am I supposed to tell them?” I’m in a writing conference and a friend of mine is in – so I have this whole elaborate story of where I am for four days and why because I’m so scared of the people in my life. I dole it out very carefully to people in my real life. I’m scared for them to see it.
Ponzi Pirelli: You should know that this is being podcast. [Laughter] So, I mean, I didn’t have a question. I just thought I’d get that out there ‘cause so much of what –
Female: Hey, I’m sorry you guys, we have to end because of the time, but –
Ponzi Pirelli: Thank you so much, everybody. Thank you. Thank you.
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