This Whole Blogging Thing
I mentioned in my last post that I had some thoughts to share on blogging, and in particular my thoughts on me and blogging. A lot of you that have been reading this thing have been reading for years. I love you for it :) Some of you are new here, and to you I want to say “Welcome!”.
To backtrack a little bit (or a lot?!?) I started writing on a blog waaaaayyyy back in 2005, about a month after I first moved to Haiti. Back then blogging was a new thing. This thing where everyday people could write out their thoughts and opinions on the internet and people could read them. No need to go through a publisher or anything like that. Anyone, literally anyone, could be an author. It was amazing. I remember when I started my first blog. I quietly did it and just put the address at the bottom of my email signature, not thinking anyone would actually read it. But people back home noticed, and they started reading, and it was a fun new way to share about life here in Haiti as I was processing through things.
A few years in writing at that blog and I decided to change the name and move it to a new address. That’s when Rollings In Haiti was born. I remember how excited Chris was when I was getting 75 readers a day. 75! It seemed like such a big deal, because, really, it was. There were people that were consistently interested in what I had to say. I kept at it and it became a place that I loved to be in, where I could just share what was going on and write about our days and our life. Write about Haiti. It was my happy place. After the earthquake, Facebook and the blog became a way for people to check in and find out if we were okay, and get news on what was happening in Haiti. In the days following January 12 I had one day where our blog hits went up to 15,000 in one day. I got asked by Esquire magazine if I would write an article for their website because of it, and Esquire Russia asked if they could publish my posts from those days following. We have a hard copy up in my closet, all in Russian, but my blog posts are in print!
Now, let’s just take a minute to pause and talk about what blogging actually looked like back then. Friends, it was simple. So very simple. You would just log in, write what you wanted, and hit publish. If you included a picture, great. It probably wasn’t a great quality picture, but it added that little something special. Over time this whole internet thing became more accessible to the average person, and people learned more about how to code and make things pretty. Some of those people started designing better blogging templates, then we stopped calling them blogs and just called them websites, or both. It turns out that people liked hearing from average people, so reading blogs became a “thing” and bloggers created audiences where they had these whole communities of people following their thoughts and ideas on things. Advertisers started noticing and started reaching out and offering sponsorship opportunities to bloggers if they wanted to review products and advertise for them. The demand for high quality pictures started to creep in, and format, and analytics and… Bloggers started taking the world by storm and it has literally turned into an industry.
So how does all of that affect me? Great question.
I think over time, as I saw these shifts happening, really in the past 5 years, there was a question of whether I should be changing things up and trying to get my slice of the pie. I was also going through a sort of transition of my own, or maybe it was more like getting lost in the wilderness? Yes, that. Getting lost. Alex was about a year old, I was seeing a need to shift my time and attention at the mission because we had some big stuff going on, and I was trying to figure out how it all fit together. From there we moved from crisis to crisis, then from crisis mode to moving mode. I was reading all these blogs in my feed reader about home decor and design and travel and I think part of me wanted to be able to express the creative side of myself, because I was exercising it in the everyday with designing buildings and helping to make them come to fruition, but I didn’t know how to fit that into our Rollings in Haiti framework. I realized that while I lived in Haiti and I loved it and it was part of me, it wasn’t all of me. Would writing about other things seem confusing in that framework? I knew I wanted to have a space that felt like a better representation of who I was at this stage of life, and the Rollings In Haiti framework felt too confining. So I started this site, where it could be anything and everything.
And, I think I was right about needing a fresh new space for myself. But, looking back, I see how lost I was. In hindsight I think maybe some of it was my way of processing and coping. Of focusing on other things while I was trying to work through things here that were real life. And, there was a sense of wanting my life to be about more than just Haiti. I know you’re probably sitting there thinking that it already was that, and I see that now.
In the past two years I haven’t written as much as I used to. I would wrack my brain about why that was. Why didn’t I feel the draw like I used to? Why didn’t I need it like I used to?
The conclusion that I’ve slowly been coming to is this – I was in a season.
I believe that we go through seasons in life. Some of those are amazing and full of joy and good things. Most often though, they are full of busyness and trying to just keep your head above water. For me, the period of 2009 through to 2013 was all about crisis management. Literally. We went from one thing to the next, often with things overlapping. There were months of sleepless nights. We were running on empty. I hinted at things on the blog, but because much of it concerned our organization, it wasn’t the platform to discuss any of it in detail. We wanted to care for those situations well and knew that not everything was fit for public consumption. So I kept quiet about those things, and I’m glad I did. It wasn’t the place or time for them. We processed through those with friends and family and our Board of Directors. We moved through them and I believe our organization is 200% stronger because of how we all handled things.
From there we moved from crisis to building and development mode. And I LOVED it. It was exciting, and I was able to use my creativity in a whole new way as I designed the main mission house, and got to be very hands on with the finishing of it. Same with our guest house. All of that showed me so much more about myself.
At the same time that all of that was going on, our kids switched schools, and things became a lot more normal for them in the sense that they had homework and school things we had to take care of as parents. Last year was a hard year for Alex, which meant it was a hard year for us as parents as we walked through all of that with him. This year both kids are doing well, but they are kids and have kid brains and hearts when it comes to feeling all the feels and trying to figure out life. It’s exhausting folks!
In the past 3-4 years, as blogging was transitioning, the whole online platform was transitioning too. Social media became more of a thing for people and now that’s where people connect, rather than through emails and personal, direct contact. On a personal level I like it a lot. I use it a lot. On a professional level with the mission, it’s meant a steep learning curve of trying to change things up, be relevant, and connect with and grow our donor base. And I’ve been trying to do this while living in Haiti and not having a lot of experience on the other side of the water where people are consuming this like food. My work load in the past 3-4 years has doubled, maybe even tripled, and much of it is because of online things like our website, social media accounts, blogging, writing email updates to our supporters… you get the idea. Add in my regular work like the accounting, designing all of our promotional materials, helping hire and manage staff, working with our Board of Directors, managing a lot of day to day things, managing our visitor program, emails… it’s a lot.
Until a few months ago I was doing all of this myself. I was a full-time work from home mom. We get up at 5 am every morning. Our work day starts at 6 am when the day is cool, because the guys are working outside. Our work day ends at 2:30 pm, and at 2:40 I go and get my kids from school. We come home, they have homework and we fight with things like getting uniforms changed and put away and backpacks and socks and shoes put in their respective places. The snacks, the whining over the pages that need to get completed before they can move on to other things. Then it’s time to make dinner. We eat, Alex hits the showers, Olivia does the dishes, she bathes, we do the bedtime routine of reading and tucking in and then we’re sitting at 8 pm and Chris and I have an hour or so with each other before our eyelids tell us it’s time for sleep. These are our days. The normal ones. These are not the days where we do all of this and host visitors or training classes, which we love to do, but that disrupt some of that routine.
It’s just a lot. And it’s okay. What went by the wayside in all of that though, was my desire to actually get the writing that was happening in my brain and my heart actually onto the blog. And, a big part of that was the transition that had happened in the blogging world that I mentioned above. When things shifted into blogging becoming a full time gig for many people, it upped the idea of what a blog should look like. For someone like me, who has people pleaser tendencies, it meant that I wanted to play like everyone else. So I started trying to make sure I had great pictures included in all my posts. And I talked about things like recipes and construction. Don’t get me wrong, I know that you love those things too, but it got away from the heart of why I started blogging in the first place, which was that I just wanted to write. They also take a lot of time when it comes to putting a post together, so I would start writing, but then be called away to something else, and that post would die in the drafts folder because it needed pictures and what not.
I wanted to write just to get it out. To process it. To share it. To have a journal like record of our lives here that we as a family could look back on so we would remember all the good and bad. I started writing to share life here with my friends and family back home, to open this world up to them even though they couldn’t be here. THAT was what I loved about blogging, and that was what you all kept telling me you loved about me blogging. And yet I got lost along the way with trying to do something that really just didn’t fit me. Of trying to be something that I’m not.
About a year and a half ago we had a visitor that came in to help me work on the mission website, and those few days with him started to clear the fog for me with some of this. As we sat across the table from each other for several days hacking through website details, of which I was very focused on the details, he looked at me one day and said, “Do you see yourself as a creative?” I had to stop before responding and ask him what he meant by that. He went on to tell me that what I had been able to do with the website to that point, without outside help, was great. But, what he noticed more was that I knew what I wanted it to look like, what I wanted it to do, what kind of experience I wanted it to be for people, and that was what was driving me. It wasn’t a technical thing, it was a creative thing. Something unlocked in me and I realized that this whole time that I had been calling myself administrative was poor labeling. I was a creative that used administration activities to accomplish my goals. I knew what I wanted our website to look like. I knew what I wanted our donor materials to look like, and why. And I knew that I needed to write because I just had to.
In the past few months stuff has started to shift for me here in Haiti. A large part of that is that Kim is now here working with us, and she’s sharing that load that I mentioned. She’s getting me organized and sharing the work load. We’re doing social media planning together and with the help of one of our board members we now have a team that does it together. We all write posts and plan and it’s a lot of fun, where as before it was feeling like this big overwhelming burden of a task that I never felt like I was able to keep up with. I knew it was much needed, but I was struggling to do it all myself. And we’re seeing the fruit of it. In November and December we saw the best giving season we’ve probably ever had at Clean Water for Haiti, with the bulk of our online donors being new supporters. That feels REALLY good. It’s working, and we’re helping more families get clean water because of it.
Kim is also helping me on a lot of other stuff, which means that projects that have been hanging out on my to-do list are getting done, and the list is getting smaller. My headspace for things is expanding and I feel the load lifting. I’m able to start thinking about new projects that I want to work on. I’m able to start thinking about regularly scheduled tasks that were easy before, but became hard because of all the things I was doing, becoming easy again. I’m excited because the point of having more routine at work again is so very close for me, and it hasn’t been there in YEARS.
Our construction is almost completely done. You guys, this has been a 3+ year process. 3 years of dividing our time and attention between running the day to day operations, and managing big construction projects. In the past 3 years we have built 4 buildings, start to finish. We have developed our work spaces and they are finally all done. We have a wonderful main mission house and office space that we only dreamed of a decade ago. Our guest house is amazing and seeing it used heavily through November and December and getting rave reviews on it from people that had experienced our other facilities makes my heart so happy. This is what we’ve been pushing for. But it is, with the exception of some cabinetry projects, finished. That part alone clears up so much space in my life because I’ve been doing a lot of the finishing work. Physically, hands on, building and staining and installing things, or giving direction to a team of people working with me to do them. It’s very freeing to be at this point.
The thing that stands out to me the most when I look back on the past 5 years and how all of this has affected my writing, is that I feel tired. Because that’s what I’ve been for a very long time. Just tired. And in this area of writing, not very creative because my creative juices and energies were being demanded in other places. Now that those areas don’t need as much of me, or any of me, I feel the creative juices flowing and the itch to be writing is coming back. Bit by bit, day by day. In the past couple of weeks, as we’ve headed into this new year, I’ve written so many blog posts in my head that I seriously need to figure out some sort of note taking system that works for me, because I don’t want to lose those ideas and thoughts.
I share all of this because I want you to know where I’ve been for the past couple of years. I want you to know why I haven’t had much to give here. I want you to know that even though that was the case, I still very much love this space and I want to be in it. I’m excited to be back in it. It feels like home.
I also want you to know that what you’re going to get here going forward is just me. I’m tired of trying to be someone I’m not, and I don’t feel the need to have a blog that looks like all the other ones out there. I live overseas, so sponsorship and advertising isn’t going to be a thing for me, because the logistics of that aren’t even possible. And, I don’t want them. I want this to be a pressure free space where I can just share the things that are on my heart and my mind, and not feel like I have to include pictures in every post or be writing like everyone else, because that’s not why I started this. Don’t get me wrong, there will be pictures, but they’ll be there as I want to include them, not because I feel like I need to in order to have a good blog post. And seriously, do you know how much time it takes to do the photo thing? So much time!!! Resizing, uploading, formatting, blah, blah, blah. Nope, we’re hopping off that crazy train friends.
You’re going to get me. You’re going to get our family. You’re going to get Haiti and all the ins and outs of living here. Sometimes that might look like stories about Haiti and all the crazy, beautiful and hard things that happen here. I want to get back to writing letters to my kids, because that’s the best way I can scrapbook for them. I want to share things I’m cooking, how I’m caring for my body and my family. And sometimes I want to talk about random thoughts. So, going forward you’re going to get it all.
I’m back :)
PS: I was talking to my Dad after my last post went up, and I was exactly right on his response. He was literally thinking those exact words as he was reading, then saw my PS note and had a good laugh.