Constance Hall and the F Bombs

Being REAL in a world full of curated gorgeousness is so needed.  We are all so desperate for a breath of fresh air!

'A Queen is a woman who just wants to love other women and not do that bitchy thing that so many of us do,' says Constance Hall.
‘A Queen is a woman who just wants to love other women and not do that bitchy thing that so many of us do,’ says Constance Hall.  (photo source abc.net.au)

 

Constance Hall is refreshingly real. She’s the actual ‘Bad Mom’ (have you seen that movie?  I hated it, but I got what they were trying to say… it’s time to let go of the ridiculousness between women that exists in mama-land).  She’s a skate-in-sideways chick. An Australian sensation, mother of 4 and insanely popular mummy blogger. And she has just released a book. It’s about her, about mothering four kids. It’s a no-holds-barred look at relationships and life after babies.

bookcoverconstancehall

Today I went to her book release Q & A session hosted by The Women’s Collective and the Pullman Hotel in Auckland. I knew she would be irreverant, I knew there would be some shock-factor stuff, because that is her trade. I knew there would be challenging statements, because she is the Constance Hall of the recent social media cyclone over the ditch (a fellow mummy blogger let rip about Con’s manner of mothering and Con retaliated. It sparked a ‘mum war’ on the internet). I stayed well clear of it because I hate the nastier side of social media. It makes me so sad.  But I was curious about this raw kind of mother. The tell-all kind of mum. It bucks the trend alright, I wanted to see if she was just a sensationalist, or if there was something deeper driving her work.

Me and my fellow Queens this morning, Trudy and Pascale.
Me and my fellow Queens this morning, Trudy and Pascale.  Yep, I am a Big Bird, and no, I am no longer going to stoop to try to be more diminutive than I am!  #tallgirlsproblems

I was fascinated. Con (we’re at nickname status already cos that is how she rolls) blew onto the stage like a kind of mini tornado. Her hair was frizzy in a way I recognise from my own morning mirror, but on top of it she was wearing a crown of flowers and jewels. She’s tiny in stature and massive in presence. You could say she kind of exploded onto the podium like a freak weather bomb; blowing in out of nowhere and taking off the roof.  Within two minutes she had reassured us that she was wearing undies, unlike the other four days she’d been in New Zealand, because she’d be catching a plane later and she needed somewhere to hide her wee. Her humour is as raw as she is and the whole way through her talk, f-bombs exploded like colourful fireworks, punctating her florid discussion. She’s kind of like what would happen if you could cross Frida Kahlo with Reese Witherspoon and Whoopi Goldberg. Kapow!

I loved her. I think everyone in the room did. I loved that she said out loud some of my hidden, inner thoughts. I even loved all the f-bombs, because they made us laugh. I dated a comedian in my younger years, he always said that people laugh at what they relate to, especially when it is rude. And because every human being can relate to toileting, sex and death, regardless of their individual circumstances, most comedy covers these subjects. It’s just funny for us to see our not-talked-about experiences mirrored by others. It makes us feel more normal. Apart from wees and poos, Con’s Q & A covered: marital sexy time, break-ups, behaviour management (of kids and husbands), dealing with a history of abuse, death of children and grandparents, suicide, wine, why it’s best not to fight in front of kids, the age-old working mum vs. stay at home mum debate, the importance of support, multiple birth mothering, dyslexia, The Sisterhood, dealing with judgmental people and the importance of connection.

I can’t wait to read her book; Like a Queen. She’s just adorable. She makes the very hard job of mothering feel so much more achievable. She makes us feel like we’re doing a great job. Like everyone has days when it goes to custard. I think we forget that, in our intensity around getting it right.  We forget to cut ourselves some slack occasionally. We forget that having a loving mother is much more important than any other type of benefit we can achieve for our kids.  That having a loving mother is more than many kids have.

There were tears today from we women in that packed out auditorium. Tears of recognition and relief.  I’ve come a long way since the early days of parenthood and my babies are much older than most of the little ones at the venue today, but the message was as relevant to me as for the new mums there.
Take a deep breath. Do you love your kids? Do they know it? Love wins, every time. And you know what? Extending a bit of that love in your own direction is a brilliant idea too from time to time. Might just stop you from losing your mother-f#$%ing mind!

This afternoon, I’m going to assess the impact of Cyclone Con. I reckon she demolished a few of the ideas in my head that were damaging my peace of mind. I am grateful. Who needs perfectionism anyway? All it has ever done for me is give me reasons to feel like a failure.  Good to see that particular idea hitting the dirt. And what  purpose comparison? See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya. And that ol’ flower, success? It’s moved into a new neighbourhood. Into the love camp. Over there I am already a raging success and that matters more than anything else.  I’m going to make like Queen Con, and take heart that my heart is the most important part of mothering.

Open your windows, let the winds of change blow out some of your cobwebby corners, too. It’s liberating!

If you’re keen, you can buy Like a Queen, here: www.likeaqueen.com.au

Useless

Hello, my name is Rachel and I am a useless blogger.

nametag

When I was little, the single most frustrating retort from my mother was when she would close my most recent, incessant argument with:

“JUST. BECAUSE.”

I needed a reason why I couldn’t chew gum/ wear a t-shirt with ‘easy’ emblazoned across the chest/ yell at my maths teacher (all true stories).  I needed reasons so I could keep arguing. So she would tighten the set of her jaw and shut up shop. Just. Because.  It’s taken being a mother myself to understand the value of the statement. It’s a full stop, a justification in and of itself. It’s enough, already. It’s when something needs simply to be accepted.

Back to this blogging malarky. It used to be that I would write a couple of posts a week, sometimes more. Each around 800 words apiece. I’ve amassed a large archive of words. But more often than not these days, I’m so busy in my offline world that my online world makes much less noise than it used to.

When I started blogging, I studiously ticked the boxes on the ‘backend’ of my blog. I fretted over my ‘niche’ and tried to quantify my ‘audience’. I ran giveaways, launched ‘series’, built awareness for my illness community and cared more about ‘SEO optimisation’ in my writing. But these days, I care most about writing. Just writing. If you are reading this I am so genuinely grateful, because I haven’t done much to bring you here or keep you here. I’m just being me, writing my story, in post-sized-bites.  I guess, technically, that makes me a useless blogger, a tag I am really proud to wear.  Because blogging is about much more than all that useful stuff. Blogging is about self-expression, about reflection and learning. For me, it’s a record of my thinking, an archive of my journey.

Veggiemama (Stacey) from Melbourne started it all. You can read here about how the useless-blogger-groundswell began, that my mate from I Give You the Verbs (Annette) turned into a movement, complete with it’s own hashtag (#uselessblogger), that ate the cat that swallowed the fly. I don’t know why we swallowed the fly, perhaps we’ll die!

It’s a grand thing to know that my blog can continue, ‘useless’ as it may be. It’s a bit extravagant maybe, blogging anyway, blogging about all of my life, not just one part of it. Writing even when what I have to say comes out and I think ‘yawn, who is going to want to read this anyway?’. But I have great faith that my readers, like you, have free will, and will only read on if you want to. If you don’t that’s fine with me too. There are blogs that I have lost interest in over the years. If you are here it’s because you want to be. I like hanging out with you! Thanks for staying.

This whole ‘useless blogging’ thing resonated with me. The blogs I love most are the ‘useless’ ones. The ones people write for the love of blogging, not the pursuit of followers.  The ones that bare it all, that lay their hearts out on the screen, full of authentic power. The vulnerability, the mundane, the beautiful normality of life. And sometimes, too, the pain.  I love these blogs because their authors care most about being real. It’s much more interesting to me than a pretty splash page, a new header image, or fancy widgets. Those things all have their own merits, but it’s content that floats my bloggy boat.

Do you blog?  Are you a ‘useless blogger’ too?
Join the revolution!  Be a daredevil and blog,

just. because.

What’s in a word?

I’ve always loved word play. So when I started this blog, playing with the ‘chronic illness’ part of my title made perfect sense. I wanted to chronicle my life, a record of my thinking for my kids, a resource for other patients, a place where I could write through all the issues I was facing. So calling my blog The Chronic-ills of Rach was fitting and mildly funny.  I think even then though, I was hopeful. I didn’t reserve that name as a domain name, preferring to use rachelfaithcox.com instead.

And life, sometimes, does beautiful things and turns in directions you never expected. I’m in remission, I’m out and about. I’m working and being an active parent. I’m enjoying all the offerings of life in well-land! And it feels quite strange to have a blog called the Chronic-ills of Rach when right now, illness is not the all-consuming factor it used to be in my life. So I have amended my blog title. I wanted to do it this way, to pay homage to the places I have been.  But I’m no good at coding and my blog theme is too locked down.   This is what my title image would have looked like if I had those skills.

the CHRONICLES

It feels like it’s time to move and grow.  The Chronic-ills of Rach will become the Chronicles of Rach, and I will continue to write here.  About the full range of things that happen in my world. Maybe that will include things about remission, maybe relapse (but I really, really hope not!) and maybe there will be more about living life on the outside after a long time living on the inside.  Maybe you’ll come with me as I traverse these new paths? I’d love you to stay.

It’s been frankly quite weird going from mostly horizontal, to a job (plus size modelling) where my work is almost all standing. What a wonderful thing to get to experience the pampering and glamour of having my hair and makeup done by someone else! I’ve been learning all sorts of new tricks about how to make the most of my outward appearance. I feel like I have stepped sideways into a different dimension, into someone else’s life. And it would be a cinch to just drift away on the ease of feeling well, to take it all for granted and live the life that others seems to lead. It’s just that I can’t. I can’t forget and, well…
I don’t want to.

For me, all this outward beauty stuff is truly delightful. It’s a treat. It’s what so many little girls dream of.  Playing dress ups for a job! But I am keenly aware of the fact that outward beauty is ephemeral. There is smoke an mirrors, there is photoshop. There are skilled artists who sculpt and paint and tease and curl. It’s all very beautiful, but it is not soul sustenance. True beauty, the beauty I care about, is soul deep. And that kind of beauty is accessible to everyone, even without a team of hair and makeup and the skills of talented photographers!  True beauty shines out from the insides. And it is only created through experience.  Through living all of life’s highs and lows.

chroniclestitlechangeimage

So, from a girl-all-at-sea, into a fast world of action and busy-ness, I stop and survey the terra-firma. I hope to keep one eye at all times on the things that matter most. People. Connection. Communication. Kindness. These things easily get lost in the cut and thrust of everyday life. Mine is a strange shift of fortunes and I want so badly not to lose the lessons that washed up with me on this shore. I will gather them. I will continue to write about the things that matter.

So, welcome to my new/old blog!  Will you be hanging around?

Words, Margins, Bias and a Small Whisper

I have a very loving relationship with words. Words and I have been going around together for many years. But sometimes, words disappear and I am left floundering without my dear friend. Lost in the land of no writing. When that happens, I try reading. I listen to music.  I try to be more observant of what is going on around me.  I try to find the ‘muse’. But she is even more elusive than the words.

So I am just going to collate here a few things that have been skipping around my brain, skirting the edges and looking for a place to land. Usually these things arrive for me all packaged up and ready to write, but not this time. So bear with me while I purge to the page, all the little bitsies that don’t seem to fit anywhere in particular.

First and most importantly:  I got my histology results!  The “margins were clear,” which means, no more high grade pre-cancer cells proliferating on my cervix. Woop!  I am so happy about that!  It was such a weird sensation to get that news, because I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if my luck really was that bad. Ya know?!  (I’ve been reading about types of cognitivie bias, thanks to my friend Beth… this type of thinking is an example of negative bias.  You can read about 9 other types here). So I am thankful and happy and so full of the joys of spring over that very good news! That medical terminology about margins… it got me thinking about the margins of society, how some things are marginal, and some people are too.  I thought about how often I doodle in the margins. And I wanted to write a post about that, but I couldn’t make it happen. So instead, a paragraph. The margins were clear. And… exhale! By the way, did you know that Colin Firth is not just rather attractive, he’s also deeep?!  Lookie here…

 

If you don't mind haunting the margins,

During the course of my Be.Leadership programme, we have examined the concept of unconscious bias. All forms of bias. The challenges to clear thinking and accurate assessments of situations. I think being able to identify bias is a really important criticial thinking challenge for all of us. Particularly at this juncture in human history.  My cousin posted this on facebook from the Dalai Lama.  It says it better than me.  But do look also at this article if you are interested in discovering the types of cognitive bias that might be dogging your thinking. For me it is a constant search and stretch as I seek objectivity and good decision making, as a mother, friend, wife, sister, daughter, citizen. I think of these biases as ways of thinking that adjust my sails. My course can be drastically altered and I can end up way off course if I let them influence my thinking without conscious awareness.  Being aware helps me to counterbalance my thinking.

If you don't mind haunting the margins,(1)

So that is me and my jumble of thoughts today.

I also want to tell you, but almost in a whisper, just so I don’t jinx it, that I am feeling really good. Stronger. It’s not what I expected as I begin to wean off the meds that have helped me so much. So… fingers crossed.  I’m going to employ some gambler’s bias (‘it’s a winning streak!’) and let my ship sail quietly into a safe harbour.  I’ll stay there as long as weather permits.

Shhhhh, let’s not rouse the wind from it’s four corners.  Shhhhh…

 

 

 

8 Great Things you can do to Live Well with Chronic Illness.

I sat yesterday morning in the infusion centre beside a beautiful woman called Christine.

We always try to sit together when our dates coincide in the infusion room at Auckland City Hospital. She goes more regularly than I do, for her regular vials of IV Immunoglobulin.  Every fourth Monday since we first met, we’ve been sitting together while her IVIG boosts her fight against Myasthenia Gravis, and my Pulse Methylprednisolone suppresses the cause of my Pandysautonomia. She’s great company.

I am always impressed with Christine.  In the face of some truly difficult and devastating challenges, she always looks beautiful and is beautiful.  Carefully groomed, well dressed with such a warm and  lovely nature.  She always has a bag full of occupations to keep her busy.  Yet, she makes time to chat, to ask how things are.  She remembers my kid’s names and cares about what they’re up to. She works part time as an English tutor and is studying the Maori language in her spare time. She is a devoted mother and grandmother, wife, neighbour, online patient forum member, and friend to many. I honestly can’t comprehend how she manages all of those things, every day, and a severe chronic illness as well. But her example makes me want to be better at living with chronic illness. She has made me think more about all the things that we can try to do, to distract, manage, cope with and transcend chronic illnesses.  She is one of the people I look to for guidance, carefully watching how they do it. There are some incredible people out there to learn from, I bet you know some too.  You probably see one of my sources every time you look in the mirror!

B(4)

Here are the 8 of most effective ways of overcoming I have observed in the world of chronic illness.
Some strategies:

Get Right-Brainy

Knit, crochet, write, listen to music, paint, sew, create, play an instrument, make, or do whatever it is you can do within your ability. Remember the complete satisfaction of creativity? It’s transformative, distracting, wonderful.  Listen to creative people talking about their creativity. Invite creative people over to teach you techniques. Watch YouTube tutorials. Do some online courses. Search for ideas. If you can, attend cultural events, musical recitals, the ballet, a musical, a movie festival, poetry reading, gallery or museum.  If you can’t, visit them online.

 

Source: http://meetmeatmikes.com/craft-saves-the-day/
Used with the generous permission of Pip Lincolne: http://meetmeatmikes.com/craft-saves-the-day/

Get Involved

Participate in the initiatives and events being organised by your patient groups on facebook and elsewhere.  Get to know others. There is so much soul-food in the solidarity of people who have travelled the same paths as you. Engage with them. Help fundraise for research. Get the word out in whatever ways are available to you. Post, and comment in patient forums. Ask questions, help out with the knowledge you have gained on your journey already. Finding your tribe is so good for you.  So affirming.  And there are always avenues to be proactive about the circumstances chronic illness has given you. Being an involved member of society is a wonderful way to begin to overcome.

Get Ready

I have spent days that became weeks that became years, living in old jeans, t-shirts and sweat tops, or staying my PJs. It made me feel even more grey and unattractive.  If you can manage it, find a position that works for you near a mirror and put on some makeup. Brush your hair and find something nice to wear, even if it is simply a favourite scarf. Sometimes, getting ready for the day, even if it is likely to be the same as yesterday, makes you feel a little brighter.  I don’t understand the psychology of that, but it just somehow seems to work. When my Mum was battling ovarian cancer, she spent some time with the good people of the ‘Look Good, Feel Better’ Foundation. She came back armed with bags of goodies, a stunning make up look they had helped her to create and new ways of styling her headwear. She walked taller, smiled more and reported more energy when her lippy was on. It’s a kind of magic for the self esteem, somehow.  A lesson I need to remember more often.

It changes how you see yourself, which

Get Outdoors or Bring it In

Even if getting out takes enormous scheduling, incredible effort and results in days of payback, try to get out when you can. Try to make it into the outdoors to look at the beauty of that sky, to breathe in that fresh air and feel a breeze on your cheek.   Even rain feels incredible when you have been stuck inside for too long. I have never felt so amazing as when I floated in the warm sea on my back, blue sky above and white sand below. It’s so therapeutic. We are born for nature.  If you are bed-bound, see if someone can bring you something beautiful from outside from time to time. My kids have always been so lovely with this. A cicada shell, a posy of autumn flowers, a droopy dandelion seed head with all the wishes, wished.  Treasures from outside to hold and to take your mind out there. Maybe you miss seeing all that beauty for yourself and it’s impossible.  Take a look at my photo series from Be Couper: How to Just Be.  She has generously shared some of her stunning photography for my readers to lose themselves in, when nature needs to come to you.

Be Couper Yellow Skies

Transport Yourself

Reading, listening to audio books and watching television series or movies will take you places!  Overcome your reality with a healthy dose of fiction. It’s brilliant to vicariously live the experiences you can’t easily have. Audio books are particularly helpful because you don’t have to lift the book or strain your eyes.  Libraries usually have a good stock that you can order. Sometimes even online!  The Book Depository has free worldwide shipping and a staggering range of titles if you prefer to buy. When I really want to get outside of myself, I call a close friend or family member overseas and indulge in a long chat. Imagining the things they tell me about, where they are, how it looks, how it feels. It’s armchair travel with the joy of connection. Bliss.

It changes how you see yourself, which(1)

Laugh

…because laughing raises your endorphins and happy hormones can’t help but leave you, happy!  Watch the comedy channel. Listen to children talking amongst themselves or playing games. Be silly.  Pull faces and do funny accents. We have a dress-up box and nothing makes the kids giggle so much as coming home to find mummy in an odd wig. Wear crazy things, if that is your thing. Listen to podcasts from clever comedy writers. Read funny blogs. Let your children choose your clothes for a day. Google jokes on subjects that you find funny.  Tell them to people. Recall funny memories and tell them to the kids. Friends.  The nurse.  And when you laugh, make it big!  Breathe deeper, laugh louder, linger longer on the funny bit. It’s good for you.

Find ways to tell people how much you(1)

Give

Chronic Illness teaches us so much.  We often would rather skip the lesson, thanks. But we get it. And consequently, we ‘get’ a lot about life; about what is important. About how to truly love. About patience, compromise, honesty and communication. Be generous with that hard-fought wisdom. Be a good listener. Do you have a talent or skill that you can offer?  A wonderful person I know is severely debilitated by her illness. She volunteered to cut up blankets for the SPCA.  Because she could do that.
Do the household tasks around you that are achievable. Fold those clothes.  Chop the veggies in your bedroom or set-up on the kitchen floor.  Whatever works for you. Maybe there is something else you can think of that you could do for someone? Find ways to tell people how much you appreciate them.  Because being generous is one of the ways that human beings become happy.  If you can’t give of your energy; you can give of your heart.

Find ways to tell people how much you

Find Your Thing

All of these strategies are things I have observed in people I admire with chronic illness.  Some of them work for me too. But for me, the greatest of all is writing. It is my favourite overcoming tool. Writing a blog is a focused habit of writing that I use as my therapy, my release, my way to help, my journey to memory, my connection with my community. If you would like to try blogging too, I recommend it. It can open doors you might never imagine. Being part of the blogging community has also introduced me to some of my favourite regular blog reads. It has given me a format for my research and learning around Dysautonomia and an avenue for meeting people I may never have met if I hadn’t begun to write. I can’t thank Kylie at Rainbows and Clover enough for starting me back at the keyboard, or my fellow Dysautonomiac, Michelle Roger, for sparking this blog by doing such a rad job of her own. And of course… Pip Lincolne for teaching me how to make it happen! I hope that someone else out there might find the spark too.  It’s helping me overcome, every day.  Ask me about it!  I have an online course recommendation! 😉

Whatever methods you employ, don’t give up. There are always, ways to overcome.

Find ways to tell people how much you(2)

Have I missed some good ones?
How do you distract yourself from the daily realities of chronic illness?

…and Christine? You are doing brilliantly. Thankyou for being such a stoic, thoroughly great person to infuse and enthuse with. Kia Kaha.  Stand Tall.

NB. to my shame, this one of the only Maori phrases I know, but it is useful and pertinent for a girl like me, I use it all the time!

 

The Bunny, the Book and the Blog

and a happy little side effect called euphoria

Oh it’s a buzzy world I inhabit today!  I’ve just had my monthly infusion and that makes me feel a bit manic, a bit weird (just quietly) and like I can manage anything (I think that is the euphoria side-effect, again): only I don’t. Manage anything. Because it’s just a feeling, not a practical reality.

B(3)

(it is hard to find ‘a’ words to go with that picture, so A-nother had to do! I’m not tired of them, as that word implies, I am very, very grateful for them).

In reality, I’m here on the sofa, letting the weird win over, waves of bust-outta-my-skin-feeling, crazy, heat, palpitations, fuzzy vision and a yuck post-infusion taste in my mouth.  Thankfully, the flush is yet to begin, I can look forward to that joy tomorrow. So I’m riding it out, resting and hanging out with my bunny-onesie-pyjamioed daughter.  We’ve been giggling.

I like it.  So here we are while I fizz away in my slightly manic post-infusion-way and show her how I post on my blog.  Why? She wants to start her own, how cool is that?… I’ll keep you posted on how that goes!  Here she is, modelling my current reading material.  You’ll see why, soon.

 

B

 “So, Mum. How do you write a blog post?”

“I’ll show you!”

NOTES FOR MY GIRL
(and anyone else who wants to write a post someday)

STEP 1:
You find something that you want to WRITE about.   It might be a conversation that you want to discuss, a picture that inspired you, something that riled you or a moment that ‘smiled’ you.  Whatever it is, get writing. Start with some context for your blog piece.
I want to write about a great evening with you, my girl and how it relates to learning to blog.  So I start to tell the story, like this:

We’re in the lounge, my BobbyD, and me.  We’re having our special after dinner cuppa and unwinding; we’re discussing this bookDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, by Malcolm Gladwell. The kids have gone to bed (or so we think….) and I’m inspired because Gladwell’s way of pulling things together is totally brilliant. I already love his other works, and he has written here about something I am passionate about… the misfit. By the way, have you read ‘Outliers’?  I think it’s essential reading for every parent teacher and coach.  This one looks to be just as good!

…and then you SAVE DRAFT and carry on writing until your piece has a beginning, a middle (and eventually, a clear end) like this:

So anyway, I’ve always loved the story of David and Goliath.  David’s bravery, his self-assuredness, his strategic approach to what seemed like insurmountable odds. It’s a great story for the book to start on. So I’m regaling my hubby with Malcolm’s pithy, easy-to-read, yet intelligent writing style, when our tween enters the lounge. She crosses her long legs underneath her on the sofa and settles in to listen. I pause, and remind her that it is bedtime. She says, “But… it’s just…” and I wait for what usually follows. (Insert here: I’m thirsty/ I have more homework/ One more chapter/ just another hug…).  But she flashes a huge grin and continues,
“it’s just that… you’re cool when you have cuppas and talk about books.  I want to hang with you.”

Is it a cunning ploy? If so, she’s getting good. If not… oh, if not!  I am completely taken by the notion that I might, finally, after ten years, have achieved “cool” status with my girl!  And it’s connected to cups of tea and books! I don’t want to let go of that loveliness, not straight away. Maybe she could stay up. Just a little longer…
…she is clearly very astute.  Because it doesn’t stop there.

In a master stroke, she tells me I am also cool because I blog. That she would like to blog, too. She offers to get my computer, and retrieve some of my secret chocolate stash from the censored location (so much for that spot!) We settle in to write this post together.  We take some photos to use in the post. She wants to know all about how it works.
How cool, is she?!

I’m suckered right in. She’s here beside me now and we are blogging. 🙂

STEP 2:

Gather what you need.  Computer, chocolate, photos.  This is really what you do right at the very beginning, but it came up in the story now, so it will have to be step two.  Yes, Bee.  The preparation is important, it will save you time later.

STEP 3:

Click that button up there to the right that says, SAVE DRAFT.  Then, ADD LINKS to all the text which make sense for linking outside the blog (to relevant websites) and to your own (to something you’ve written before).   Links are the highlighted words in your post that will take readers to other webpages. I will link the text about Malcolm Gladwell’s book so people can find it, and then I will link the text that refers to my daughter, to a post I made last year all about her.  She adds that I should link Daddy’s name to the post I wrote about him
(see? She’s cool and clever).

STEP 4:

Source and edit and UPLOAD YOUR PHOTOS. I keep it pretty simple, I either take photos on my iPhone, or pay and use licensed pictures from Canva (an online blog graphic app). I do that to make sure I am not breaching copyright with other peoples’ pictures.

When you’ve edited them and got them looking just so, add them to your page and make sure the settings are right. I could go on about that, but my girl has to go to bed now, so showing her this bit might have to happen next time I am cool enough for her company…

I interrupt this transmission to put her, firmly and finally, to bed.

Wow.  That was fun!  I think I am going to like teaching her how to blog!  If I am the admin of her site, I can keep it as safe and as private as possible.  She wants to blog about her favourite pastime, horse riding, followed by…
“horse gaming, horse pictures and horse products and horse books and favourite horse gear…” (take a breath, girl!)  I think finding her ‘niche’ will be pretty straightforward!

STEP 5:
SAVE DRAFT.  Check, EDIT, go through your post.  When you are sure it looks right (Bee, that means when Mummy is sure your post is ready, appropriate and proofed!) you can schedule it or PUBLISH it immediately.   I always check it again the minute I publish to make sure I didn’t miss things.  It’s easy to miss things in the wordpress draft format. In fact, I find editing after publishing to be highly motivational!

STEP 6:
Let people know it is there! Link your post to your blog’s facebook page. Add it to the ‘link ups’ or ‘share threads’ you are part of on any facebook groups you belong to.  If your blog has a subscription plug in, people should get an email to say it is there.

STEP 7:
…aaaand, finish with a question or two.  It lets the reader know that you would love their interaction.  It turns it into a conversation.  Much nicer.

Tada!  That is how I write a blog post.
If you are a blogger, is your process similar?
And even more important, are you COOL, too?

 

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Photograph by Bee Cox (my girl)

Ah!  I’m cool, yes I am. Maybe only for one ten year old girl who doesn’t want to go to bed.
But it counts, okay?

 

The Unplanned Pregnancy

This post is kind of special!  It’s…glitter numbers proclaiming The Chronic-ills of Rach's 200th Blog PostHe he he!  I think that means I can call myself a BLOGGER!

It was a bit accidental, becoming a blogger. I’d been doing some writing for my cousin’s website when she joined me to the Australian Blog Chicks group on facebook. Someone there recommended a blogging course.  It made me think that maybe there was a particular way to write for the web and maybe I needed to learn how.  At that time, I was in bed for a lot of every day too, so an online course seemed like just the thing.  I enrolled in the ‘Blog with Pip’ course for May 2014.

But Dysautonomia put me back in hospital just as it began. I was devastated to miss the start, but Pip set my mind at ease and encouraged me to begin anyway. Her course materials are available beyond the course dates, it was a huge relief!  However, I quickly realised that I’d need to actually have a blog to get the most out of the course.  And that is how The Chronic-ills of Rach began.  A bit like an unplanned pregnancy. Sudden, unexpected, but nice… once you get used to the idea!

And like a ‘whoopsy’ baby, the arrival of my blog illuminated the fact that having one was exactly what I have been needing, without ever knowing it!  Blogging has been wonderful for me. I’ve been able to write out things that help other people, but in doing it I have helped myself. It’s been therapeutic, educational, stretching. I’ve had a platform for discussing important issues, an opportunity to raise awareness, a space for making personal reflections, an outlet for my creativity and the beginning of a brand new direction and purpose in my life.

As a kid, I always thought of myself as a writer, but somehow the years between then and now convinced me that dream was for someone else. Like I couldn’t legitimately claim it, or it was too late, or too lofty an idea. Over the last twelve months, post by post, I’ve been claiming back my territory. That dream is mine! I am taking it back. I’ve been using my words. Like a big girl.

Thank you for reading my blog.  🙂  A blog is just a diary if no one ever reads it and I am so glad you have chosen to click on over.  Really, thanks!  You make my day, after day, after day!  Your comments, your presence, make the writing so much more meaningful for me than just navel gazing.  I have a context, we have a conversation. It warms my heart.

According to my web host, I’ve had 1,115,155 hits since I started last year.  Woohooooo!  That number makes my mind swim.  I’m blogging from a tiny country at the bottom of the world and my biggest numbers of readers come from the US, France, Germany, China, Latvia, Australia, Ukraine, Italy and Russia, in that order. Of course, some of my ‘readers’ are probably internet crawling robots, but I don’t care (!) all are welcome here, especially if they contribute to giddy numbers like the one above.  Happy days.  I am in a celebrating mood.  Might have myself a cuppa.

Well done little bloggy baby.  We’ve made 200 posts together.  We’ve made new friends. We’ve made a difference, and if the difference is only for one person who felt less alone because of my words, then it is worth all the effort.  If you are thinking of beginning a blogging journey, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Try Pip’s outstanding course.  Get amongst it, I promise you will surprise yourself.  Blogging is a gentle, collegial, congenial way to flex your writing again.  Why not?

And if you are a blogger already, please leave a link to your blog in the comments below.  I’d love people to find your blogs through my blog. It’s a bit like a neighbourhood block party.  Blog party!  Heh!  Leave a link and tell me how blogging got born for you.

Ciao!
Rach

Across the Ditch

Most of you know that this blog came about because I enrolled in an online course last year.  I thought it was a writing course, but it turned out to be much more.  I had been getting progressively sicker when my wonderful cousin-friend across the ditch, asked me if I would do some writing for her business blog. I was so grateful to have a thing to focus on, a job to do at my own pace… but really nervous that my writing wouldn’t be up to snuff. So I enrolled in a course for bloggers, seeking clarification on what good blog writing looked like.  Turned out that to get the most out of the course, I’d need to create a blog.  So I did.

The course I chose was run by a really ace person in Melbourne. I say ‘ace’ because that is what they say, across the ditch*.  Retro is big over there I think, even when it comes to words!  Our New Zealand equivalent from the same era is ‘choice’. Pip Lincolne is a really choice person, she is big hearted.  And her course goes WAY beyond the craft of blogging.  The community she has created is warm and supportive.  It has given me new friends, new creative inspiration, new hope and even new opportunities.  Among the many great bloggers I have met through her alumni community are the two women I have linked to below. Lila and Carly both blog with complete transparency.  They facilitate significant communities themselves and neither is afraid to tackle the big issues. Which brings me to the purpose of today’s post.

Just lately, across the ditch, there have been some terribly distressing revelations about big name health bloggers.  You might have heard about the very sad case of Jess Ainscough who recently lost her battle with cancer, despite claiming, and (mis)leading many others to believe, that she could heal herself through diet.  And then, the mysterious case of multi-award winning social media darling, Belle Gibson, who claimed to be healing herself of cancers she may never have actually had. The story continues to unfold as thousands of her followers peel off in the shock of the allegations of additional charity fraud.  Belle herself has disappeared.

Both Lila and Carly felt strongly enough about the recent events to write about them.  And what they wrote inspired me to also say something here.  As another ‘health’ blogger, I have always felt that is important to be clear with my readers about the information I provide. You’ll find paragraphs peppered through my writing, reminding you that every person with Dysautonomia is different.  You’ll have heard me urge you to seek the advice of your own medical professionals. But I am also aware that most of the progress I have made with medication and treatment, has come about because like you, I am a reader of information. I have spent years searching for the piece of the puzzle that might help. I found my piece, and I recognise that sometimes it can just be a sentence, somewhere, that mentions that one word you might need to send you searching on a new tangent.  I sincerely hope you are able to find your puzzle piece. I hope that if the piece you need is a similar shape to mine, you’ll find easy to understand words all about it, right here. If not, keep on looking, keep on seeking. And most importantly, keep on verifying what you read.

The only thing that I am expert on is my own journey through chronic illness.  If you also have a chronic illness, it will be different to my journey. Much of what occurs for me might be irrelevant to you. What I hope will be very relevant is less the treatment pathway I have taken or the specifics of my medical history, but rather, the attitudes and values I bring to this blog.  The things I have in common with every one of you, sick or not. The things that make us connect and understand each other.  The human experience.

I am so grateful to have this blog.  To be getting to know the people who are kind enough to stop and read it. To be building a community over on facebook.  So, in the spirit of Carly’s Health Blogger’s Pledge:

I promise to always write with authenticity.

I promise to use my words carefully.

I promise to carry the responsibility of writing for my community with integrity.

I promise to continue to share in ways that are helpful, hopeful and honest.

It’s a real privilege to receive feedback from you about how the words I share have helped you.  It never fails to surprise and delight me that what I am doing has a purpose and can help. It feels better than any job I have ever done, to lend my support, my thoughts, my words to people who want to read them. Wowsers!
(I’m really getting into the retro ‘wordage’ now!)

I hope it continues to be that way for those of you who have found me here and discovered a kindred spirit. I love to blog. I love blogging about and for people with chronic illness, invisible illness and differing ability. You are very cool, very resilient people. I love blogging about motherhood, womanhood, and every other thing that occurs to me and gets my fingers tapping. It’s been a diverse spread so far. I love connecting with you and your own ideas about life.  Thanks for meeting me here.  I promise I will always be authentically me, in all my honest, oversharing, emotional and verbose ways.

Isn’t it all about that?  When I share my heart and my hopes with you, there is something in you that feels the same way. Something that makes you think ‘me too!’ and in that recognition; there, that is the magic that keeps me blogging.

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*’Across the ditch’ is a friendly expression used between Australians and New Zealanders, it describes where the other country is in relation to our own.  It works both ways. Our ‘ditch’ is the Tasman Sea.

 

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Source: Wikipedia

 

 

TCKs

Hello!  I am a terrible twitterer, but today I woke to find my blog listed on a best of TCK list (Thanks Summertime Publishing!).

If you came to my site today through that link, here are some of my posts that relate to being a TCK:
http://rachelfaithcox.com/problem-like-maria/
http://rachelfaithcox.com/reunion/
http://rachelfaithcox.com/papua-new-guinea-paradise-lost/

Are you a TCK? Follow summertime publishing’s tweets, they’ll be adding more bloggers and books to their directory…
http://www.expatbookshop.com/extra-resources/directory-of-tck-cck-blogs-websites-a-to-m/

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Petits ‘fours’

I’m joining in a blog post idea suggested by my blogging friends Clare and Nettie. It’s a series of questions with answers of four. I’d love to hear your petits-fours too!  Just copy and paste the questions into the comments field, I’d like to get to know you better and this is a fun and easy way!  In-four-mation makes the world go round.  Bahaha!

Four names that people call me, other than my real name.

Rachiepoo
Ragey
Fat Foo
Mumma

Four jobs I have had (not counting current jobs)

Cut Price Deli chick
IT help desk
Telephone marketer
(yep.  be kind to those poor souls, they’d rather not be calling you, either)
A blue body-painted extra in a promotional event.

Four movies I have watched more than once

Toy Story
The Piano
Whale Rider
We bought a Zoo

Four books I’d recommend

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
North of Normal by Cea Person
Purple Hibiscus (or any of Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie’s books)
The Good Women of China by Xinran

Four places I’ve lived

Christchurch; enduring memories are icy puddles on winter mornings and frost on my woollen school socks.  I had a pink school uniform, a tree hut in the willow tree. And I met two lasting friends, Rachel.G and Dana.

Papua New Guinea; land of Islands and Mountains, sunshine and breeze. This country is a big part of who I am today. All the memories fill my heart and mind and have shaped my personality.

Melbourne; in a boarding house, far far from home.  It was in a huge city, yet my world there was very small.

Sydney; my first ‘grown up’ home, a little flat with gingham kitchen curtains.  I loved keeping house and making everything just so. But arranging cushions does not a marriage make!  Thankfully, happy endings have been had by all who lived in that little Hornsby nest.

Four places I have been

China (loved the alleyway markets in Tian Jin)
USA (Colorado is my favourite state so far)
Germany (au-pair to a family in Munich)
England (where I met rellies who made me appreciate the marvel of genes)

Four places I would rather be right now

There’s no where I would rather be, but if I HAD to be somewhere else… and there were no limitations hefted on me by reality…

I’d be at Vista Verde in Colorado, having another magical white Christmas.  But only if everyone I love could be there too (yes, that includes you Nettie, and all the Pipsters, my dear friends, my girls from the Dysautonomia community and my lovely readers)!  We’d book out the whole ranch and build gingerbread houses and sing carols with the cowboys and take sleigh rides, or ride horses through the snow and drink mulled wine! There would be hot spas looking out over the snow covered Lodge, steaming mugs of hot chocolate, Cholly’s homebaked cookies, cedar scented cabins, snow tubing and twinkling trees lighting the snow-ploughed path home each night! Ohhhh!  Lucky lucky people that are doing just that right now.

(here’s some photos from when we did it for real)

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I’d be in Darwin: so I could see the precious bump that is going to be my little nephew next year, and hug his much-missed parents this Christmas; see their new house and get a fix for what their world looks like.  I’ve only seen it in my imagination and I want to know what it feels like in that part of the world.

I’d be in Sydney: so I could wish my bro and his beautiful wife and kids a Merry Christmas in person, which would involve my arms around all of them, lots of loud and enthusiastic singing and lots of floating in the pool, ‘cause Sydney, like Darwin, is too HOT!

I’d be in Gisborne: so I could marvel anew at how giant my nephews are becoming, meet the new puppy, chat and reminisce about my Mum with my sister. Dose up on those sisterly cups of tea, and wish them all a beautiful Christmas too.

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Four things I don’t eat

offal
strange parts of animals
kimchi
pork buns (after an experience once on a ship that I cannot shake from my amygdyla)

Four of my favourite foods

(I had to put these into categories, because I couldn’t stop at four!)

Pavlova, Chocolate, Cake, Cinnamon Rolls
Fresh garden veggies; asparagus, snow peas, capsicum, grilled artichokes
Venison, lamb, crayfish and salmon
Fresh still-warm white bread (I know.  Evil.  Yet delicious!)

Four TV shows that I watch

Game of Thrones
Downton Abbey
Graham Norton
Anything on the Living Channel

Four things I am looking forward to this year (and into 2015)

Finally trialling treatment and hopefully having favourable results
Hearing back about a study opportunity… and hopefully, DOING it!
Spending heavenly horse time with my daughter’s new pony (shhh!  still a secret from her!)
Writing more…

 

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Four things I am always saying

“WHO was the last person in the toilet?!”
“Try again, using calm words…”
“…it’s a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, the part of our bodies that controls all the automatic functions”
“FFS” (it’s swearing, so I won’t translate)

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Come on!  Tell me your fours…

(copy and paste this into your comment)
Four namesFour jobs
Four movies
Four books
Four places lived
Four places been
Four places I’d rather be
Four foods I don’t eat
Four foods I love
Four TV shows
Four things I’m looking forward to this year
Four things I say