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Goodbye WEGO Health Challenge, Hello Blogathon

1 May

In April I participated in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge, in which I published a post every day for the month of April, based on health-related prompts.

I am now participating in the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon, which means one post every day for the month of May.

When I first started Running For Autism a little over two years ago, my blogging was an airy-fairy kind of affair. My original intent was for this to primarily be a running blog, but it morphed very quickly into far more than that. Running is such an important part of who I am, and it is frequently difficult to squeeze it in with all of the other responsibilities I have, and I found impossible to write about it without adding the context of my life. For example, how could I write about running to raise funds for autism without trying to raise some awareness about the impact of autism on my life?

And so my subject matter started expanding to include posts about parenting and autism. As my wedding day approached and I started feeling the typical angst of a bride-to-be, my blog became a place for me to vent about my stress and toss around ideas for how to plan a wedding that both of my children could be fully involved in. At some point I started to try my hand at fiction in the Indie Ink writing challenges. A little while after that, I felt a little glimmer of bravery that allowed me to tentatively start discussing my struggles with depression.

Even as I cast my net of topics wider and grew my audience, I found it difficult to prioritize my blogging. I have a lot on my plate. I am a wife and mother. I have a child with autism. I have a full-time job outside of the home that involves two hours of commuting each day. I help my husband with his business and take care of making sure bills are paid and taxes are filed. I run. I have a commitment to write three articles a week for an ezine.

Inevitably, blogging took a back seat to all of this, and I was posting once or twice a week if I was lucky.

When WEGO Health sent me an email inviting me to participate in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to see it through to completion. I mean, we were talking about a blog post every day for a month. In the end I signed up, spurred on by the fact that the challenge coincided with Autism Awareness Month. This seemed like a great opportunity not only to give my writing a boost, but to spread the word about autism and offer some hope and encouragement to parents feeling overwhelmed by a newly acquired diagnosis.

We have now reached the end of what turned out to be a very successful challenge. The prompts that were provided offered new ways for me to think about the health focuses that matter most to me – autism, mental health and running. I had to really dig deep and be honest with myself and with the world – or at least, the corner of the world that reads my blog. I had some moments of soul-searching, and I found myself addressing questions that I’ve never had the courage to ask before.

There were two days on which the prompts just couldn’t work for me. Try as I might, I could not get past the writer’s block. The challenge rules allowed two “get out of post free” days, but I was loathe to use them. Instead, I turned to the list of bonus prompts that were provided just for occasions like that. As a result, I published a post every day in April.

Through this challenge, I gained some new readers, and some great new blogs to follow. I read some incredible stories of courage and perseverance. So many aspects of health were covered in this challenge: diabetes, cancer, mental illness, special needs parenting, and so many others.

When you read so many stories of people fighting to survive, going to the ends of the earth for their children, and using their own painful experiences to help their fellow man, it really gives you renewed faith in the awesomeness of humankind.

Thank you to WEGO Health for putting this challenge out there. Thank you to my fellow bloggers for taking me on journeys that I could never have otherwise imagined. And thank you to everyone who reads my blog, who leaves comments or clicks the “like” button, or who shares my posts on Facebook or Twitter. It means a lot to me to know that my voice is being heard.

I am compiling a list of fellow bloggers who took the challenge, and when my new website is launched, they will be on the blogroll.

(Photo credit: This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)

Painting Pictures With Words

30 Apr

I am participating in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge, in which I publish a post every day for the month of April, based on health-related prompts.

April 30 – Word Cloud: Make a word cloud or tree with a list of words that come to mind when you think about your blog, health or interests. 

When I read this prompt, the first (OK, the only) thought in my head was, “Eh?” Although I have seen the term “word cloud” bandied about in various places on the Internet, I’ve never paid attention to what it might be. I was visualizing a mind-map kind of thing, and I was wondering how on earth I would come up with something like that. It seemed to be a highly visual concept, which would imply a kind of creativity completely alien to my way of thinking. While I think in pictures, I’m hopeless at actually creating them in any artistic sense. I can only paint pictures out of words.

When I Googled “word cloud” (because, you know, Google knows everything), I discovered that this is exactly what a word cloud is: a picture made out of words. All I had to do to make my picture was import a list of my blog tags into this online tool, select a few options, and click the button. It turned out to be lots of fun: I experimented with different shapes and colours, and finally settled on a picture that represents what my blog is all about.

When it comes down to it, Running For Autism is really about two things. Hope and love.

I think my word cloud is a perfect representation of that.

Blog Beginnings: A Funny Guy Made Me Do It

17 Mar

Tim "Red Barren" Carter, who gave me the idea for my blog

Two years ago today, my blog was born. When I wrote my first post, I didn’t really give much thought to where it would all lead me. I wouldn’t have even started the blog if I hadn’t been pushed into it.

Here’s what happened:

Over a decade ago, a super-cool dude by the name of Bruce started a super-cool ezine called Really Good Quotes, and I was one of the original subscribers. In the early days of the ezine, Bruce did everything himself: the research, the writing, the sourcing of quotes, and the compilation of the issues. Five days a week he did this.

After a while, Bruce realized that it would be nice to have a life, so he cut back from five days a week to three, and he started enlisting help. He recruited a couple of writers and asked me to be the editor. And so it became my responsibility to collect everyone’s submissions and format them into something resembling a respectable ezine. When I’d been doing this for about a year, Bruce offered me my own column. I handed off the editing responsibilities to a guy named Cliff, who does it far better than I did (and writes an awesome column to boot), and I started focusing my attention on writing.

Through this whole process, I became friends with the other writers on the ezine. We were a close-knit little group from the start and our friendships started to extend beyond the bounds of Really Good Quotes. One of my fellow writers – a guy who, sadly, is no longer with us – was called Tim. Tim had a heart the size of Texas and he was an amazingly funny guy. He was also a technogeek, so in addition to being a friend, he became my unofficial tech support person.

It was Tim who got me into writing outside of Really Good Quotes. My older son’s autism diagnosis came when I was in the midst of post-partum depression, and I felt myself buckling under the weight of everything. Tim contacted me during this dreadful time and told me that perhaps I needed an additional forum for my writing.  He offered me a space on his website where I could write whenever I wanted. There was no requirement to post, there was no pressure and no expectation. I simply had a place to go when I needed to vent.

One day more than a year later, Tim told me I needed to spread my wings. He wasn’t booting me off his site, and in fact he wanted me to stay and continue posting, but he felt that my writing was good enough to warrant a wider audience. He encouraged me to sign up with one of the well-known blogging platforms that came complete with a large community of bloggers. At first I was resistant to the idea. It sounded like more hard work than I was in the mood for.

Tim’s idea would turn out to be a bug that, once planted in my mind, kept nagging at me. After a couple of months, I thought, What the hell? I signed up, and here I am, celebrating my blog’s second birthday.

Many things have happened since then, both in my blog and in the broader context of my life. I have seen all kinds of growth in my kids, I have watched my son beat out all of the doctor’s predictions, and I have done some growing up myself. I have run all kinds of races and beat my own personal best times. I have voted for the first time as a Canadian citizen, I have tied the knot with my long-time partner and I have taken on extra responsibilities at work.

As far as my writing goes, I still write for Really Good Quotes. I am also a writer and scheduling editor for World Moms Blog and I participate regularly in the Indie Ink writing challenges. I have been invited to participate in the Health Activists Writers Month Challenge which runs in April. I have been voted as one of the Top 25 Canadian Mom Blogs. And very soon, my website will be going through an overhaul. I am excited at the prospect of launching a new look to showcase my writing.

I feel like I am entering a whole new phase and I cannot wait to see where it brings me.

Happy 2nd birthday, blog!

(Photo used with the kind permission of Kristen Carter)

From Humble Beginnings: Guest Post by Jennifer Burden

5 Jan

A little more than a year ago, I was wandering around on the WordPress site during a quiet lunch hour, and I stumbled across a blog called World Moms Blog, a group blog that had a handful of writers from three or four countries. I was just starting to take blogging seriously at the time, and I was hungry for opportunities to write. I emailed the founder of World Moms Blog, Jennifer Burden, and kind of wriggled my way onto the list of writers.

A year on, World Moms Blog is more than just a blog. It’s become a social project. There are more than 50 writers from all corners of the world. Women from all walks of life tell their stories, share their dilemmas, and take readers on their journeys through the parenting jungle. Jennifer has started looking at ways in which to use the blog to make the world a better place, and she has even formed some relationships with representatives of the United Nations. Through World Moms Blog, she has promoted awareness of some important issues, like infant pneumonia, and vaccinations for children in impoverished nations. It is my pleasure to give Jennifer an opportunity to talk about her visions for World Moms Blog.

It’s been over a year since World Moms Blog was founded. At the beginning, I thought it would be easy to find international moms to write, but it was an uphill struggle at first!

Today, we write from 17 countries and have over 50 bloggers.

And I have been creating relationships with international foundations, such as the United Nations Foundation and the GAVI Alliance to find ways in 2012 for our global mothers to help raise maternal and children’s health awareness around the world.

We have added both, a Human Rights and Social Good column, in addition to our daily posts, Saturday Sidebar question and Sunday’s Travel Itinerary (written by Kirsten @runningforautism!)

The international writers have been stellar.  Their thought-provoking and well-written posts have attracted and persuaded more amazing mothers to join our mission.

And speaking of missions, this year the World Moms Blog writers helped create our mission statement, as follows:

*Connecting mothers around the world through their stories.

*Promoting understanding and tolerance of other cultures, religions and nationalities.

*Encouraging discussion of important motherhood/parenting/cultural topics.

*Creating a support system for mothers via the blog.

*Helping to promote our writers.

*To strive to create opportunities for social good to help mothers and children around the planet.

We couldn’t have accomplished what we’ve accomplished so far without all the pieces of the puzzle.  It would be impossible to do all the editing, scheduling, writing, welcoming, new writer selection and social media myself.

The synergy and enthusiasm of this global group of women, all mothers, is contagious!

Keep us on your radar.

Help us promote diversity and understanding.

Help us save the lives of children.

You can do this by sharing this post with a friend.

We hope you’ll be glad you did.

Jennifer Burden
World Moms Blog

Twitter: @WorldMomsBlog & @JenniferBurden

Thank you, Kirsten, for inviting me to guest post today on your blog.  I want to recognize your volunteerism and writing contributions to the scheduling and writing of World Moms Blog and send you a big THANK YOU!  You are an important piece of our puzzle, and it’s been so great working with you. Here’s to more fun in 2012!

(Photo credit: Jennifer Burden)

Small Bloggers In A Big Pond

8 Oct

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend an event called Social Media Masters. It was a one-day conference featuring experts from all over North America, who gave presentations about how businesses and entrepreneurs can effectively use social media. I went in my capacity as a freelance writer, to see if I could learn how to leverage tools like Facebook and Twitter, not only for myself, but for clients.

The sessions did not disappoint. Some of them were geared more to large corporations than to individuals trying to make it on their own, but I learned from all of the presentations and exchanged contact information with some people who could play a pivotal role in the realization of some of my goals.

Interestingly, the refreshment and lunch breaks provided just as much of an education as the sessions themselves did. I found myself talking to all kinds of people about how they use and monitor social media. These breaks provided a fertile ground for the exchange of ideas.

At one point, I was sitting drinking my coffee, listening to the conversation around me but not actively participating in it. It became clear to me, from the snippets of conversation that I was hearing, that there is a definite pecking order in the blogging world. I have been vaguely aware of this before, and I have in fact read blog posts addressing the subject, but I had not really appreciated just how cutthroat the blogging world can be.

At the top of pile you get the “big” bloggers, the ones who attract thousands of visitors a day, and whose posts generate hundreds of comments. At the bottom are the new bloggers who are trying desperately to gain some kind of following. They religiously comment on other blogs and they tweet like crazy in order to drive traffic their way. And somewhere in the middle are the bloggers who have been at it for a while. They have a few subscribers and most of their posts will generate a handful of comments. But try as they might, they just cannot seem to hit the blogging big time.

Many of these bloggers are perfectly content to stay where they are. Perhaps they feel that a huge following would put them under pressure to cater to what the blogosphere masses want instead of being true to themselves. Or maybe they just don’t have the time to read and respond to hundreds of comments.

For those who are trying to make it big, though, the road can be tough. The blogging world can be an incredibly cliquey place, kind of like high school. If you’re a big fish, you hang around with the other big fish, and the circle is so tight that it’s virtually impossible for the not-so-big-fish to break into the ranks.

This is not intended as an indictment against the big fish – I know several of them and like them a great deal. I am simply stating a reality of human nature. We tend to spend our time in circles of people we have something in common with. The more common grounds there are, the stronger the circle.

So where do I fit in with all of this? I am a not a big fish, not by any means, but I am not a baby fish either. I am a medium-sized fish. I put up a blog post three or four times a week. I have some subscribers, and many people follow my blog through social media. I get several hundred hits a month and most of my posts generate comments. A decent number of them gets shared or retweeted. Sometimes a blog post will earn me a new subscriber or a new follower on Twitter.

I am content to be where I am in the blogging world. I feel that my blog and my online presence are growing at just the right pace. I care about my readership and I want to continue to create content that engages people.

This blog is mostly about parenting, autism and running. But from time to time – like today – a different topic will grab my interest. I am very fortunate to have a forum where I am free to talk about the things that are important to me.

I am grateful to everyone who takes the time to visit my little kingdom to read what I have to say.

The Versatile Blogger

17 Aug

We all know how the Internet knows everything, right? So if I read on the Internet that I am a Versatile Blogger, who am I to argue? It’s true! I have been given a Versatile Blogger Award, and I am now going to bestow this same award on fifteen of my favourite blogs.

This isn’t like winning an Oscar, where you hold a bizarre figurine and thank everyone from God to your mother to the guy who lived four doors down from your uncle when you were two. No, this award is all about bloggers giving each other well-deserved recognition.

There is a certain protocol to be followed when accepting this award, which involves writing a post on your blog. In that post, you first thank the person who gave you the award and include a link back to their blog. Then you tell the world seven things about yourself. Finally, you pass the award on to fifteen blogs that you feel are noteworthy.

So here goes…

A big thank you goes to Deanne, who is an autism mom like myself. Deanne’s blog, Small But Kinda Mighty, is a fantastic resource for autism parents looking for information, support, and hope. Whether you are directly involved with autism or not, I highly recommend that you hop on over and take a look at what Deanne has to say.

Now, seven things about myself that I bet you didn’t know:

1)      I am afraid of spiders. I’m not talking about a vague grossed-out feeling that many people get. I’m talking full-on, panic-inducing arachnophobia. Other creepy-crawlies I can handle. Spiders are pure evil.

2)      I think I have shared this one in a previous long-ago post, but it’s too good not to include here. When I was trekking around in the Sinai Desert in the early 90’s, I purchased dried tea-leaves from a Bedouin Arab. I didn’t know what to do with dried tea-leaves in the middle of a desert (heck, I wouldn’t know what to do with dried tea-leaves anywhere), so me and my friends attempted to smoke them. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

3)      I have shaken hands with Nelson Mandela. Truly one of the greatest moments of my life.

4)      I’m too much of a sissy to get a tattoo, but I did get a belly button ring years ago. The guy I was dating at the time, who happened to be a couple of years younger than me, told me that I was too old to do anything adventurous. I went out and got the belly ring to prove him wrong.

5)      I have a recurring dream in which I am chased into a forest by a giant teapot. Seriously. Even I cannot make this stuff up.

6)      When we were kids, my brother and I climbed onto the roof and dropped a soccer ball down the chimney, believing that it would fall into the fireplace below. We got into a L-O-T of trouble.

7)      I met my husband in a park ten years ago, and we went home together that night because neither of us wanted the date to end. It really was love at first sight.

And now – drumroll, please – I am really excited to share fifteen of my favourite blogs. All of these bloggers have touched my life in some way, and made me a better person, a better mom, a better something. I thank all of them for the impact they have had on my life, and I urge you to visit their blogs and see what they’re all about. Here they are, in no particular order.

–          Autism Dad – This man devotes the better part of his life to caring for the ones he loves. He lives with his elderly father, and is a single dad to two stunningly gorgeous kids, one with autism. When you read his blog, his devotion to his dad and his love for his children jumps right out of the page at you.

–          Asperger Mom – This stay-at-home mom to three children writes about the general challenges of life and parenting, and the more specific challenges of raising a child with Aspergers Syndrome. 

–          These Little Waves – Galit has three children, one husband, and one dog. She also has a good heart, a big smile, some well-earned wisdom, and a great sense of humour. Her blog has something for everyone.

–          Farewell Stranger – Robin is a mom who writes about her journey through the hell of post-partum depression with bravery and honesty. She strives to raise awareness of PPD so that women who suffer from it can get the help that they need.

–          Stuart Duncan – This dad of two boys, one with autism, is truly an advocate for autism awareness. He offers intelligent, informed opinions about the latest in autism news and research, and he’s not afraid to take a stance that may be unpopular. This blog is on my must-read list.

–          Transplanted Thoughts – Bravery takes many forms. It can be a soldier going to fight for his country, or a fireman risking his life to save others from a burning building. Or it can be Amy, who sat by her son’s bedside for five months and then cradled him in her arms as he died. This is an amazing blog by an amazing mom, and you really should give it a read. But first, get out the tissues.

–          Behindhersmile – Michelle, mom of two, is an advocate for liver disease awareness. She brings to light a medical issue that is frequently brushed off by doctors, and she gives pointers on how we can lead healthier lives and keep our livers happy.

–          S Club 4 – S Club Mama has several things in common with me: she is a mom of two, one of her kids has autism, and she is a runner. A girl after my own heart! Her posts cover a variety of topics, both informative and entertaining.

–          The Alchemist – I love reading stories of this mom’s life on the other side of the world. She used to be some kind of engineering guru, then she became a mom, and now she’s finding her way as a writer. She’s awesome. Go on over and read her blog. You know you want to.

–          Mama Wants This – Alison (just one “L”, please!)  is mom to a cute little boy named – um – Monkey, although he apparently has a “normal” name as well. She has a fondness for online quizzes and her toes are funny. If this information doesn’t entice you to visit her wonderful blog, I don’t know what will.

–          Quintessentially Burrows – Asta lives in Norway with her English husband and their “wee lad”. Her blog is wonderfully diverse. She talks about parenting, shopping, paternity leave, and even the weather.

–          Gingerheaddad – Jim’s blog is one of my favourite favourites. He is Dad to three, two of whom are on the autism spectrum.  He is caring, he’s a good dad, and he’s funny. And he has red hair.

–          New Day New Lesson – Susie lives in Israel, a place I spent time in many years ago and that I will always have a special fondness for. Here’s the thing about Susie. She’s into positive thinking, learning stuff from the nonsense life throws at you, and kindness. How could I not promote this blog?

–          Julie Anne – This is a woman I can relate to. She loves to write. She loves to read. She’s a bit obsessed with social media. She has a true appreciation for the value of coffee. I started reading her blog relatively recently and it’s already on my “Blogs I Must Check Daily” list.

–          DC Blogmama – Born in Pakistan and raised in New Jersey, this mom of one is now a lawyer living in DC. Her blog offers a wondeful glimpse into her life as a parent, and I really enjoy reading it.

Extreme Makeover: Blog Edition

18 Feb

If you are reading this…

Cripes, that sounds like the opening line in one of those videos where a guy has been murdered and is now telling his family, via videotape retrieved from a safety deposit box using a previously hidden key, whodunnit.


If you are reading this, then you will have already noticed that my site looks different. I’ve gotten rid of the oppressive black background and the small font that you needed a magnifying glass to read (why did I ever like that theme, anyway?). I’ve gone to something light and airy, kind of like you do when you move from a small shoebox apartment to a large open-concept house.

I’ve added pages! The About page tells you a little bit about myself – it’s riveting stuff, really – and tells you how you can get in touch with me. Go to My Family to learn about – well, my family, the key players in the drama of my life. And Upcoming Races will tell you about – you guessed it – the races I am registered to participate in. More pages will be added soon – some about autism, some about running.

I have a blogroll! My favourite blogs are now listed in the sidebar. If you’re not listed and you’d like to be, send me a link, and as long as your blog isn’t about something totally inappropriate, like Justin Bieber, I’ll add you to the list.

I even have – drumroll, please – a Facebook page for my blog! Check it out, and “like” me – because, you know, everyone wants to be liked.