Living Out Loud: The Underside of Blogging

I have been blogging regularly for over five years now.  Donna’s cancer brought me to the keyboard and I have simply never left.  For a person who is not religious, busy, and ‘taking a break’ from the clinical social work I am trained to do, the human connection the Internet affords me is invaluable — honestly akin to food, water, oxygen.

One thing that keeps me blogging are the folks who read what I write.  Between Donna’s online cancer journal and Mary Tyler Mom, there have been well, well over one million visits to my posts.  That is crazy town for me.  I am a geek, a dork, utterly unpopular and awkward.  That people care about what I write is something I have a hard time wrapping my head around.

And I know people read because you tell me.  So many comments over the years — sustaining, supportive, friendly, funny, loving comments.  Most of the time I want to crawl under the covers when I read the love you shower on me.  You shower love, I run for the covers.  It is humbling and awkward and I don’t quite know what to do with it except keep doing what I am doing.

Every once in a while, I touch a nerve.  You see, I am a woman with opinions.  I am.  I know this as I have always had opinions.  Ask my grade school classmates, and they would describe a mini-Mary Tyler Mom who argues about politics and religion.  True.  Freaking.  Story.  In the first grade I got into it with a classmate who said her mother let her vote.  Well my little first grade self was not going to stand for that.  I corrected her misrepresentation and felt justified in doing so.  In junior high, I proudly wore a ‘Harold Washington for Mayor’ (Chicago’s first African-American mayor) despite living  in the suburbs.  Ugh.  I can be smug and self-righteous.  I know that about myself.  I try hard to own it and dismantle it, too.

When I first started Mary Tyler Mom, I was resolute in not wanting to write about cancer.  I was going to separate myself from having been sainted as a Cancer Mom.  When you have a child with cancer, people tend to think you are somehow stronger, better, more compassionate, etc.  The thing is, you’re not.  You’re still who you’ve always been, just with something important to say that people may or may not want to hear.

Well, summer 2011, Mary Tyler Mom came out of the closet as a grieving mom.  I was still the same snarky, witty woman, but now I was snarky, and witty and sad, too.   When I wrote Donna’s Cancer Story last September, my Internet presence kind of ballooned.  I was grateful to get the word out about pediatric cancer and I was grateful that lots and lots of people were learning about my dear Donna.  If her mother doesn’t tell her story, who will?  No one, is the sad truth.  So I do.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the praise my readers give me.  It makes me uncomfortable.  I want to tell you about my flaws as compensation.  The things I do that I am ashamed of, the things I wish I did better.  I feel the need to humanize myself so no one treats me like a saint, cause a saint I am not.

I am snarky, opinionated, passionate, loud.  I was all those things before cancer, too, but now people listen to me.

Overwhelmingly, I get warm reception from my readers.  Great heaps and piles of love and support.  It’s crazy not only that people like what I do so much, but tell me about it.  All the time.

Enter a flaw.

For every hundred or couple hundred warm, heartfelt, loving, supportive comments, I get a mean one.  Or two.  When I write about something I am most passionate about — pediatric cancer, or bald Barbie dolls, or now, adoption, that is when I get the mean.  And while I will read those hundreds of positive, uplifting comments, and they will carry me and hold me up when I feel weak, I will obsess over the one or two negative ones.

See?  I told you I was flawed.  You should have believed me.

What the freak should I care about what a stranger thinks about me or my life?  I shouldn’t give a fig.  But I do.  Ugh.  It makes me feel needy and narcissistic, but I do.  

Here is the thing:  I chose to write about adoption.  I willingly chose to tell the story of our introduction into the world of adoption, as wrenching as it was.  When I pressed that ‘Publish’ button, I agreed to accept the consequences of that action.  People will question and judge and suggest.  It is human nature.  And the Internet kind of turns the volume up on human nature, doesn’t it?

Please know that Mary Tyler Dad and I are so grateful for all the virtual support shown to us in the past week.  It brings us back to the days of Donna’s journal when we would pour over the comments at the end of a long and draining day in Cancerville to fill us back up so that we could do it again tomorrow.  We are humbled by those who shared their own stories of adoption with us — birth moms and dads, adopted kids now grown, foster parents, and adoptive parents.  Thank you for that.  Your stories fill us with hope at the start of what we know will be a rough process.

Others made suggestions about all different types of adoptions, wondering if we have considered this or that — foster children, older children, international children, special needs children, even older, international, special needs children.  Please believe me when I say that we have considered everything.  You don’t enter adoption lightly.  You truly can’t, as the vetting process for adoptive parents is hard freaking core.  We are fully informed of all the adoption options available to us.  We know what is best for our family.  If others make assumptions about what that means, that is about them, not us. 

Also know that our decision to walk away from this birth family was not an easy one or lightly made.  Mary Tyler Dad and I did what was right for our family, our son.  It does not bring us any comfort to know this family will continue to struggle.  They are in the midst of things that affect many American families — drugs, theft, homelessness, emotional and physical violence.  They were using their baby as a carrot, dangling that unborn child in front of us, testing to see how tight they could squeeze us.  We can’t and won’t invite that into our lives.  If others would, please message me and I will put you in contact with their attorney.

Whew.  That feels better.

I’ll make you a deal:  you keep reading and I’ll keep writing.  I will do what I have always done — write about things that matter to me.  I will tell the stories that I think need to be told.  Maybe, someday, I won’t always be in the middle of them.  Maybe, someday, they won’t always read like a Lifetime movie script.  Maybe, someday, I will learn to not care about the haters.  Truth is, they get me all riled up in the moment, but then I move on.  Donna taught me that trick.

So hate away, haters!  I’ve gonna choose some hope instead.  Donna taught me that trick, too.  You should try it sometime.

18 Replies to “Living Out Loud: The Underside of Blogging”

  1. You go, girl!
    It’s incredibly brave of you to share these stories with complete strangers. I long for the day when people will realize that none of us are perfect… no matter how hard we pretend to be while online.


  2. You are so brave to tell such intimate stories. It is horrible how some people feel the need to be so nasty, particularly when to people who are clearly in a time of struggle. Ignore those shitheads, and keep up the good work.


  3. “I was going to separate myself from having been sainted as a Cancer Mom. When you have a child with cancer, people tend to think you are somehow stronger, better, more compassionate, etc. The thing is, you’re not. You’re still who you’ve always been, just with something important to say that people may or may not want to hear.”

    That may be the most important and touching thing I’ve read in months. Thank you for putting it into words. Most of the time, you don’t feel stronger, you feel so so so much more vulnerable!

    That’s what I love about reading what you write. It doesn’t matter if I always agree with your opinions or not, you are telling it how you see it, and you have the courage to put to words what SO many people could never say! And as my example above shows, you do it when you don’t even mean to. That’s not even what this blog entry was about. But it brought me to tears because I felt like, once again, you were speaking out for people like me, who are not the pillars of strength people think they must be, but ordinary women thrust into extraordinary circumstances, and struggling to hold it all together.


    1. I am laughing because Mary Tyler Dad used to call me the “Mayor of 4 West,” the inpatient oncology unit where Donna was treated. Always kissing babies and glad handing!

      Thanks for the support and understanding, folks. MTM.


  4. Oh my, where do I begin.. I have never left a comment on a blog before. I have never read many blogs. I am now “hooked” on your blog. Your heart speaks to mine in so many areas. You are awesome MTM and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise! I am a grieving Mom, I lost my precious 24 y.o. daughter, Ashley, to suicide 2 years, 5 months and 25 days ago. sigh………….
    I am a survivor, I am an adoptee, I have an older daughter who is a drug addict, I am a grandmother and a mother to my 7 y.o. granddaughter (daughter),my husband and I adopted our granddaughter this year after having raised her since she was 13 months old. I have a wonderful 20 y.o. son, Jacob, who sometimes I fear is not always getting the love and attention he deserves because there is so much crazy other stuff going on in my life. But I feel like you do, I’m not strong, I’m not a saint…..
    I’m just doing what I must do. What God has called me to do.
    You ARE AWESOME and I’m so happy to read your story. Hang in there, there is a child out there for you and your family. My husband and I wanted another child. We tried. We had 3 miscarriages. Then a beautiful 13 month old came in to our lives. At first we thought just for a time, just long enough for “birth mommy” to go through rehab and “get her life together” but months turned into a year, and another year and then the realization that “birth mommy” (my oldest daughter) did not have the capacity to get clean. So on April 2, 2011 we became Mommy & Daddy. It is so hard to be a grieving Mom, a Mom to a 20 y.o. young man and now Mom to a 7 y.o. but I love it and I will go on! I just wanted to let you know that you give me hope and help me to know that I am doing the right thing. God Bless You!!


    1. Wow…you have been through so much, and your attitude is wonderful, so refreshing.
      I’m so so very sorry about the loss of your daughter. There are no words.

      I can see the Lord has been with you and His grace has carried you these last 2 years.

      What a special child you have now, grandmother and now mom. It just could not get any better!

      Thanks for sharing your amazing story of hope and redemption!


  5. I simply cannot believe you would get ripped a new one for not rescuing an ENTIRE family in crisis…WTF is wrong with people? It’s obvious the dynamic was messed up looooong before you entered the picture. You are not a savior, benefactor or anything other than a woman wanting to adopt an unborn child. That whole scene was effed up from the get-go and I hope you trust your gut next time – but as we all know, hindsight is 20/20. You deserve so much better – hell, I’d be comfortable sending my child to live with your family ’cause clearly you’ve got it goin’ on. Keep at it, sistah. You rock.


  6. “I was going to separate myself from having been sainted as a Cancer Mom. When you have a child with cancer, people tend to think you are somehow stronger, better, more compassionate, etc. The thing is, you’re not. You’re still who you’ve always been, just with something important to say that people may or may not want to hear.”
    This is why I am a loyal reader – you “get” me even though we have never met ……. I don’t like it when people think that I’m a better person because my daughter had a brain tumor, because I’m not. I’m not “better” I’ve just been smacked with a harder dose of reality than some.

    So I’ve read it takes 17 GOOD THINGS to be said to someone to “erase” one bad thing….. Here’s 1 with hope that 16 more will follow:

    LOVE READING WHAT MTM HAS TO SAY!!!! Even the snarky & opinionated stuff!!


  7. My ChicagoNow sista….you are indeed brave. I’d add Funny. Poignant. Inspirational. And an effin’ GREAT writer, to paraphrase our favorite mom who drinks and swears! All of us are human. None of us can live without the support of our families and communities…and to paraphrase the other MTM: “what is a family.. but a group of people who support each other? Thank you for being my family…”

    Soldier on, my friend…your ChicagoNow family will always support you!


  8. 1 MTM is bold
    2 MTM is honest
    3 MTM is awesome
    4 MTM is great
    5 MTM is inspiring
    6 MTM is uplifting
    7 MTM is remarkable
    8 MTM is a great Mom
    9 MTM is a great wife
    10 MTM is cool
    11 MTM is a great writer
    12 MTM is a great teacher
    13 MTM is the best blogger
    14 MTM is creative
    15 MTM is a motivator
    16 MTM is a great friend
    That is all
    One thing in the words of MTM, those mean people can suck it!


  9. Where’s the “love, hug, you are awesome and amazing and the sh!t” button? haters are bullies who speak an dact from a place of insecurity which, sadly, activates their target’s insecurities. I bow to you for claiming your strength and truth, and speaking in spite of your fear. Big love to you!


  10. Hi MTM,
    I’m a relatively new fan. I love your writing and respect how much of your personal life you’ve put out there for us to absorb.

    I’m writing to want to make sure I’m not getting lumped in with the “haters” Yes, I was one of the commenters who asked whether you’d considered adopting outside your race or taking in a foster child, but it was not meant in a judgey way. I respect and support that you want to adopt, regardless of who you adopt and how (unless you do something illegal, which doesn’t seem to be in your nature).

    I sent you a private email last week, in which I wrote: “Thanks for sharing your most personal stories about taking care of and losing your baby and your new adventures into adoption. I hope you aren’t offended by my blog comments. I meant it when I said I am not judging the choices you are making; my intention is to offer a different perspective. I have lots of respect and praise for you, your beautiful family and your writing contributions.”

    I am most definitely NOT a hater and look forward to reading more of your adventures in adoption.


  11. I too have experienced the underside of blogging. Most of what I post is not popular at all with most who read over Chicagonow. I do not care. I take my lumps, and some posters get pretty mean — ah-hem.

    In fact, you, MTM, have in reactions to my posts, have been personally insulting. In other words, you have shot the “hate” speech cannon more than once my way. So what? I am still here. You are free to hate me or love me. LOL.

    I am not one of your sycophants, and do find your comments about social and political things trite and condescending. I especially find it disingenuous when you preach tolerance about things and then tell a person his private beliefs are not “correct” and to bit the big one, in other words.

    I do not make comments on cancer or adoptions or things like that. I have had too much cancer in my family to think it is something to get a quick laugh or to make some kind of point. And anytime a child is adopted into a loving home is one more step towards a peaceful world and the end of terror for the child.

    Just a word from a non-fan. I expect to be pummeled by your faithful, but this is the way I see you and, after all, you brought it up.


    1. Kraft och omtanke, Richard. I definitely have responded to your posts a few times, mostly when I am so taken aback that I can’t stop myself. And oddly, ‘personal beliefs’ are no longer personal when they are posted on this here internet.

      I regret nothing I have ever posted in response to your posts, except the time I unkindly referred to you as “Dick,” a play on your given name, Richard. That was unkind. I am sorry for that.

      What’s most interesting to me is that you are a non-fan and yet clearly find your way to my posts. I, too, find my way to yours, when they are featured by our mutual manager. Jimmy likes to mix things up, doesn’t he?

      The truth is, Richard, we are different people with vastly different mentalities and approaches to our lives. You see things one way, I see things another. There is no shame in that game.

      May your life bring you happiness, Sir. MTM.


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