Ten Lessons from the FTSF Blogging Community

Sundays are my most guarded day. It’s the morning that I get to write. Then, throughout the day I do the prep and caring duties of laundry and cooking and bills and other what-nots necessary to be ready for the coming week. Also, Sundays I take time to read other blogs.

Several Sundays ago, while reading the variety of words that my friends at the Finish the Sentence Friday blog hop gang created, I thought, I learn so much from this scattered group of writers. So, I popped an email to the fearless co-leader, Kristi and said, let’s talk about this. So here we go!

Lesson #1 –  Accept the Challenge

Let’s begin somewhere near the beginning, and also, I put these lessons in alphabetical order. (When in doubt on how to sort a list, start with A.) Anyway…The first blogger I “met” from the FTSF group was Kerri. She ran a series called My Challenge and she invited me to share. I did, I shared that my challenge is: I am Afraid of Monsters.

At that time, Kerri’s blog was titled, “Undiagnosed but Okay” or maybe it was “and Okay”…either way the point is: for many year’s Kerri’s daughter, Bridget, was undiagnosed, but showed general symptoms and developmental issues, without a name for the combination of unique challenges that she demonstrated. (Except Bridgetitis, which her mother coined.) Together, Bridget’s family took the arduous steps to the discovery that Bridgetitis equals a rare genetic syndrome called PACS1, for short.

DUDES, since I met Kerri online she has been through it, celebrated, sometimes accepted, sometimes not accepted, and generally rocked the free world. So, my first blogging lesson learned was, to accept the challenge.  (Thanks Kerri for asking and encouraging.)

Lesson #2 – Brevity is Wit

Some of us writers have a hard time keeping it short. This blog, for example, is exhibit A. I admire bloggers who can get to the point, make the point, and go. Kenya is one of these and this year she has co-hosted the FTSF blogs which one week each month includes a five-minute free-write. FIVE MINUTES! I’m not great at these, so this is an area I’m definitely still learning.

Lesson #3 – Clarks, Scotts, and Rogers – I’m a Clark.

Subtitled: “As I looked around, I began to notice, that we were nothing like the rest.” 

Soooo, blog hops are a risky proposition to me because, well, I’m quite often just too much the odd-mom-out. I learned from the FTSF blogger Wakefield Doctrine, that I am perhaps a “Clark” and by nature, I will always feel outside.

And it’s true, I do not choose to be “normal” even if the chance were to arise.

But still, when a writer writes, she wants to be read. She wants to connect…somewhere…right? And I’ve found that the FTSF may just be my Island of Misfit Toys, we’ve got a few more Clarks than Rogers in the gang, and in that, this group tends to get me…now and then at least. I feel less odd-mom-out and more a unique perspective. Unique perspectives are for listening to and may even be cool, that’s nice. I like that.

Lesson #4 – I Hear You.

I understand what it’s like to be the parent of an adult with a disability, like the FTSF friend writing Taking a Step at a Time. I understand what it’s like to be the mother of a son. Like Kristi and like Kenya. I’m sure I read a blog where Kenya talked about fears for her son, and I remember commenting…though my fears comes from a different experience.

I do not claim to know – I claim to learn.

I understand what it’s like to feel a “Rubbish Parent” because a stranger said so. You are not Rubbish Julie; you and your daughter are blessed to have each other. To do what you can with what you have.

I feel the feelings of not enough, never enough…and yet

Lesson #5 – Life is life is life is…

Meaning we keep going, don’t we? I’ve been blogging for five years now. This means I’ve been reading blogs for…more than five years. I started before I started writing, getting the vibe, learning the trade, so to speak.

In five years, I’ve watched your children grow bigger, some see diagnosis, some not. I’ve seen your styles change, your words deepen, your truths come out. I’ve learned that we all just do our best living the day to day and life is a fragile, delicate thing. Words are delicate too, we must nurture and cultivate them. While also, I have seen that words are strong. Words have power, and this leads to

Lesson #6 – #MeToo, and me, too and me too.

Take lesson four plus lesson five, wrap in rage, fear, and gratitude and what do you get? A lesson in “What is most personal is most general.” When my fellow FTSF writers share what moves them, I learn that though we are in some ways a band of misfits, in other ways we are the people who lock arms to change the world. Or at least dream of it, shout about it, and give voice.

Lesson #7 – Philanthropic sharing and reciprocation.

The reason this hop feels different, feels a community instead of a link, is simple: fellow writers are readers who comment and share. Voices are validated. My rants are given merit by proving they were read. Thank you. THANK YOU dear FTSF friends who read and comment, your thoughts on the thing you didn’t ever think you’d read that day. I love reading and sharing your words, learning your passions, watching your children grow up and soaking in the gratitude of your mother’s hands. Just lovely.

Lesson #8 – Savor the words.

Swallow my Sunshine. Where do I begin? I’ve never seen a throw away word on her blog. I’ve cried, I’ve related, and also, I’ve learned about challenges and gratitude from a culture and experience not my own. I’d direct you to a favorite, but you will find your own.

Hillary Savoie, another incredibly talented wordstress. You can find her around the interwebs, but sometimes she joins in the FTSF with a blog and I learn.

Lesson #9   – Style.

I’ve adopted a style shift or two over the years from reading other bloggers. My favorite is picked up by Kristi, of Finding Ninee – our FTSF-in chief. And that is

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Change of thought, change of mood, just change.

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Moving on, same but different, are you following me? Drop a few markers between paragraphs and go again. I like it.

Lesson #10 – Writers Write.

Write to write. Write to share. Sometimes I let my guard down and remind myself,  it doesn’t have to be an essay every week. Sometimes we write to remember the week, to jot down the history of it. That’s how blogging got started, right?

And yet, got to keep up my game to run with this crowd. These are a fine bunch of bloggers, and I don’t want to be left in the dust. They say (You know…they) that you can judge a man by the people he keeps with. I want to keep up. I want to be worthy of the reading, reciprocating, of the sharing.

I’ve learned about unique medical needs. I’ve journeyed through different cultural experiences. I’ve wept for children’s hospital journeys and parent’s fears. I’ve whispered encouragement through the ether – does it make it? Does it matter? I don’t know, but I cannot stop as I am grateful for those who have the courage to put their journey to words and share. We are writing our living history. These stories we weave together are the tapestry of this moment.

These stories we weave together are the tapestry of this moment. Click To Tweet

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Here are two more honorable mentions. SONGS, I’ve found cool new-to-me music sprinkled among the blogs over the years. Love that bonus. And one thing I haven’t learned how to do, but think is cool, is great photos and/or illustrations. Tamara does lovely photos. And Kenya and Kristi both do fun animated things that are beyond my knowledge base. Maybe in the next five years…

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Friends, it has been several years now of swapping words, and today’s Finish the Sentence Friday is Ten things I’ve learned from the FTSF Bloggers. There are so many blogs and bloggers I didn’t mention, that I have enjoyed and respect. There are over 200 members in the Facebook group and we all have real lives to keep us going between weekend attempts at sharing the words. I’m thrilled to co-host this week because I’m excited to read what ya’ll have to say. Again!

What have you learned?


8 Comments

  1. Kenya G. Johnson June 8, 2018 at 8:50 am - Reply

    Great job on this. I’m sure you had a vision for what you were going to write when you thought of the prompt. I wish I’d taken more time to prepare. I like your reference to FTSF as the Island of Misfit toys. I totally get it because I’ve felt that way. I’ve been in a lot of “I’m the only black person” everything’s and with blogging in particular sometimes I write and wonder will “they” understand… and really all it has taken is for me to be myself and within our FTSF group especially, I have had no apprehensions. I love the diversity of our group, the difference experiences we each have in the world and what each of us brings to the writing table to share.

    • Mardra June 8, 2018 at 9:05 am - Reply

      I did have an idea when I came up with the prompt, but I don’t feel like it came out much like the idea. Ah well, you know how that goes…
      Moreso, Thank You! I think we have a good share of “onlys” in our group, I think it’s the times we’re most true to ourselves that we find our tribe.
      <3

  2. Kristi Campbell June 8, 2018 at 8:52 am - Reply

    I love this in so many ways and now I wish I did my list differently. I love knowing so many people so well through their words and learning about different situations and cultures and everything. It really is amazing, this blogging world, isn’t it!? Thanks, too, for the shout-out. I love the markers between paragraphs thing – a way to talk about then and now, if and is… xoxo thanks for the prompt this week.

    • Mardra June 8, 2018 at 9:06 am - Reply

      Thanks Dear – Thanks for the years (YEARS can you believe?) Of hostessing and bringing our worlds together. It is a good thing.

  3. clark June 8, 2018 at 9:14 pm - Reply

    nice work!

    (I’m with Kristi on the graphic element you’ve created, v cool). And, isn’t that a part of the business of blogging? To convey an idea or an experience or a thought, to share slices of our own lifes with others of like mind? And (a biggie for me) the opportunity to identify with others…. not match circumstances or overlap on the situations we encounter, but to read tales of people’s lives and know how they feel.

    Your # 5 touches on one of the more remarkable aspects of the life virtual. We get to say, (to one and to another), “…and remember that time that…” and “That reminds me of the time that you took the family to”…. the personal history that, with time, we give to each other to share.

    #10 is very close to home. I’ve been fortunate in meeting eople of good intent. Especially through the first few years, I would write posts every day, conscious of the fact that my skills were woefully lacking and…. it didn’t matter. (Totally not a clarklike perspective. We are Outsiders and totally prefer to avoid scrutiny, so the idea of writing among real writers…. no. way. But there was nothing but acceptance, at least from the people I hung out with. FTSF was the first bloghop I participated in and where I met most of the people I count as friends.)

    Trouble with writing comments at some people’s posts, ( yours, Kristi’s, Tamara’s among others), is that we’re all sort on the same page, only you guys do a much better job expressing it. (There it is again! That last should have me running for the shadows and yet, there is such an unconditional tone ’round here that I’m not only still typing, lol I’m comfortable doing it!)

    Thanks for the mention in #3. For me, the most amazing benefit of my coming here to the blogosphere is meeting other clarks. The thing is, as Outsiders, we don’t have a collective noun, i.e. the word for a multiple of a type. scotts gather in packs and rogers, well, they alway have a herd; clarks, somehow, draw strength, and to a certain degree, comfort from seeing other clarks making their way through this life thing… perhaps a nod of acknowledgment through the clusters of real people that surround us. It makes the solitary aspect of our lives more of a positive opportunity to reflect on our journeys than a sentence to being alone.

    • Mardra June 9, 2018 at 1:23 pm - Reply

      Also, like Tamara, I give you a gold star for commenting, too! What do we writers want more than to be read? Thank you Dear – I’m glad we have this community!

  4. BTLong June 24, 2018 at 10:51 am - Reply

    Reading this, it is finally and reluctantly clear that I am a writer-but-only-in-my-head. Otherwise, I would, you know, actually write stuff, consistently and often. It seems I am a writer-in-my-head mostly when I read others’ good writing, such as yours.

    If pictures are worth a thousand words, then I am possibly passably prolific. So, you may or not check out my writings at http://www.instagram.com/BTLong and muse about what it is I was saying or seeing.

    Wordlessly yers,
    ~ BTL

    • Mardra June 24, 2018 at 3:20 pm - Reply

      Thank you –
      I know you are a writer…you can’t deny it.
      We’ll wait.

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