Finding Focus and Challenge Update

First things first.  The photography challenge.

I started it so I could learn how to use my camera and take pictures for my food blog. I was using a generic photography challenge I found on Pinterest and things went well until day 12 – take a picture of a sunset. The topic wasn’t the problem, it was just timing. I got caught up with other things and totally missed the sunset. “Oh, well”, I thought, “I’ll get it tomorrow.” I figured I’d just throw a different picture up and call it a day. But then life got in the way and I never got my picture and I never posted. “Tomorrow”, I said. Then tomorrow passed. Then the next day. Then the next.

What happened?

I started questioning myself. What was I writing about? What was the blog about?  At first, this was supposed to just be a food blog. but I had so much more to talk about. Yes, I love to cook, it’s my passion, but I also like DIYand crafting. And I organize the shit out of things.  And I’m a mom and a wife and a homemaker.  I have a cat and dogs that are my babies.  I homeschool my kids, one of which is autistic.  I support my husband, who is also autistic, in his burgeoning music career. I have a sensitive daughter who is empathetic, possibly on the spectrum and has only known a life with a sick mom.  And finally, I’m a cancer survivor. I’m one year post bone marrow transplant and I have Chronic Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD). I’m in recovery and I’m still trying to figure out my new normal.

There is so much more to me than food. So what do I  call this? What is my niche? Is this a lifestyle blog? I guess that’s what it is because I’m writing about my life. Or is it a mom blog because I’m a mom? Do I have to have a niche? It’s all so overwhelming. It could make a person want to give up before even getting started.

Enough is enough. Now is not the time to narrow down to a niche. It’s time to write and the path will reveal itself as I go along.

So here’s what should you expect from me…

I’ll be talking about food, of course.  Like I said, cooking and food are my passions. I am always studying and practicing new techniques and approaches. Also, my recovery is vital, so health and nutrition are crucial. An additional challenge is feeding three other people with various food sensitivities while encouraging them to enjoy a variety of flavors and textures. That is a challenge I look forward to.

Health and wellness is something I’m still learning about and I’m finding what works for me.  I’m building my strength through physical training and finding a lifestyle that meets my needs. I’ll be talking about leukemia and Graft Versus Host Disease and what steps I’m taking to recover from my transplant and control my GVH symptoms. While I’ve never really been a fitness person, I’m finding that I need to add physical activity to my daily routine. I have a home physical therapy routine that I got from my trainer and I know that I enjoy yoga, so I’ll be recording my progress with those two things for now and adjusting as I need to.

I homeschool my kids with my husband.  If I have to label it, I guess I’d say that I lean toward unschooling, but I really take a more eclectic approach.  We read a lot and I enjoy  Charlotte Mason’s methods, but ultimately, I follow my children’s lead and encourage their interests.  It takes an enormous amount of trust, and it’s certainly unconventional, but we do what works best for our family.  We’re constantly evolving and growing but our main focus is to instill a love of learning and encourage a growth mindset.

I’m a DIY chick.  I get it from my mom and great-grandmother.  Grandma grew up during the depression and was an independent and resourceful woman and she was a major influence in my early years.  My mom was a teenage single mother in the late seventies and early eighties with little support, so yea, we were poor.  We had to be resourceful and independent. We made our own stuff out of what we had and what we could get our hands on.  I wouldn’t change anything though because it taught me well and I’ve always enjoyed making and building things.  I’m what Temple Grandin calls a “picture-thinker”, meaning that I’m a visual thinker and I  prefer to work with my hands, I’m a natural artisan with entrepreneurial aspirations.

You can also expect me to talk about homemaking and other housewife stuff.  It’s a topic I used to try to avoid because I was afraid that it made me a bad feminist, but I’ve come to realize that that’s not the case at all.  Being a homemaker is my choice and it’s one that I love.  My efforts are appreciated and it brings me joy to provide a happy home for myself and for my family.  I used to be ashamed of my role, but now I’m proud. I used to reject the notion that I landed some 1950s, June Cleaver image, but the thing is, I didn’t.  I’m still the same feminist, artistic, punk-loving, foul-mouthed, liberal, outspoken woman that I used to be.  Now I just do it while I’m folding laundry, making meal plans, and organizing the cabinets.

Then there’s cancer. The big “C”. It’s something that I both love and hate to talk about.  I wish it were something I could avoid and there are times that I feel weird talking about it. But the thing is, sometimes I just have to.  It’s a huge part of my life, whether I like it or not and maybe, just maybe, talking about it could help someone. So that’s why I’ll talk about my diagnosis, my years of treatment, my transplant, my joys and my sorrows, my hopes and my fears, and my struggles and recovery.  Because I know that I needed to know someone else could relate to what I was going through and hopefully I can be a voice or an ear for anybody who needs it. I want to help.

So there it is.  I’ve been wrestling on narrowing down a niche since that’s what all the articles about starting a blog said to do, but I got so caught up in following the instructions that I lost sight of why I started blogging in the first place.  I wanted a place to share my stories with the world. I wanted a place to document my progress on my little projects. And I wanted to write. The point was to have fun but I got so caught up what it was “supposed” to be that it sucked the joy out of the process.  I learned a few things though, which is the important part. I learned the importance of consistency in building a writing habit. I also learned the importance of keeping this fun and flexible instead of feeling like I had to follow a rigid schedule, no matter what. And, finally, I learned that it is important to be true to myself because if I don’t believe in what I’m doing, I’m not going to follow through.

To end this, here is day 12 of the photography challenge.  It’s not from the Pinterest list but it’s a picture that I took with my camera.  I’ll use the challenge as a guideline, but I now know that the important thing is to take a picture that’s worth sharing and that holds true to who I am and what I do.

Yesterday, I made this banana pudding completely from scratch, even down to the vanilla wafers.  I used Alton Brown’s recipe for the wafers but I added lemon zest. I think it enhances the flavor. I used this recipe for the pudding, but I think it needed more cornstarch because the pudding was soupy. I’ll try a different recipe when I make it again tomorrow. I’m doing this for my mother-in-law because she recently had a stroke and banana pudding is one of the few things that she can tolerate right now.  She needs all the calories she can get so I’m feeding her whatever she can eat.  I certainly can relate to her issues because I know what it’s like to have little to no appetite.  Nothing tastes or feels right, you’re nauseous, and when you finally find something you can eat, that’s all you really want.  So I’m loading her up with whatever she wants until she gets her appetite back. Anyway, this was my first attempt at a pudding from scratch and all in all, I’m proud of my accomplishment.  It was far easier than I’d anticipated and it was certainly worth the effort.

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