Blogging time has been thin on the ground the last couple of months, so, just to keep you all posted with what's going on here at Downs Side Up Central, I have unusually written a round-up of sorts.
|Blogging with balance
This was the fourth time I had attended the event and it had a dramatically different feel. Gentler, calmer, quieter, not in that fewer bloggers attended, but gone was the feeling of pressure to be heard.
Blogging for SupportAnd in its place was a wonderful feeling of support, of camaraderie and of collaboration. That's always been there but this time it was all around. It was tangible.
There were many newbies there, whose motives seemed entirely true, and I learned a great deal from wonderful young women that joined together at the Blogging for Support round table session. I loved the intimacy of this format, and we all said that we could have sat there for an hour more, with cups of tea and cakes in hand, listening to each others journeys into the world that is Blog. Whether blogging about the isolation of being a SAHM, feeling divided as a working Mum, working through post-natal depression or raising awareness of a condition or baby loss, this group of women all agreed that they blogged primarily to make themselves and others realise that they are not alone with their experiences and of sharing these experiences to gain and to give support in order to carry on.
Thank you to Princess Poet Blog, My Working Mummy, Gym Bunny Mummy, Mumma on the Edge, 23 Week Socks, Headspace Perspective, Keeping Strong and Moving Forward, and the brilliant speaker Victoria Wright for their honest, thought-provoking input that day.
From Monkey Wellbeing designing materials to help children through difficult life experiences, to Monika Mum on the Brink's session warning us to think carefully before we post, to Pippa and Karin urging us to nurture ourselves more and #embracehappy, the event very much left me thinking that blogging has evolved from where it started a few years ago.
We have all learnt some tough lessons, mused over the ethics of over-sharing, decided we need to keep something back, fought the trolls head on, and seen the mountains our words can move. We've come through the technical toddler tantrum years and we are better, wiser for it. We are being listened to and respected for the writers we are.
We've learnt to 'Sod the Stats' (Her Melness Speaks), we've grown up (Post 40 Bloggers) and we are focussed on what matters... people, and we've learnt to let go in some ways.
Inspire WinnerAnd right in the middle of this wonderful feeling of letting go of the blogging strings and allowing my words to do what they feel free to do, Downs Side Up won it's first award.
Stunned doesn't come close (and embarrassed at not being in the room when it happened as Alice Hassell and I were talking to a journalist). I always feel so humbled and honoured to be considered 'a serial finalist' (Just Bring the Chocolate) in these awards but never thought I would ever win one. My blog is homemade and clunky, it's not slick or shiny nor does it get the most visitors. But it is in for the long haul. I fondly think of it as a sturdy marathon running kind of blog, welcoming you to run alongside and whisper in your ear while you're there.
|Carol Smilie presented the Inspire Award
And that moment crystallised everything. Instead of wanting to celebrate, I quietly sat back from the blog for several weeks. Somehow I couldn't write about it. I felt so strongly that many other bloggers deserved this accolade, that we are all working to the same aim. It felt unfair in many ways that it was in my possession. And I kicked myself that I didn't mention that every finalist in that Inspire category of the BiBs was making a huge difference.
InspireSo to them and many many more unlisted, keep doing what you are doing, it's working.
And yes, I was proud too, in a quiet way. I am grateful for all of those who had read my posts and learnt more about Down's syndrome, for those who've shared and joined with all those who write in #TeamT21, I am thankful for those who have seen a different kind of beauty and engaged our children in their marketing campaigns and I am still moved to tears by the emails that arrive in my inbox from families who have in some way been encouraged by our posts as they begin on their parenting journeys with a child with Trisomy 21. The award is for all of you.
The Greatest Gift
But the greatest gift was yet to come.
Just as the tears stopped flowing and the shaking subsided my dear friend Kate on Thin Ice gave me the most precious of items. It was a small cotton handkerchief, exquisitely embroidered with a delicate spray of flowers and edged with scolloped crochet. This beautiful item had been made over many hours by Kate's Mother, a wonderful, strong woman who has sadly passed away. Kate had found a small cluster of handkerchiefs afterwards, one even still with the needle in it, half-created, half-finished and had decided to give them to the key women in her life.
To own something so sentimental, and so personal a reminder to Kate of her Mum, is indeed an honour. And oddly I feel a sort of strength from that item, which lives in my handbag pocket. When I do something challenging or nerve-wracking, it goes with me. Kate says her Mum would have approved of Downs Side Up and what it stands for, and that is all I need to know.
Thank you dear Kate.
Summer of Love
And on the Summer went, and I felt at peace with my blog. It felt complete, like it had come full circle too. I felt as if it could sit on a shelf and be plucked down when needed, but the need to tinker with it had gone.
The Summer became only about family time. School holidays were here and we enjoyed them to the full. Natty learnt to ride her bike and swim backstroke, Mia grew 6cm and got splendid spectacles. We camped, met friends, took photos... and kept most to ourselves. Regular family stuff.
|Regular family stuff, me hearties
There were lots of exciting Downs Side Up interludes such as taking Natty to London for a photo shoot for a glossy mag which is due out this Christmas (SQUEAL!), and a trip to Edinburgh to make an NHS Scotland training film for use by student midwives and LD nurses, as well as me doing some research for a chapter in a medical book and a BMJ article to pen.
|Downs Side Up at the government buildings in Edinburgh
All very important stuff, but somehow finding time to write about it all here eluded me.
Then a surprise nomination in the family carer section of the Learning Disability Today Awards (which I admit to not even having heard of). Do go and vote for your favourite self advocates, lecturers and medical professionals who are changing the world of Learning Disability.
The Tots100 MAD Blog Awards voting came so close to the aforementioned award that I didn't feel able to even mention it on my timeline. I voted for my faves of course and the finalists were announced. I was happy to see so many of my nominations there and not a jot disappointed not to feature.
Imagine my surprise when several weeks later, the Outstanding Finalists were announced. Downs Side Up was there!
I'd had no idea that nominations for this category were open and again kicked myself that I couldn't put several deserving names forward including the wonderful Emma Murphy who blogs and campaigns for greater awareness of the damaging effect the epilepsy drug Epilim has on the unborn child. You can read her site Emma4FACS here.
This is the third time that Downs Side Up has featured in the incredible category, and honestly I thought that other new, fresh blogs would have taken my place and I'm sure that next year they will. But for now I am packing a fancy second hand frock and polishing my nails ready for a glitzy party in a swanky London hotel tomorrow night. It will be a time to meet bloggers old and new, time to smooch Dr Ranj and time to remind ourselves again of why we do this thing called Blog.
|The very supportive Dr Ranj from CBeebies
And this year for the first time we were allowed to take a fellow blogger as a guest.
Brilliant idea I say!
So, who am I taking?
Who am I sharing a twin room with despite never having met her?
Who do I really believe should be there and be amongst those other Outstanding finalists?
Yep... Emma Murphy*.
*I hope she doesn't snore