Okay – if you have been reading this blog for a while, you have probably figured out that my two-year old is not a human child. Yes, readers, I am aware that God gave 90-year old Sarah the gift of a child as an answer to her prayers. But the reality is that I was way too at the age of 59 to give birth to a baby. Second, trying to have a baby and raise a baby, all while managing an active case of heart failure is a full-time job. So trust me when I tell you that one of the things I will never be praying for is a human baby.
Nope – my two-year old is not made of flesh and blood. Instead, today’s birthday commemorates the fact that approximately two years ago, I issued my first post on this blog site. I have been publishing weekly posts ever since. And just like a little child, my blog is growing like a weed – with over 100 posts totaling over 250 pages.
So you may be asking if it is more appropriate to call this an anniversary rather than a birthday. Well, the Cambridge English dictionary defines anniversary as: a day when we remember or celebrate something important that happened on that day in a previous year. Well, it is correct to say that I’m certainly celebrating that I have issued these posts for two years. And it is also correct to say that this is an endeavor that has become very important to me.
But it also took a lot of work to create my own site and to develop and fine tune the blog posts. While I didn’t go into labor, it certainly felt like I expended a lot of energy and sweat. I can also attest to the fact that I had to do a lot of Lamaze breathing to keep me relaxed and focused during all the glitches and mistakes that I lived through to make the blog a reality. So to me, this truly is a birthday.
The site that houses the blog could still use some work. I hate it that the reader has to page back through he growing number of blog posts to find a post that might be useful to him or her. I looked at my platform’s support center to see if I could find guidance on how to create a table of contents. But that does not seem to be possible, at least for the time being. But I did see something called categories. The platform my blog is on allows the blog writer to add tags to categorize the posts. The categories are displayed on the sidebar. Categorizing a post allows visitors to the blog to easily find posts that cover a specific topic.
This might work, I thought. I decided to set up maybe less than 10 categories to help the reader. Unfortunately, the system to set up the categories is not the most user friendly. I had added categories for: diet, exercise, faith heart devices and medication. Then I decided to add a category for some of my more humorous posts, since maybe some readers are like me and can live better with a chronic condition if they can find something to laugh about.
I deliberated over the name. First I put in a category called light-hearted look at heart failure. But to my chagrin, instead of adjusting the size of the title to fit the category block, it divided into two lines. It just looked messy. I went back in to edit it but found that editing is apparently not possible. Instead, I somehow duplicated the category title. Before I realized what happened, I typed in a much simpler title called: light-hearted posts.
So now I had not one but 3 titles relating to humorous posts. And so the category sidebar looked incredibly messy. But when I went to my support center to learn how to delete all three titles and start over, I was dismayed to find out that I either have to delete the entire category feature forever, or I just leave it the way it is. There doesn’t seem to be an in between, more rational option. Bummer.
So I decided to take a break from fooling with the categories and the look of the blog for a while. I figured that no one pays that much attention to the sidebar category other than me. Maybe if I get away from the irritating issue for a while, when I got back in to edit the blog itself, a brilliant idea will come to me. Just consider my efforts as a blogger, and the site in general, to be works in progress.
To be honest, the attempt to organize the site to more easily find posts does have a reason. It is that I would like to start working on increasing my "Search Engine Optimization", also known as SEO. What is Search Engine Optimization? According to the website moz.com, Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. (just a clarification. All my readers are high quality - I just want more of you guys!) I wanted to make the site a little more attractive and user friendly so that if more people find it, they will be inclined to stick around and read posts.
Regardless of the lack of “SEO”, the readership is slowly but surely growing. But there are other factors I look to rather than just number of viewers to determine if my blog has been successful. Like what? Well, what people think about it, and why they return each week. One reader said that “ It’s like you’re talking with me.” Yay! – that means I have achieved my goal! I want it to be like we were sitting in a coffee shop, just drinking coffee or tea and trading news and interesting facts about our lives. That is the foundation for a good and informative friendship, one that is genuine and based on honesty and sharing.
Here is a comment I get from those who don’t have heart failure or a chronic illness. Even though I don’t have this condition, I can relate to how you feel. The insights are relevant to my life.”
Or maybe some readers like it because I have been able at times to take a topic that is a little complex or foreign, and break it into simpler parts. One of my nurses posted a comment that she gets questions about the particular subject I had covered that week, and I had made it simple to understand.
Looking at these three categories of comments together, I think they mean that readers regard the voice I am speaking in as a genuine voice. It is a voice that will not mislead them, and one that will help them with the challenges they are facing, whether of a heart nature or not. This is so important to me because I am using this blog as one facet of a ministry to reach those who are suffering and need someone to help guide them through the healing process and management of a chronic condition. Or those who may not be suffering from a chronic condition, but who are on the verge (if not over the verge) of having their personal and work lives fall out of balance. They need someone to help guide them to restore that balance, and sometimes I think learning the lessons from someone who failed miserably can be useful.
The second birthday of this blog is also a milestone for me. Two years ago, I seemed a bit adrift. I had undergone two device implantations since 2013, which were a bit daunting. But I also like to joke that I had undergone an emergency implantation into retirement. That was more than daunting. When you have not had the time to really prepare yourself mentally for retirement, it can be unnerving. I needed something to focus on, and the blog became that focus. If you had asked me two years ago if I would be able to put out a post each and every week for two years, I would have looked at you like you had lost your mind. But I guess I was more focused, and had much more to say, than I ever realized.
But I did not get to this blog on my own. I have to thank two people for inspiring me to create my blog site and to regularly create and publish posts. My therapist and a good friend from church who has since moved to another state, but still keeps ups with my blog. (I hesitate to provide names because I do not know if these people are okay with being identified). Let’s just say that they gave me the inspiration and courage to take on a task that seemed very intimidating at the time. But it is also a task that has reaped many benefits, and that has made me more accepting of my condition. It has even made me realize that sometimes out of bad circumstances come the greatest gifts from God.
So last but not least, I need to give thanks to God for helping me to see the gift that was buried in all the device implantations, tests, blood work, medication, diet/fluid restrictions and disturbing shortness of breath. The gift was remembering why we were put on this earth: "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10. This post reflects the wisdom of a good friend I went on a cruise with a few years ago. She says to God each morning: "Where would you have me go, what would you have me do, what would you have me say, and to whom.” I try my best to follow her example each and every day.
Psalm 90:12 says: "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Thanks to God for the interaction with my fellow travelers, and the wisdom that I gain from each of them. It is a wisdom that makes my heart emotionally strong, if not physically strong.
And may we look forward to celebrating a third blog birthday next year!
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. Since that time, she has been learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth.