A Year of Growth and Change

In my recent wayfarings, I’ve encountered several fellow travelers who’ve asked, “Should I use my real name? Real picture? Make changes to this, that, or the other?”

Before you read any further, take a cue from one of my faves, Lewis Carroll, and

Play Me.

You needn’t watch the video; it’s only a slideshow of Babs and Bob from the movie, and merely serves as the theme song to this post—music in the background with which to hum whilst you read.

Click HERE to open a new tab of this post so the music will continue to play, otherwise it will stop when you click on the pictures below. I’ll wait.

Okay, let’s pick up where we left off:

Come along; walk with me and journey back to the misty water-colored memories of the past year, my first in the blogging world.

Happy Anniversary to ME!

It was a year ago today that I began posting on my blog full-time.

I made ONE post a year-and-a-half earlier (now gone, but not forgotten), suffered cold feet, essentially closed the blog (it didn’t have any followers anyway) and honed my rusty writing skills. Besides, I was very uncomfortable writing online for all the world to see. I even used a pseudonym.

So after intensive study and many pseudonymous stories later, I finally built up the courage to try again.

Here, let me show you.

Pretend I’m the Ghost of Blogfests Past and take my hand while we whisk away to that fateful day—October 8, 2012.

First Blog Treading
Click to enlarge (music will stop if you did not click the link above).

Whoa. Pretty wild, right? When Treading Water in the Goldfish Bowl first opened in Spring of 2011, it was designed to address the concerns of Alzheimer’s Caregiving, but after I put it on hiatus to learn more about writing and the blogging world, realized I needed something writerly, too.

So like a genius (note the sarcasm), I combined the two subjects and figured I’d share how full-time caregiving played into my writerly life. They got along as well as elephants and donkeys. Regardless, the blog reopened in October of last year—under new management—but was already in danger of another SHUTDOWN.

I really needed two blogs, weighed the pros and cons, and Treading Water took the form below:

Blog Second Treading
Treading Water in the Goldfish Bowl received a face lift—cleaner
and easier to read—and was directed solely at the Alzheimer’s Community.

While M.L. Swift, Writer initially started as such:

Blog First MLS Writer
The first attempt at M.L. Swift, Writer—The Blog!

But quickly became:

Blog Second MLS Writer
I really liked the orange. It felt warm and inviting, yet active and bustling.

In my first month of blogging, I set aside three days a week for themes:

  • Tuesdays were Tips & How-To’s, 
  • Thursdays became Random Thoughts, then Short Stories, and
  • Sundays were devoted to Inspirational Quotes

All entries posted on the main site, but I created separate blogs for the tabs and manually transferred each post to its respective tab.

What a JOB! Can anybody say, “Newbie?” I had no clue how archives, tabs, categories, etc., worked.

Since they were actually blogs, each one could have its own distinguishing color and style (click on the first one to go through the gallery via full page album):

And that’s simply the changes to the blog. I went through much growth and change myself.

  • I dropped the pseudonym and began using my real name.
  • I went from looking like this:

Bored Outta My Gourd

to this:


to this, this, and this:

And FOUR days into blogging, mixed it all up AGAIN, and made the decision to do NaNoWriMo2012.

A New Game Plan

I did the group dinner with my fellow WriMos:

Tallahassee NaNoWriMo Kick-Off Dinner

And 52,876 words later, had written my Masterpiece of Crap (to be rewritten):

By December, after resting from NaNo, I batted around the idea of switching host providers.

WordPress and Blogger

I asked myself where I wanted to be in five years, and what provider could best accommodate my needs at that time. After loads of research and unofficial surveys, I found the consensus to be WordPress.

WordPress was much more difficult to understand than Blogger, and I spent the next month learning their format. By the end of January, my WordPress blog—as you see it now—opened, however, I continued blogging on both providers.

On March 5th, I made my last post on Blogger and officially moved to this site.

BraveBloggerThroughout the year, hardship and heartache wore many faces. My mom became ill and first went in the hospital in April.

After a week, she was released with a clean bill of health and more energy than she’d had in a long time.

But, at the end of May, she took sick again, however, this time her fragile body didn’t have the strength to pull through.

On the Second of June, my mother gracefully took her leave.

It’s been four months. I’m gradually feeling normal again, and a few days ago, actually made it through twenty-four hours without shedding a tear, although today I gently weep when passing over this memory.

PBC 3DAnd I opened a monthly book club—The Progressive Book Club—which was doing well, but sort of dropped off when Mom passed. I simply didn’t have the wherewithal to focus, read, or do any of that.

I plan to resume the club in January, after the holidays, and will soon be making a post about my new ideas. I believe I’ve come up with a way to get more participants and have a much better time (the more, the merrier)—so stay tuned. I’ll also be sending emails with all the details to anyone who’s ever participated in one of the get-togethers.

That brings us to The Present, and back to the Ghost of Blogfests Past, who has some final words:

“I show you these things because souls learn a little more each time they look back at their lives: where they were, the struggles they faced, and how they managed through them. For Mike, the blog has been his journal when he can’t journal.”

So for those of you contemplating any change at all, go for it—with gusto! 

Know it. Believe it. Be it. The Year of the Writer

A quick disclaimer: The pictures of the earlier blogs were re-creations made to the best of my memory. They’re pretty close, but not the true blog, merely representations. At the time I didn’t have the forethought to capture them in a screenshot, nor the knowledge that it could even be done.

Thanks to all of you for helping make this year wonderful and unlike any I’ve ever known. I’ve loved every minute of it! I can only wonder what the next year has in store.

Change is the only constant in life.” — Heraclitus


Blog First MLS WordPress


65 thoughts on “A Year of Growth and Change

  1. Mike, you’ve certainly been on a journey. It’s fun to look back and see how much we’ve learned (and in my case, how much I’ve been humbled). It really is this kind of learning and growing curve, isn’t it? Trying to find out who we are as a writer, getting comfy in our voice and in our own skin. I hope we both keep growing, changing and evolving– and here’s to you and your incredibly, gifted writing. I know there’s a blog tour in your future.

    1. It has indeed been trial by fire this past year, and QUITE humbling for me, too. Finding my own voice, getting comfy in my skin…yes, all those are still ongoing, but I “fit” a little better, now, and at least recognize my voice.

      Growing, changing, evolving…when we quit doing those, well, we’re usually dead. Either literally or metaphorically. Thanks Julie, for being such a pillar of support.

  2. You’ve been through a lot of transformation and changes, beyond what’s online. And yes, you had high aspirations in the beginning! Glad you’ve stuck with it, weathered the storm, and are ready to continue moving forward on the journey.
    After all, it wouldn’t be the same without you!

    1. I tell you, Alex, I didn’t have a clue how to blog, make a blog, or do anything bloggish. Making all those changes was a great way to learn, to experiment, and to grow.

      And you, with all your insight, help, and the support of IWSG were my leaning post. Thanks for making this year so incredible.

    1. Survival of the fittest, Rob, and I see you doing the same! I don’t know how many people start blogging, then drop out before their first year is up. I did it in the beginning. But perseverance pays off. So glad you were a part of my year. Thanks.

  3. Wow, so really nice to know your history, and again, I’m so sorry about the loss of your mom.
    I’ve been blogging since 2009, but didn’t really get going until 2010. I’ve had some ups and downs as we all do, but with the A-Z hosting gig, things really took off, I met some wonderful people, and my followers just exploded. My next post will be my 500th, and I’ve been thinking about what I want to write about…maybe a trip down memory lane like this would be appropriate!
    I’ve always used my real name, but only a few pictures of me appear buried in some posts…I’m pretty transparent about everything, but ironically am of course anxious about showing my face. Issues from the past as they say…
    Tina @ Life is Good

    1. Well now…looks like I’ll have to go through past posts to unearth those pics of you and see what you look like, Tina!

      500! Excellent. This post made an even 80 for me. I look forward to seeing how you welcome in your 500th post. Thanks for coming over and adding your words to my pages. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you, too. 🙂

  4. Happy Anniversary! I did have Barbra crooning to me for the entire post, too, btw. I didn’t have to open a new tab at all. Now that’s an anniversary gift…

    I loved reading this brief history of your blog, and of your journey, and a small bit of your life. 4 months can feel like nothing when dealing with loss, can’t it? It can also feel endless. In my experience, that strange paradox goes on and on as time passes.

    “Masterpiece of Crap” had me laughing out loud. Now that’s a great post – funny, thought-provoking, sad, with a Barbra soundtrack 😉

    1. A Barbra soundtrack automatically moves a mediocre post up a notch or two!

      These past four months have been…strange. I’ve felt lost and alone and, as ridiculous as it sounds, like an orphan. At my age. Mom was more than a mom. She was a best friend, confidante, mentor, counselor, and so much more. It’s as if I lost an entire group of people with the loss of only one.

      Even I didn’t realize how many changes I’d experienced until I put it down on paper. Thanks, Liz, for your supportive words.

      1. I don’t think that sounds ridiculous at all. Losing a parent, at any age, is seismic. It changes everything. A friend of mine said it was like she was suddenly exposed to the world, with no protection; like her mother was a buffer no matter how old she was.

        Hang in there, Mike. Grief takes longer than most of us think it does, or should, but we do emerge on the other side eventually. Xox.

  5. Ah, change! Yes, we are a changin’… I’m glad to have known you through many of them. You were so cute as a little kid, with that tribal mask and all!
    You are right – to change is to grow, to thrive. *high fives all around*

    1. “The times, they are a’changing, something’s blowing in the wind.”

      Yes, I loved that mask pic. It’s a gourd! Gourdjus! LOL. I’m glad you have been a part of this year, too, River. 🙂 Thanks.

  6. This was a wonderful overview of your emotionally charged year Michael. Looking back like this was probably very helpful for your forward movement. I am amazed that you’ve only been blogging for one year though! You get around really well for a 1 year old!
    Now you have me wondering how many posts I published, I haven’t checked the statistics in a while.
    Blessings friend, I am so glad to know you here in the WWB…Wonderful World of Blogging. 🙂

    1. Thanks, TJ. It certainly has been a journey. Maybe I should go back to the Treading Water in the Goldfish Bowl blogname. That’s what it felt like! Thanks always for coming by.

    1. Jeff, it’s not been an easy year for either of us, has it? It’s tough enough grappling with all the regular difficulties associated with the craft, but throw a wrench into the mix and…well, let’s say we must really want this pretty bad.

      Take care, my friend. And thanks for helping me celebrate today!

  7. I think the real you is way better looking than that pumpkin head! You do have an awesome blog. Your hard work has paid off. Hugs and prayers on the loss of your mom. I know I’ve offered them before, but truly, when the soul is healing, you can never have enough of either.

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth, for all your comments and continued prayers. Losing Mom was the most difficult thing I’ve ever faced and I almost shut down completely. With the support of you and others, I think I’ve made it through the worst part.

      “…when the soul is healing, you can never have enough of either.” So true. Thanks again for all of yours.

  8. Happy Anniversary to yououououou!!!!
    Thanks for the stroll down memory lane…
    you know…I sang that song for my 8th grade talent show…lol…I think that was when it was…anyway, I have digressed into my own little memory lane…let me get back to where I started…
    …it was so cool to hear and learn more about how you…and your blog have evolved.

    I imagine there will be more and more evolution coming…one of my favorite quotes says, if there was no change, there would be no butterflies! Bless you my friend…you and your blogging wings!

    1. And bless you, Chrisie, for coming by and bringing a smile with you. Yes, the evolution happens every day, whether I’m aware of it or not. Change is hard, but necessary for growth. I guess that’s why they call them growing pains.

  9. Mike!!!

    (I’d shout out Norm!!! but not sure if you’re a fan of Cheers! 🙂

    Anyhow, first of all, I am not sure if I have ever said this, but you have my sincere condolences on the passing of your dear mother, and you two obviously had a special and close relationship…

    Thanks also for sharing your blog journey over this past year… because of the date, I always repost my first post every Sept. 11, but I’m not sure I’ve re-read my second post since the day I posted it… go back for a look now!

    Wishing you all the best as Year Two begins and thanks again for sharing with us. It means a lot to hear the love of a son for his mother…

  10. Mark,

    Had you shouted for Norm, I’d have known exactly what you meant. Cheers and I go back a long way!

    I’m going to have to check out your first post. That was quite a day to make one! I was in D.C. on that fateful day, visiting a friend on Capitol Hill and heard the plane crash into the Pentagon. Turned around to a rising cloud of black smoke and scattering politicians teeming out of the Capitol building. I was actually supposed to fly out that day, but needless to say…airports were closed!

    Thanks for the kind words on my mom. Yes, we were like two peas in a pod and I miss her every day. Take care.

  11. Happy Anniversary, Mike. Trial and Error! I like that. Blogging can be fun or a pain in the butt. It’s a time-consuming commitment either way. Your blogs and sites always looked great. I envy your WordPress site but I’m too lazy and time-challenged to switch from Blogger. Good luck with your future endeavours. Better days ahead!

    1. Time-challenged is a great word to describe the life of a writer, Phyllis, and might I add what a joy it is to see you. I’ve been mighty time-challenged myself as of late. And as of early. And as of all the in-between times, too. 😉

      Thanks for coming by to help me celebrate.

    1. I’ve enjoyed yours, too, Mel, and have to get my arse over there for a visit. My sis did get that job and is training up in “the city,” until the location down here is built, which should be the end of October. I say this because I have to take her to work in the a.m., drive home, then back in the evening and back home. Each way is an hour, which knocks out four hours of my time doing nothing! She has no other transportation. I’m trying to MAKE more time…not lose it!

      I’ll be over soon. 🙂 Thanks.

  12. Wow. This has been quite the journey. I’ll bet it felt right to chronicle all of it. Sending you my sympathies regarding your excellent mother, Mike.

  13. Congratulations. You’ve come so far and gone through so much in only one year. Hugs. Who knows what the next year will bring, or the next ten. The road to self discovery is unpredictable and often changing… but oh what a ride. We just have to keep going, and growing, and learning. (:

    And in mostly unrelated news, the duet with Babs and Bert singing Close To You is one of my favorites.

    1. As have you, Charmaine (been an inspiration). I see all the wonderful things you are doing and think…I’ll be doing that one day soon! You truly are a writer who keeps the reader’s needs in mind.

      Thank you so much for your support and friendship this past year.

  14. That’s a lot of changes in a year! Sometimes it takes a while to feel comfortable in your blog, but it looks really cool now and I love visiting, so you’ve got it all right… That is until you decide you want to change it all up again.

    Me, I make changes differently. I woke up one morning a couple of years ago and decided I wanted my living room to be in the dining room and vice versa. Then, earlier this year, I decided I wanted back the other way. Thinking about it, changing blogs is much easier 🙂

    1. Well, your living and dining rooms complemented your house for two years in that design, now they’ll do it again and it will feel like a whole new house. You’ll really impress me if you switch your dining room with your kitchen. 🙂

      Thanks for coming by, Annalisa, and for being a part of this year of change. And I’m glad you like the blog. I sort of do, too.

  15. Dude, you’ve come a long ways in such a short time. Changes and redirections. And thus, Michael, I salute you, applaud you on your one year milestone. Your blog is insightful and the ambience of your layout does have a warm glow to no doubt, match your personality.

    Continue with your positive interaction and your proactive blog, my friend.

    My blog site is a very simple set-up. Matches my personality 🙂


    1. Gary,

      First, thanks for being a part of my year…you’ve been a pleasure to get to know and to follow. I’ve truly loved every thing you’ve posted. Quite a personality! And I like your blog…simple, concise, and the pictures are an instant trip to jolly old England. It is funny how our blogs tend to match our personalities.

      I always appreciate your kind words and enthusiasm to support others. And your poetry. And Penny. I wonder who’s writing sometimes—you or her!

      Take care.

  16. One of my favorite quotes: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

    You have more strength and resiliency than you know. Keep faith.
    Hugs and prayers.

    1. Robyn,

      I always appreciate your visits! I’ve heard that quote by Emerson, and am so glad you included it in your comment, for I’d forgotten. Inspirational.

      My quote for the yearbook in my senior year in high school was by Emerson (one of my fave authors): “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself and you shall have the suffrage of the world.”

      Peace, sister-friend. 🙂

  17. On those rare occasions I change my blog (twice in 3 years of blogging), I take a screen shot so I have a record of the way it once was. Call me sentimental.

    I try not to change it too often because, well, it takes a lot of time!!!

    1. Lyn,

      Thanks for coming by…meeting you was a delightful part of my year!

      Actually, most of these changes happened within the first month of blogging. I finally settled on the orange-ish design, which stuck until I moved to WP, and I created that blog in January. It’s stayed the same ever since.

      I didn’t know how to do screenshots, otherwise I would have taken them. Call me sentimental, too. This whole year has been trial by fire.

    1. My priorities are shifting like the sands in an hourglass (so are the Days of our Lives). I’m trying to get much more writing done, and still taking care of things at the homestead. It’s been a difficult year at times.

      “Barracking” is an Australian/British word. I actually had to look it up (although I figured it out from the context). Wasn’t sure if it had something to do with Obama. 😉

      I saw that you’re doing NaNo again…GREAT! And it’s so good to see you. Don’t be a stranger.

  18. Happy Anniversary! I was just over at Robyn’s blog and she had a poem about courage posted there. She mentioned you and what you’ve been through with your mother, and now your sister. I just wanted to say that I know you must be going through some really tough times. I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers, and hope your sister makes a full recovery!

    1. Sherry,

      Thank you so much for your show of kindness to a stranger! Yes, this past year had its share of trials and tribulations, more than a soul should weather at times, but the strength from above kept me going. I appreciate the prayers for me and my sister. Blessings.

    1. It’s cool to look back at (even if I did recreate much of this from memory). I’ll definitely start capturing changes in the future. Thanks for helping celebrate, Misha.

    1. I’m so glad, Kathryn—I’m all about spreading the joy. It was a pleasure to meet you and “talk” over at WU. Your post made me feel…gregarious again. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Melanie! Yes, it’s definitely seen a few revamps in the early months…I finally settled down once I moved to WordPress in January. Thanks for coming by.

  19. Mike, growth is sexy/savvy so you must be one sexy, savvy guy! Congrats on your one year anniversary. Yeah, sure it’s a belated congrats (sorry), but it’s still the straight-from-the-heart-right-to-your-soul kind, so you’d better be feelin’ it in yo soul.

    Also, I wondered what ever happened to PBC. Now I know. Anyhoo, keep on growing and transforming into your most spectacular you. I’m so glad I’m around to watch you transform.

    1. DFG! Good to see you, belated, beearlied, or bepunctualed!

      I think you were around for most, if not all, of these blog designs and changes. My changes, too. Feels like it was ages ago, but only yesterday in the sands of time.

      Mom’s passing really discombobulated me. I “took off” the month of June, thinking that would be enough time, but I’m only now swinging out of the intense grief and moving forward. I should have gone on hiatus indefinitely until I felt a little more on top of things…focused and less depressed. I’m hoping the PBC and former members will survive the hit. I’ll still read and discuss books on the third Wednesday, beginning in January. The books will be whatever moved you that month, out of all that you’re reading. Whatever genre, fiction, non-fiction, etc. Should make for more participants and more variety.

      But first things first…to finish out this year. One foot at a time. 🙂 Thanks for coming over.

    1. L.G.,

      Such a pleasure to meet you as well, and what a fantastic post you had today on symbols and Lexa’s cover reveal. Perfect.

      I’ve seen the Bards & Prophets name…wondering why it took so long to get over there. Had a great time reading. Take care and hope to see you back!

  20. My goodness, look at all those incarnations of you and your blog! You’re brave to display them all. (I have a defunct blog too, but you’re not seeing it!) The only thing worse than blog failures over the years are hairstyles over the years. It would be a nightmare of embarrassment if I had pics of me in hairstyles from the 70s and 80s. Yikes!!

    1. Hey Lexa!

      Let’s not even bring up the high hair days from the 80’s. I had short hair and still managed to have it five feet high off my head.

      I wouldn’t consider any of these past blog ideas failures. Actually they’ve merely changed, and for the most part, within the first few months of creation. I’ve actually had this design (and my WordPress account) for almost a year. They notified me that my domain name would be automatically renewed on Dec. 26. The first ones were me getting my feet wet. Failures are only failures if you don’t learn anything from them.

      We ought to have an 80’s day of pics on our blogs! Wouldn’t that be a scream? Thanks for coming by.

  21. You’ve certainly been on a journey with this blogging and writing business. I’ve been feeling the urge to make changes to my blog for ages now. It’s something I used to do regularly but decided to settle on a ‘look’ for a while. Took down my website since I wasn’t using it and still haven’t incorporated it in my current blog. Too lazy, I guess.

    1. Hey Joy,

      No…it’s not too lazy. I think we all make the changes that need to be made at just the right time. Most of my changes were made at the beginning, and rather than call them changes, they were more like “settling in.” This WP one is going on a year (Dec. 26 is when I created it).

      We’re all trying to figure out the best way to market ourselves and our product, and in a world that’s heretofore foreign to us, there are bound to be aspects we try that don’t work. It all comes together eventually.

      Thanks for coming by! Good to see you.

  22. I came over here a few times now looking for a new post. Still the same one. What’s up with that? Now it’s my turn to put you on blast (since you blasted me out of hiatus).

    Are you taking a break, preparing for NaNo, or dare I say–you’re just not in the posting mood. Whatever the case may be, I just wanted to return the favor and put you on FULL BLAST! 🙂

    1. The answer to that is d) All of the Above.

      Actually my time has been scarce and is in great demand. Sis started a job (to work at a place being locally built), but had to train in the city—an hour drive there and an hour back, morning and evening. That took four hours/day.

      Plus, scads of doctor appointments for her (thus, the pink ribbon as my avatar).

      Add to that the yard work in prep for winter…one last mowing and pruning, etc., and a weekend get away. I’ve actually started a few posts…too much rambling; have to wrangle them in. As a matter of fact, been working on a post about the getaway. Hope to have it up today or tomorrow. LOTS going on in the Swift house.

      Thanks for coming by again. I had a BLAST! 😉

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