25 July, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me!

Erm... my blog, that is.

One year ago I started off in this space, having given into the pleas and gentle nudges of my friends but unsure where it all was headed.

Looking back now... wow.

I made my first post on the 25th of July, but the official announcement didn't come until the 28th. By the 29th I had found my reason for blogging: I was already discussing what would eventually become Valour-IT.

I am stunned at the turns my life has taken because of this blog. Were it not for the people I've met, the opportunities presented by my contacts through this blog, and the things it's allowed me to do.. I would be a vastly different person today.

But more importantly, it's been through this blog that I've finally been able to do my part in supporting those who have put themselves on the line for the rest of us.

The following is long and somewhat navel-gazing, and probably rather uninteresting to most readers. But I had fun going down memory lane and so I figure I might as well not waste it. Enjoy (if it suits you)!

Highlights of a year of blogging...

August 2005: By the 10th, Valour-IT was up and running thanks entirely to people met through blogging.

On the 20th I finally came up for air and wrote this:

No one could ever have convinced me I would EVER be in a position called "Project Team Leader" for a charitable project. [snip]

The first week was insane, but I think it's finally starting to settle down, as the "lift-off" work is done and it's "running itself" a bit. But as I look at the parts of myself I've discovered in the last few weeks, I know this will be one of those before/after points in my life: a time when I can see so clearly that I'm no longer what I thought I was before. [snip]

You know, I'm gonna avoid it like the plague, but if the day ever comes that someone tries to thank me for what I've supposedly done, I'm gonna be one of those terribly cliched people who says, "I didn't really do it; it was the wonderful team that gathered around a shared dream." Because that's the truth. And why I was blessed enough to be swept up into this amazing project, I'll never know. But I'll be forever grateful for the opportunity.
One year later, my sentiments haven't changed one iota.

On the 26th, the first big bloggers outside the Castle linked Fuzzilicious Thinking.

November 2005: That amazing Valour-IT fundraiser. It still shocks me when I think of it. Milbloggers I respected and lived in awe of actually followed my(!) lead as we leveraged the power of the Internet and milblogs out into the wider media and raised $100,000 in 10 days for Valour-IT. As I wrote about the the wounded and our responsibilities to them, Fuzzilicious found its voice/purpose as a "troop support blog." And more importantly, I found the confidence that comes from seeing a dream become a continuing reality: Valour-IT was here to stay.

December 2005: The linchpin on which my year turned. Because of the opportunities developed through Valour-IT, I visited the Under Secretary for Veterans Affairs in Washington DC, met for the first time face-to-face with wounded warriors in recovery, and walked Arlington National Cemetary as an adult. It wasn't life-changing, but life-shifting--everything I knew, suspected, and had previously only intellectually or intuitively understood was in front of my eyes and in my hands, was now heart-knowledge. And as I integrated the emotional impact of my trip into the rest of my life, some my amazing online friends helped me sort it out.

I also had the joy of meeting people and confirming friendships in realspace, of discovering that people I admired thought I wasn't so bad, either. And on December 16th Fuzzilicious Thinking totalled a modest 10,000 visitors.

I closed out 2005 with these words:
As for me, I cannot think back on the year without remembering the extraordinary people I've gotten to know this year who have taught me so much about life and the world, helping me to find the courage to break out in so many ways...
Again, the words still apply today.

January 2006: Fuzzilicious Thinking was selected for an ill-fated (and ill-conceived) attempt by the U.S. Army to engage bloggers. It was a total flop, but it sure attracted the moonbats (and the Washington Post and a whole lot of government types, too). That mostly wasn't one of the good things, but in conversations it spawned with friends, I learned there were people looking out for me in both literal and figurative ways. Fuzzilicious also got some more notice from the bigger bloggers.

February 2006: Not a good month. But when I tried to go on hiatus, so many people were so kind and supportive, including ones I never suspected were out there. You were salve for my bruised spirit. And I realized that I couldn't let my blog go, that in my small way I was here to help the wounded.

March 2006: I hit bottom. And low and behold, people were there to catch me--people who understood, people who helped me begin to believe in a future of careers I'd never considered, who helped me see skills I'd never realized I had, people who believed in me when I didn't believe in myself.

April 2006: All about Fran's and the MilBlog Conference. I went on a crusade and wrote almost nothing but Fran O'Brien's for weeks, resulting in a huge upswing in visitors, Fuzzilicious Thinking's appearance in a London newspaper column, and contact with an east coast reporter. But the highlight of the month was the MilBlog Conference. I left there with more interviews and business cards on behalf of Valour-IT than I could count, and a burgeoning self-confidence... Along with a personal glow from all the wonderful people I met and kind attention I received that still hasn't subsided (I miss you all!!).

Fuzzilicious Thinking reached 25,000 visitors, about 24,000 more than I ever expected.

May 2006: The Fran's story continued. And in a real stunner, I discovered my blog had been noticed in the Secretary's Office at the Department of Defense, which I still find absolutely hilarious. In back-to-back days Fuzzilicious Thinking was featured in an article on FOX News' website, and the BBC article about Valour-IT came out. I was mortified by the attention, but thrilled for how it helped Valour-IT.

I also met Neffi and got to guest blog for the amazing Cassandra (yikes!).

June and July 2006: It's been all about change. But in the midst of my personal transitions, Valour-IT distributed its 500th laptop to the wounded. I'm still amazed.

I feel incredibly blessed to know and work with those who have come into my life through this blog. I couldn't possibly list all who have made this a personal and professional year to remember. But I know that I will never forget you, for you are all a part of who I am becoming...

When I figure out what that is, I'll let you know. ;)

What a year.