I’ve been blogging now for four years. I feel like I have been blogging forever. So much has changed, time and trends have flown by faster than the wind, the who’s and the how’s and the why’s make my head spin and I often find myself feeling lost and alone, as if the ship is off course and has somehow lost its purpose, its direction. Stats and traffic, monetizing and oreos, stolen recipes and stolen images, snubbing and snobbing, branding and book deals: rumors spread like wildfire through cyberspace leaving many fellow bloggers disgruntled. Frustration and jealousy, petty grumblings and disheartening gossip bring out the worst in us. I often wonder if we haven’t all been tainted just a little bit, our heads turned with fleeting aspirations of fame and fortune. I think that there are days, or so I hear, when many of us just want to throw in the hat, call it quits and simply shut down our food blogs. We look at ourselves in the mirror and try and remember why we began blogging in the first place and we look around the world of food blogging and wonder how it all got so out of hand.
Yes, I know that this sounds harsh and dramatic, ungrateful even. I have had my fair share of success. I have worked hard, networked well and achieved much. I have made friends, very close friends, with food bloggers and food professionals I have grown to love, whose work I respect immensely, who give back to the community as much as they receive. I have learned and been inspired so much by so many. Yet, in the overcrowded, oversaturated world of food blogging, like in any community, there will be the self-serving, the social climbers, the clans and the cliques. As in any society, there will be those who impose their rules and those who use any means to get ahead. And sometimes these actions, these people are what stand out and influence the ambiance of the community as a whole, souring the once sweet thrill of belonging, giving many the impression that this is what it has all come down to.
But then once in a while we are lucky enough to meet someone special, a fellow food blogger who restores our faith in everything that food blogging is and can be, a person who reminds us of all the good things the community has to offer. A kind message, a warm email, a beautiful blog post and we know we have an exceptional person indeed in front of us, one whose generosity, selfless behavior, kindness and warmth remind us that blogging for many is a way to truly become part of a community, neither rule it nor profit from it, refocusing my own vision and bringing me back down to earth. This person who we have been lucky enough to meet quickly becomes a friend. And her compassion for others, her energy and enthusiasm are boundless and infectious, reaffirming my once-wavering faith in the goodness of people and the spirit of this community of which I have become a part, body and soul.
We lost a dear soul, an angel of the food blogging community this past weekend. Barbara Harris of Winos & Foodies passed away after a very long, valiant battle with cancer. It’s funny, but when I first met Barbara, started following her blog and became her friend – with Barbara that all seemed to happen at once – she had already been undergoing treatment for quite some time, in fact I believe she started her blog when she discovered that she had cancer, if I am not mistaken, and it just became another facet of her life. She kept us all up on where she was and what was happening and how she was feeling in such a casual way, without ever complaining (except about not having an appetite!), just friend to friend. Her spirits were always high, she was always positive.
Barbara loved the blogging community and worked to bring us all into her fold, posting our photos in her Heart Series every Saturday; participating in Project 365 photo event and organizing a list of links to photography tutorials; creating the Hay Hay It’s Donna Hay event (even meeting Donna Hay), and, most importantly, creating Taste of Yellow as a way for food bloggers around the world to support the Lance Armstrong Foundation and LiveSTRONG Day. Once a year, we all cooked or baked and posted something yellow, many of us sharing stories about our own or a loved one’s battle with cancer, illustrating that cancer knows no boundaries, discriminates against no one, and joining together to raise awareness for the fight against this disease. Her quiet passion for these events and causes inspired us; we needed no urging, no prize, no badge of glory or special recognition to participate. Barbara simply inspired us to be and to do our best; she showed that giving was its own reward.
Her passing took so many of us by surprise for, as was her selfless way, she never complained or asked for pity, she never made a big deal out of what she was going through and she never let on that she was as ill as she was. She shared as a friend does and then she would pass on to another subject, talking enthusiastically about her recent move or a family get together or vacation, her husband and children. And then she would ask about us, our own family, our new home, our vacation, our husband and sons.
We loved Barbara for her joy and humor, her dedication to the community and her projects, her love and devotion for her family and friends, her dignity and grace in the face of her struggles. She reminded many of us over and over again what the true purpose of blogging was: for sharing, supporting, encouraging, raising awareness…creating community. Barbara was a bright spot of sunshine in a world that could quickly cloud over and become dark if we looked in the wrong direction. Being friends with Barbara was a special gift that kept us looking forward with a smile on our faces, a positive outlook and such a favorable, light view of the world. Barbara will be sorely missed; she leaves behind a bittersweet taste of sadness and hope, an emptiness her passing has left mixed with the sweet memories remaining in her wake. She was loved by many, all who knew her, and she has left an indelible mark on the international food blogging scene.
(All of the words in italics are Barbara’s from notes she sent me over the years. My sincere and heartfelt condolences to her husband and her family.)