When she started her blog four-and-a-half years ago, Anna Whiston Donaldson was looking to chronicle the funny adventures and conversations of her two children, reflect on faith and life, and encourage other moms on the wild ride of motherhood.
Above all, the former English teacher, who now runs a small bookstore, wanted the "wife, mother, sister, friend, lazy root toucher-upper, and champion of the underdog" she was in everyday life to come through in her writing, "so that someone who meets me gets the same Anna she knows from the blog."
When she lost her 12-year-old son Jack in an accident near the family's Vienna home last September, Donaldson did not abandon that desire to keep her writing authentic. Instead, she continued to write, chronicling the struggle to find normalcy after losing a child.
Donaldson is one of the Washington-area mothers featured this weekend in Listen To Your Mother (LTYM), a national show that will give local bloggers the mic for their take on the trials and triumphs of motherhood.
The show, whose live performance starts at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Synetic Theater at Crystal City, will come to 10 cities in 2012. Ten percent of ticket sales go to charity.
Donaldson says she first heard about LTYM a few years ago fellow blogger, Ann Imig of Ann's Rants, started it in Madison, Wisconsin. Another local blogger and friend, Reston's Kate Hood, is bring the show to D.C.
Donaldson will be reading a short piece called "Why B Normal?"
"[It's] about how I'd always wanted my life to be a little unusual, but as the mother of a child taken from us in an accident, my life has become abnormal in ways I never would have imagined," Donaldson wrote.
Her blog has documented that journey, both before and after the accident, from explaining X-rated movies , adventures in eyebrow threading and being dragged across the tennis court parking lots by the family dog as the kids take lessons, to speaking at Jack's memorial service and watching his friends grow older without their buddy.
Donaldson said she has treasured discovering the personalities of each of her children, sharing their interests and everyday moments and developing inside jokes.
She says she has been blessed with two kids who have "big personalities and huge hearts" and have showed her what it means to be part of something more important and bigger than herself.
"I hope I taught them that they are valuable and they are loved. Kids are so perceptive and mine have always been able to call me out when I'm being petty or ungracious. In that way, and many others, they have made me a much better person than I would have been had they never come into my life," Donaldson said.
Her biggest challenge: losing Jack "on a night when everything that could have gone wrong did."
In every family, each member offers something unique to family life and the world, Donaldson said.
"To try to go on without Jack's brilliant light and beautiful smile with us in a physical sense is excruciating and miserable, but we know he would want us to try," she said.
For now, Donaldson said, the family is just trying to survive day by day. The things for which she would have offered advice to other mothers in the past — potty training, homework, date night with the husband — seem meaningless, she said.
Instead, she offers this: "Strive to understand your kids. Value them for who they are. Take an interest in their friendships. Pray. Don't be afraid to make unpopular decisions. And have plenty of chocolate and caffeinated beverages on hand to help yourself get through the day."
"Listen To Your Mother" begins at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Synetic Theater at Crystal City, 1800 South Bell St., Arlington. Tickets are $18; a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Susan Niebur Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Fund. Tickets are still available here. For more on Donaldson and the show, click here.