|Jennifer Husson Cluff Has Been Voted As One Of Canada’s Top 5 Parenting Bloggers|
Over the past few years I have written a series of essays about real-life heroes – incredible individuals who act in kindness and compassion toward others and who inherently, by the nature of their spirits, enhance the lives of those around them. I am fortunate to call each a dear friend. These individuals have made me a better person. They have positively impacted the lives of so many others by direct act or through social activism. Nevertheless, they are what is right about our world.
|Jennifer Husson Cluff
Voted One Of Canada’s Top 5 Parenting Writers
Needless to say, I feel honored and blessed to have these remarkable heroes in my life for they have not only enriched my own life, but they have profoundly and measurably made our world a better place. It is my privilege to share with you, insight about my dear friend Jennifer Husson Cluff of Ontario, Canada who not only is an active defender and protector of children in crisis, as well as children with special needs, but who also is one of the kindest, most caring, and compassionate individuals I have ever had the privilege to call a ‘friend’. It is no wonder why Jennifer Husson Cluff has been awarded the honor of being called one of Canada’s top parenting bloggers through her incredible work discussing everyday parenting issues on her blog Mom-ology, but also issues revolving around autism and international child abduction and trafficking. From my perspective, Jennifer Husson Cluff is not only one of Canada’s top parenting bloggers, but she is one of the world’s most prolific parenting writers because through her writing and social media capability, Jennifer has measurably helped save the lives of children in severe crisis.
Before I go any further, let me say this simple thing about heroes: they are ordinary people doing extraordinary things for others during time of need or crisis, and in their act, they seek nothing but to hold the knowledge that they acted in kindness toward another, including individuals they know as well as individuals they may never know. In a hero’s compassionate act, they make the world a better place. And unquestionably, Jennifer Husson Cluff has made the world a better place for others.
Social media has clearly altered the way the world shares information, including a shift away from what may be previously considered traditional media outlets to the more nano-moment overdrive that occurs via social media outlets such as blog sites, Twitter, Facebook, etc., etc. The paradigm of this is a massive world of what may be viewed as dormant voices erupted in the media. The volcano, if you will – the highly intelligent, insightful, connected voices known as parenting blog writers.
Speaking from first-hand experience in my capacity as the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation, I have seen just how influential parenting blog writers are, particularly when they mobilize on a specific issue or cause. Fortunately for many at-risk children and their parents who have been targeted for international parental child abduction, a large and growing number of parenting bloggers decided to share their powerful voices and write about abduction. In doing so, the number of reported cased in the United States declined by 15% during 2012. This was more than a remarkable event. It was a miracle partially created by some extraordinary parents – mostly mothers who parent, who write, who live, who think, who care, and who stood unbowed. Among this remarkable group, and defining all of the above, is Jennifer Husson Cluff.
Over the past year, the I CARE Foundation has worked with Jennifer. Whenever we asked her for assistance in sharing messages that could possibly help families at risk, not only did she say ‘yes’ to our request, but asked ‘what else can I do to help?’
And help she did!
Jennifer Husson Cluff is my hero. She is what is right about this world. I value her friendship greatly and am inspired deeply by her belief in others, but more than anything, I value her incredible, insightful voice – a voice that always thinks of others while also being assertive, thoughtful, and at times, quite funny. And as a parent – there is not a day that goes by that I am not amazed by just how caring and attentive of a parent Jennifer is to her son Connor, who I think is one of the most remarkable young boys I have ever had the privilege of getting to know – in fact, I am blessed that Connor, who sees the world in its purest form – has been willing to share with me from time-to-time his unique, innocent, trusting, and wise perspective about so many things.
The other day, I was discussing with my fellow I CARE Foundation board of director member, attorney Joel Walter the amazing fact that the number of international parental child abduction cases declined by 15%. His words? “The reason why that happened more than anything is because of remarkable women like Jen [Husson Cluff] who answered our plea to help steward the message about abduction. They [the parenting blog writers] played a dramatic role in what was accomplished.”
I couldn’t agree more with Joel’s statement.
In asking Jennifer a list of questions below, I think you will understand just how remarkable a person she is. So with great pleasure, I share with you my interview with my hero, Jennifer Husson Cluff.
1. What is Mom-ology?
Mom-ology is a place where I share anything and everything mom-related… or in reality, parenting-related, as I do have some dad readers too. I originally started writing under another blog name and it was specifically about autism. As time went on, I started branching out into more general parenting topics, which allowed Mom-ology to be born. It allowed me to expand what I wanted to write about. It’s a place where I am able to be me and if that benefits someone else as well, that’s fantastic!
2. You have recently been voted one of Canada’s Top Parenting Blog Writers. Why write and what topics do you focus on?
My main goal in writing is to write about personal issues that may be of interest to others. Becoming a stay-at-home mom after being in the workforce for almost 15 years was a difficult transition in one sense. Though I love my son more than anything in this world, I thought I lost a part of my identity as a person in the workforce. So in creating Mom-ology, and writing about the things I do, it has allowed me to share my voice with others again.
Outside of sharing life living with autism… the good, the bad and the funny… I am passionate about raising autism awareness. As a special needs parent, I learned very quickly how to advocate for my son. Society has a lot of misconceptions about autism, and to help reduce the amount of discrimination and unfortunately, ignorance, the views of society need to change. My goal is to do what I can to change those views… to make life easier for my son, his friends and anyone else on the spectrum.
I have also become a bit of an advocate trying to help raise awareness about international parental child abduction (IPCA). About a year ago, I was introduced to this world that I didn’t know existed. I was an outsider looking in… and I can sure say, I didn’t like what I saw. I have been incredibly lucky to be able to assist the I CARE Foundation in any way I can, as they fight to bring about changes in the laws that are necessary to protect innocent children from the abuse and cruel world that is IPCA.
3. You are a fierce advocate of children with special needs. What benefits, if any, has social media had in furthering society’s understanding of children who are on the autism spectrum?
Thank you for saying that Peter – it means an awful lot coming from you. As you are aware, education is the key for any type of advocacy. In my opinion, social media has been a huge benefit as we try to raise awareness and help change the way society looks at children or adults on the autism spectrum.
Social media has allowed many causes and advocacy programs to reach people that they would have never been able to years ago. There are bloggers out there advocating and raising awareness for autism, as well as organizations such as Autism Speaks, and the information and reach is unbelievable. For example, April 2nd has been recognized as World Autism Awareness Day and a big part of this day is Autism Speaks’ campaign called ‘Light It Up Blue’. Businesses, organizations and individuals from all around the world recognize and participate in this event. It’s something small but it shows that social media is making a difference and getting the word out there. It allows us to share with society and to help people understand. Many times people’s reactions are based on fear of the unknown, but those fears can be reduced simply sharing information and educating society. I like to think that one day my son will live in a world that will accept him for who he is and part of that will be due to the work that advocates are doing today… but we still have a long way to go.
4. You have stewarded the message of international parental child abduction prevention, and have directly played important roles in helping prevent children from being internationally abducted. How would you describe parental child abduction and how relevant is this in society today?
I would say any parent’s worst nightmare would be to have their child abducted. Making it worse would be to know that it was the other parent doing the abducting! It’s hard to imagine that a parent could do that to their child! Aren’t parents supposed to love and care for their children? I know many of you feel the same way as I do and just can’t fathom the idea. However, it happens… and it happens a lot!
International parental child abduction is a form of child abuse… there is no other way to describe it. The short-term and long-term effects on these innocent children are severe. Not only is the child subjected to parental alienation, but studies show there is an increased risk of being murdered by the abducting parent (filicide) and data indicating victims of IPCA are also at a higher risk of suicide.
If you look at the statistics you will see how relevant this is in society today. There may be as many as 20,000 Canadian children and 125,000 American children internationally abducted by one parent from the other over the next ten years. Of those numbers, only about 10% of these children will ever come home!
As a parent, protect yourself and protect your child… I encourage you to take a few minutes and educate yourself about the WARNING SIGNS of IPCA. The easiest and best way to protect these children is to stop IPCA before it happens!
5. You use your blog to educate others about a host of important topics relevant to society today. What would be two of your biggest success stories on how your blog writing has helped another?
One of the things that I love about blogging is hearing from readers. My favorite story by far would be when I was contacted by a mom here in Canada, after reading an article about international parental child abduction that was shared on Mom-ology. This mom discovered that her three children were at risk of being taken to Saudi Arabia by their father. Thankfully the I CARE Foundation was able to ensure that these children remained in Canada where they were safe. I will ALWAYS remember that day… being a part of ensuring these children were safe… that was truly an amazing feeling!
I have had ‘autism parents’ contact me looking for support for their struggles that mainly revolve around dealing with school issues. Most recently, a parent emailed me after their child was forced into a supposed ‘seclusion room’ at school. Many parents are unaware of their rights in these types of situations and even more are afraid to upset the school and the officials. Helping parents to understand their rights and assisting to ensure they are able to access the resources and support that they need is extremely important. In this case it was to protect a child’s safety… to preserve a child’s dignity… and help a parent to realize they need to be the voice for their child and stand up for what they believe is right.
6. How socially influential are parenting blog writers and mom bloggers in particular?
I wish I could remember where I read this, but it was research stating that in 2012 there were 4.2 million ‘mom bloggers’ in North America. Now each of those mom bloggers have a passion that they write about… it may be fashion, food or fighting for a cause… whatever it is, in those numbers, they carry a lot of weight in the social world. Many parenting bloggers are stay at home moms and we use our blogs to share our voice and with the accessibility of the internet we are able to share our message with more people than ever before. I read parenting blogs from all around the world… I don’t go to buy a newspaper anymore… I use the internet to see what is going on in the world.
7. You have been blog writing for a little more than a year, yet in your first year as a blogger you have become considered one of the most important parenting blog writers. Are there any lessons that you can share with other parents who are or may be considering creating a blog?
Mom-ology was not my first blog but it is the first one that I have actually stuck with and made into something that I am proud of. I struggled a lot trying to ‘find my groove’ so to speak. I can’t say exactly what it was, but everything just fell into place. I write about what I love. I wouldn’t be able to do it any other way. I proved that to myself many times over!! I like to think I’m heading down the right path now though because I sure love what I do.
In my opinion, you need to write about what you know… write about what you love! I think with blogging, you have to do it because you enjoy it. If you put too many expectations on yourself you will probably lose interest. Deciding what you want from your blog is also an important step. Do you want it to be a ‘diary’ that you can share with family and friends, or do you have a bigger goal in mind…making an income? Advocating for a cause? Most of all have fun!
8. I would like to play a little word game. What comes to mind when I say, “Finding Your Voice?”
Funny you should ask this question, seeing as it comes up so much in our conversations!
I believe that your ‘voice’ is who you are… your mind, your heart and your spirit. When you ‘find your voice’ you find who you are truly meant to be and what is your ‘gift’, so to speak. There is a passion inside everyone and the challenge is to find it, but when you do, you will know. I guess for myself, I found my voice after I started Mom-ology. It’s been an incredible journey!
9. How has social media changed the landscape of society?
Social media has made some pretty great changes in the world. If you look at the way we interact with each other there are some definite pros and cons. Social media allows us to stay in contact with friends and family like we never could before, but I also think there is a downside to that in that we have lost some of the social skills that used to exist in society. People sit in the same room with each other and converse via text messages rather than a good old conversation. I must admit that I find that funny when I see it happen. The definition of ‘friends’ has pretty much been redefined due to Facebook. How many of your friends on Facebook are really friends? But if you look at the area of social activism, the changes are amazing! Gone are the days of having a small group on individuals trying to fight for a cause…locally. Today, social media allows people to connect on a global scale which only benefits the area of education and raising awareness. Think about the decline in parental abductions. This information is going out over the internet through the I CARE Foundation and bloggers. Parents are finding out about IPCA and the risks through social media. Children’s lives are being protected because of social media! I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty impressive!
10. Three books that have changed your life?
OK, this is really going to show where my life is today! I don’t have a lot of free time to read so when I do, most of my focus goes into learning about autism. The first two books are written by individuals on the autism spectrum and each has taught me so much about my son.
Chasing the Cyclone… well, that’s kind of a given. Now certainly one of my favorite books, it has impacted my life in so many positive ways… as has the author!!
11. Your son has a golden retriever named Ollie. How important is Ollie to your family?
As a companion, a helper, a best friend and member of our family, Ollie is our son’s autism service dog. Quite simply, he brings peace back to our lives as he is our extra set of eyes and ears. He has the amazing ability to make a young boy’s tears disappear by sharing a little nuzzle, or a comforting lick on the cheek, and those tears are replaced with sounds of laughter. Things like providing a warm snuggle at night, Ollie helps our son to feel safe and comforted so that he is able to sleep. A simple cuddle can help reduce anxiety and assists with self-regulation (those things we all take for granted) which makes those daily routines more bearable. If you were to ask what the best thing about having Ollie is, our son’s reply would be, and has been, ‘He is my best friend’.
We have had Ollie for almost 4 years and he has made such an enormous change in our lives. He has a big job but he does it so well! As you can probably tell by all that, Ollie is an extremely important member of our family and we are truly blessed to have him!
12. International Parental Child Abduction rates declined for the second year in a row in the United States. How significant of a role would you say parenting blog writers played in raising social awareness so at-risk parents can protect their children?
First off, I am thrilled at this news. When you shared this information the other day it was, as you know, a reality check for me. As a blogger, you don’t generally see the effect that you have on things like social awareness. If you are blogging about healthy eating, you don’t see how your efforts change people’s health specifically… you have to trust that what you are doing is making a difference.
In the case of parental child abduction, getting the word out on a global scale is beneficial for all. With bloggers having access to the internet and the followers through social media sites, it is easy to get messages out on a massive scale. I guess you could say that the numbers speak for themselves. Though standing up for what you believe in on your own is better than not doing anything at all, I think it takes a strong team to really make a difference. The efforts of the I CARE Foundation and the parenting bloggers that have been working with them are making a difference! I am proud to be a part of that!
13. Who or what inspires you?
That’s an easy one… my biggest inspiration is, of course, my son.
14. What should others know about you and your writing?
One of my favourite phrases is ‘Live… Laugh… Love’. There are sure a lot of different ways you can interpret that phrase, but any way you look at it, it’s a great way to live! If I could give everyone the ability to at least laugh each day I would. Laughter is the best medicine… it doesn’t take batteries… and best of all, it’s free.
I would love it if people would stop by and check out Mom-ology… and of course let me know that you stopped by!
15. What would you like to tell anyone who thinks that their voice doesn’t matter or who thinks that they can’t make a difference in their own life or the lives of others?
Never let anyone tell you that your voice doesn’t matter because it does! Even one voice can make a difference. It took me a while to realize that, but thanks to a pretty good friend… namely Peter Thomas Senese… I am able to see that now. If I can make a difference, so can you!
(End Interview Questions)
There are people in this world that make the world a better place by simply existing, and Jennifer Husson Cluff sure is one of them. Extremely intelligent, humble, considerate to others, a dedicated parent who has found her voice and who has used her voice for the greater good of others, she is what is right about this world.
While I sit here thinking about how I would like to end this interview, I have immediately found myself reflecting upon the time when Jen and I first met. With a smile on my face, I remember after our first conversation thinking how intelligent and caring she is. But I also remember thinking to myself, “She really doesn’t realize just how capable she is, nor how important her incredible insight is.” Well, I can’t say how amazing of an experience it has personally been to see first-hand as Jennifer Husson Cluff, one of Canada’s Top 5 Parenting writers . . . has found her voice. Undeniably, the world is a better place . . . and my life has been enriched in ways I could never possibly explain.
And Jennifer, should you ever read this – I want you to know you are a true hero in my eyes.
Kindest wishes to all –
Peter Thomas Senese
Author, Filmmaker, Advocate, and Believer In Miracles
Founding Director – The I CARE Foundation