Bloggers Find Power Through Vulnerability

You’re stripped bare. You’re emotionally spent. You’re baring your soul. You are …. powerful.


It’s hard to imagine expressing the emotions that make most everyone want to hide under the covers—and finding power, strength and results. But for two Chicago bloggers, it’s their most intimate moments that inspire and empower a growing legion of followers.

Chicagoans Katy Maher (aka “I Want a Dumpster Baby”) and Sheila Quirke (aka “Mary Tyler Mom”) write what any good writer does—what they know.

“Donna was more than her cancer”

In Quirke’s case, it’s motherhood, or more precisely, mothering through cancer and beyond. Her series, “Donna’s Cancer Story,” is one of the most intimate and profound pieces of blogging anywhere. Quirke takes her readers on a journey through her daughter’s brain cancer experience, beginning with her diagnosis, and ending with her last moments in her parents’ arms, just three months past her 4th birthday. It’s powerful stuff.

Her blog has made a tangible impact on pediatric cancer awareness. “Donna’s Cancer Story” led to involvement with the WTMX Eric and Kathy 36-Hour Radio Marathon and raised $306,000 in a single hour. “It (the original blog series) just morphed into something bigger, and the power of it is that Donna has become real, and meaningful. I still can’t wrap my head around it.”

“There’s immense strength in showing your vulnerability,” Quirke says, “because it’s sacred.”

Sobriety, compassion and gratitude

Maher’s decidedly more adult story is equally intense—blogging since early 2011, Katy shares her journey from homeless alcoholic to married, working and mother-to-be of twins.

Writing about begging for money to buy more alcohol and openly admitting she was once the “stinky boozey homeless dudette” is maybe one of the riskiest things a blogger can do. But Maher owns and embraces her story, and in fact admits blogging about impending motherhood “is vulnerable for me.”

The power in Maher’s blog posts doesn’t necessarily come from the open and honest discussion of her past. It’s the way she lives her life now—yes, open and honest—but also full of compassion and empathy. She’s a big believer in avoiding judgment and actively practicing gratitude.

“It’s surprising to me how much people relate,” Maher says. “That’s incredibly humbling, and I’m really honored.”

The ups and downs of being open

Both admit detractors can make comments that “stick,” but they don’t shy away from them. “I try to be sensitive and respectful,” Quirke says.

“I listen to them and ask myself, ‘Is this about me, or is it about them?’” Maher says. And both carry with them the full support of their families. “My parents are hugely supportive and proud,” Maher says.

And when it comes to the really scary stuff, thoughts and feelings that could make people really uncomfortable? “There’s almost always that fear when you put it out there,” says Maher. “But if I’m not afraid, that’s when I want to do more. You want to challenge yourself.”

Ask their readers—they’ll tell you these women are the coolest people on the planet. Ask them … “Oh, no, no, no, I’m not,” laughs Maher. Quirke is equally surprised at the online adoration. “It’s still shocking, and really overwhelming.”

Want more? follow Mary Tyler Mom and Maher’s “I Want a Dumpster Baby.”