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Living and blogging with courage: "The Maven of Mayhem"

Finishing high school at 38. Having date night interrupted by a mysterious bad smell. Discovering your hamster is inbred. When life happens to Amanda Jetté Knox, she writes about it on her funny, honest and sometimes heartbreaking blog, The Maven of Mayhem. And that didn't change when her middle child came out as transgendered at age 11. (On Wednesday, April 8, her blog received its highest-ever traffic when Amanda decided to show her daughter for the first time.)

As part of our "Canada Blogs" series on great Canadian bloggers, we caught up with Amanda and tackled the Big Questions: how to tackle a messy life, how to love unconditionally and what should and should not go in a cookie.

How would you introduce yourself at a party? 
I'm generally the one hitting the cheese platter at parties, so there isn't much time for introductions. But when people do manage get my attention, I tell them I'm a mother, writer, speaker, advocate and painter. And that I like cheese.

When did you decide to start The Maven of Mayhem? 
I was six months pregnant with my third child and running a full-time daycare out of my home. It was as if Chaos had a birthday party and invited Maelstrom and Bedlam over for cake. I was hormonal, overwhelmed, and looking for an outlet. I thought blogging would be a good fit, but wanted the freedom to say whatever came to mind. So I started writing anonymously, choosing "The Maven of Mayhem" as my handle and giving nicknames to all my family members. Eight years and far less anonymity later, I'm still glad I chose blogging as my outlet.

In early 2014 your middle child, who you call "Gutsy" on the blog, "came out" to you as transgender. How did you decide to blog about it
It was the hardest decision I've ever had to make as a writer. I've always written about our family life on the blog, but this seemed like a risky topic—one that could potentially endanger my child. I was ready to shut the blog down and go dark on social media if that's what it took to protect her. But ultimately, she wanted me to share our story so she could fully live her truth, and hopefully help other transgender people live theirs. We haven't looked back. She is the bravest person I know.

You proceeded to home-school your daughter for a year as she transitioned. How did your blog's audience change (or not) once you started blogging about your daughter's journey?
The blog's audience has grown quite a bit in the last few months. Some readers are curious as to what it's like to raise a child who doesn't fit the gender mould. Some are families of transgender people or are transgender themselves. Virtually all comments left have been supportive, which gives me a lot of hope for society. I know transphobia exists, but we haven't personally encountered much of it.

The post you wrote to your daughter on her first birthday after transitioning is extremely powerful. What did she think of it?
I read it to her before posting it and got a giant hug in return. She often tells her dad and I how much our support means to her. But I can't imagine doing things any other way. Unconditional love should never have conditions.

You've blogged about everything from breaking a toilet seat to being sexually assaulted as a teenager. Is there anything you won't blog about? Where do you draw the line?
Life is messy, but it doesn't have to be lonely. I try to write about things that are relatable and elicit a connection with my readers. We might not all go through the same experiences, but we've all shared similar feelings. 

However, I draw the line whenever I feel a certain topic or experience could hurt someone I care about. Words have power, and it's important to use them carefully.

What's the greatest thing that blogging has taught you?
Blogging has taught me that my voice—and every voice—matters. Everyone can have a significant impact on the world. All you need is persistence and passion. 

You often blog about eating cookies. What's the cookie of your dreams? And the cookie of your nightmares, the one cookie you would never ever eat?
I like my cookies to be as unhealthy as possible. Give me chocolate! Give me butter! Give me flour so white it burns the eyes to look at it! Cookies should not be free of anything but guilt, because enjoying them is one of those few pleasures in life. 

My ultimate nightmare consists of a hard, flavourless lump of low carbs and good fats trying to pass itself off as a cookie. Save that for your avocado salad, people.

All images courtesy of The Maven of Mayhem.


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