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BlogHer 2012 Recap

14 Aug

Well, here it is.  My BlogHer 2012 recap.  I suppose many of you are sick of these, and mine is coming a little late.  But I want to give an account of my time in NYC in hope that it will be helpful to someone who is considering going in the future.

I’m going to skip writing about the hotel (which was nice), the loooong lines for lunch (which we skipped out on and instead enjoyed at Chipotle and then Lindy’s), and the official parties (which were all in an awkward L-shaped space and VERY loud but did have free booze).

Let me start by saying that BlogHer was big.  Huge.  Colossal.  And just not because it was in NYC or because there were nearly 5,000 in attendance.  BlogHer made it clear to me that blogging is big business these days.  President Obama addressed us on Thursday via live video conference.  Martha Stuart and Katie Couric spoke during lunches.  And brands went all out at the dozens of off-site parties. People were there to WORK. IT. and to take advantage of the plethora of marketing opportunities.  All weekend, I kept thinking about how big it was.  I felt so small.  And so out of place being a non-monetized small blogger.   I suppose that’s the thing I think it’s important for BlogHer newbies to know: that small bloggers are welcome, but that (at least in 2012) BlogHer seemed to me to be mostly about PR.  All weekend there was this energy all around – women vying for success.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that.  Who doesn’t want to be successful?  If you are interested in how to polish your branding, how to use twitter and pintrest to drive traffic to your blog, SEO, html, or how to make an app, BlogHer is the perfect conference for you.  Unfortunately for me, I went to focus on my writing, and only a few events seemed to really do that well. Cecily really says it better than I ever could here.

There has been talk of bloggers being cliquish. If that’s even a word.  Yes, bloggers who were familiar with one another hung out together.  They probably roomed together, ate together, and attended parties together.  I know my roomies and I did just that because we felt more confident and secure.  But you know what?  Every blogger I introduced myself to was friendly.  And 90% of them were also more than just polite.  They asked about my blog, my history, my hometown and really listened.  I shared a cab on Thursday with Tamera of MomRN,  Jenny Ingram from Jenny on the Spot, and another blogger whose card I didn’t get and whose name I can’t remember.  I feel terrible, because she was really kind – and her life/music blog sounded awesome.  These women didn’t know me from Eve, but were kind enough to include me in the ride to Social Luxe (which is a whole other story) and remembered me when I bumped into them later in the weekend.

I quite literally stalked Gina from The Feminist Breeder down in the Expo Hall just so I could thank her for her post about oversupply.  She was genuine and kind and I may have done that awkward happy skip away from our meeting.  Let’s just hope she wasn’t watching.  I got to hug Katherine Stone from Postpartum Progress again and dance with her at Sparklecorn.  She came over to our little foursome periodically to check on us like a proud mother hen.  I made new friends in the Serenity Suite, a quiet place to get away from all the calamity and to have great conversations.  And Fadra Nally from All Things Fadra was exceptionally kind at Social Luxe on Thursday – taking a genuine interest in my blog and encouraging me in my attempt to mingle at a party where I knew absolutely no one.

And then there were the PPD mamas.  I’m going to make some folks really jealous, but I have to tell you that Yael is just as  warm and comforting in person as she is online.  We sat together in the Serenity Suite Thursday evening and she made me the absolute best cup of tea I’ve ever had.  There’s something about her that looks straight to your soul and really sees you for who you are.  Her aura is stunning.  It was so nice to meet Ivy in person instead of just on Facebook, and to hug Jenna (Frelle) every time I ran into her.  And she was everywhere.  That girl has got some conference stamina, let me tell you!

And my roommates.  I’m convinced there have never been five strangers sharing a hotel room  as considerate as we were of one another.  They are the reason I spent much of the conference not at the conference…and I don’t regret it one bit.  We had lunches off-site, held mini panels in our hotel rooms, Skyped with Story, Lindsay, and Yuz, shopped for luxurious soap at Sabon, and discussed everything from blogging to kids to relationships to sex.  I felt truly heard…seen for who I am by these women, and I feel so lucky to have gotten a little girls getaway with them.

Jaime, you are so beautiful and passionate and kind.  A’Driane, hugging you in person will be the highlight of 2012 for me.  Truly.  Amiyrah, I wish we had gotten more time to hang out.  You worked your butt off all weekend and I was in awe of you.  And Melanie, I am so very glad to have you as a new friend.  I think we’re kindred spirits.

All of my best BlogHer moments were small, intimate meetings.  Whether it was with old friends or new ones, the time spent with people, making deep connections – that’s what I wanted to really get out of BlogHer.  I feel like I managed to do just that, but that I had to miss a lot of the conference to do it.

Would I go again?  Maybe.  It would depend on the speakers, the sessions, the prospective roommates.  I have a feeling a smaller conference like Blissdom or Type A Con might be more up my alley.  But I don’t regret attending BlogHer 2012 one bit.  I found some great new folks to read and follow.  I got some awesome free stuff.  And I learned so much about the blogosphere and where I see myself fitting into it (or not fitting, actually).

I pushed myself , stretched my comfort zone wide open, dyed my hair pink, and thrived.  Thank you, BlogHer for the memories, the experiences, the toilet cleaner.  Most of all, thank you for my friends.


It’s Only Hair

9 Aug

I suppose you would describe my style as clean, polished, maybe even preppy.  I grew up in a fairly conservative family, attended a Christian college (despite being non-religious), and my career as an elementary school teacher only nourished my wardrobe filled with pencil skirts and polo shirts.  I am the girl next door.  Jeans and polo shirts.  Khaki skirts and sweaters.  Sundresses with wedge sandals.

It’s not that I want to blend in.  It’s just that I’ve never felt like a loud person.

So this hair?  Is a departure for me.  A leap.

I dyed my hair once before, a few years back when I was teaching 4th grade in St. Louis.  I went to work the next morning and was thrilled when a co-worker asked, “did you do something different with your hair?”  I proudly answered yes, I had done something different; it was now slightly browner than before.  You know, chocolate brown instead of its natural chestnut brown color.  With a semi-permanent dye.  We both laughed at my half-assed attempt at change.

So this past weekend, at BlogHer, as my colorful and vibrant friend A’Driane from Butterfly Confessions applied the bleach to my hair, I took a deep breath and chanted “it’s only hair,” in my head.  And as she painted the hot pink dye onto my head, I wondered how I would style this new ‘do.  How would my family react? What would people think?

I washed the last of the pink creme out of my hair, toweled off, and finally revealed the results to the critic in the mirror.  I couldn’t help but smile.  The pink was perfectly offset by the surrounding brown, providing a pop of color to what was previously a blank canvas.  Once curled, the magenta waves twisted and mixed with the brown, and entertaining the eyes.  The girl who always took things so seriously, even her hair, was transformed.

The gorgeous and talented Cecily and A’Driane chatting in the hallway during Sparklecorn. A highlight of my weekend.

My pink hair made me more approachable at the conference (which was attended by almost 5,000 women!).  It granted me an audience with pink-haired Cecily from Uppercase Woman (she was friendly, kind, and so very funny).  And it made me feel striking, even when I wandered down to breakfast in my sweatpants and tank top on Saturday morning.  And now that I’m home and have re-entered real life, my wet mommy bun doesn’t seem so, well, mommy-ish.

So, thank you, A’Driane. For pushing me out of my comfort zone and for filling my life and my hair with color.  What seems like such a small, superficial act has inspired me to be brave in other areas of my life – to take chances and try new things – and to have more fun.

After all, it’s only hair. Or is it?

**note: after Mirjam’s comment, I had to add that last sentence.  And that’s what I love about blogging.  I love that it makes me think about what I meant.  What I wrote.  And how I can make it better. **

What do you mean “bloggy friends?”

15 Jul

Summer means vacations, and sharing about your vacation plans.  For me, sharing my plans to take the train to NYC for BlogHer seems to lead to blank stares and vague commentary.  It’s the same look I get from folks when I talk about my “bloggy friends.”

Me: I was tweeting with A’Driane and she was telling me this hilarious story about the time she participated in donkey races down by the river…

Them: Oh.  You’re on twitter?  Huh.

Me: I’ve made some really great friends through twitter and blogging.  They’ve really helped me with my PPD this time around.

Them: {awkward silence}

Look.  I get it.  I write in my About Me section that I thought Web Logs were silly.  I mean, who wants to read about how I potty train my toddler… or what I had for dinner… or the inner workings of my anxiety-ridden brain?  And what about privacy?  That’s what makes my parents uncomfortable with my blogging, I think.  And Facebook.  And Twitter.  That I’m telling so much to so many.  And what kind of ego must I have to think that anyone would want to read what I write?

It’s not for everyone.  Just like marathon running, dog shows, video games, or singing, it’s a hobby for some and a career for others.  So it’s cool with me if people think its geeky, or silly, or self-absorbed.  It makes me happy.  But maybe (just maybe) this will help my IRL friends understand why I do it:

When I was a kid, I had a penpal in Japan.  I have long since forgotten her name, but I bet my mom saved some of the letters I received.  We quickly got over introductions and shares some pretty personal (as personal as a ten-year-old’s life can get) stories and really connected.  I looked forward to getting her letters and sharing my life with someone who was far-removed enough from my life that I felt like I could tell her anything.

That’s what blogging is – at least to me and the small community of PPD bloggers I’ve connected with.  It’s like having twenty-five pen pals.  You can share anything with them because your kids don’t play together, your husbands don’t know each other, and you’re not going to run into them at the grocery store and have an awkward moment.  They’re all seeking the same kind of honest, vulnerable friendship, but there’s a distance that makes it feel just a little less intimate…less frightening.  And because other people may stumble upon your blog or twitter feed too, you gather more pen pals along the way.

I’m going to stop referring to my bloggy pen pals as “my twitter friend, Lea” and “my blogging friend, Jaime.”  From now on, they’re just my “friends.”  That’s what they’ve become.

So there you have it.  Yes.  I spend hours online “chatting” with people I’ve never met in person.  And yes, I publish my personal diary on the internet for all to read (and comment on!).  I never expected to do either, or for it fill a hole in my life.  But it does.  It surely does.

BlogHer 2012

7 Jul

There are a bunch of you who have never heard of BlogHer.  That’s okay.  Like my husband says, the only people who care about blogging conferences and really read blogs are other bloggers, just like the only people who read academic papers and care about academic conferences are academics.  To each his own.  BlogHer is the largest conference for women in social media.  Bloggers from all over will descend on NYC in August to network, learn, and party.  And this year, I’m going!

I’m excited about the sessions – opportunities to get inspired by powerhouse writers and to learn tricks of the trade, both technical and artistic.  I’m excited to attend the parties.  I won an invite to SocialLuxe, people!  And I’ll be dancing my glittery butt off at Sparklecorn.  But I’m really going to meet some of my online friends for the first time.  I’ve truly connected with some spectacular writers, moms, and women online.  We’ve bared our souls but have yet to be in the same room.  And that’s about to change.

Originally, I was going to bring the baby with me.  I was prepared to babywear, take breaks for naps, breastfeed in the middle of sessions, and miss out on some of the social events.  And then I realized…this was my chance to have a little time to myself.  Probably the only change I will have in the next year.

So, I’m leaving the girls with my husband and Mama’s going to PAR-TAY!  I’m going to get to really focus on my writing and connecting with some amazing people.  I’m going to sleep without waking up five times a night (unless one of my roomies snores.  Fess, up, ladies!).  And then I’ll miss my girls something fierce and want to run home.

I can’t wait.

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