Note: I wrote most of this post, on the plane home from BlogHer14, five days ago. I was feeling energized, excited and enthusiastic to share the experiences I had there. But re-entry was not easy. I got home to all kinds of transitions and issues, and my writing has suffered all week… along with my emotions. Today, I’m trying to recapture some of the sparkle I felt a week ago, by finally loading photos, summarizing and posting this.
Also, please note the links here. If you click them, you can check out all the incredible bloggers and experiences I enjoyed at the conference.
First, There Was a Dream… Or At Least A Desire To Get Away:
I’ve wanted to go to BlogHer for several years. But, honestly, I’m not sure why. I’d read a few things about it, and it sounded cool. Because I blog, people often asked me if I’d been, and I began to feel like I should. But, if truth be told, I was a true virgin– when it comes to BlogHer. I’d visited the website; I
kind of knew what it was all about; I wanted to be part of this thing that so many people buzzed about. Like many virgins, I was both anxious to go all the way, and really nervous. There was lots of hype, but what if it wasn’t all I’d heard it would be? What if I found myself let down– Or worse, what if I gave up my virginity and ended up alone, and disappointed?
Unlike my first boyfriend, who promised it would be great, but left me feeling… well, let’s leave that for my memoir, no offense to said “first boyfriend.” In the interest of full disclosure, at my age I’m not an easy lover. I’ve come a long way from that girl who followed my first boyfriend– blinded by love, into the world of adult relationships. I have a good life, and I’ve come to expect that when I pay as much as BlogHer costs, I’ll have my socks rocked. I’m not that woman who finds the sparkly good in everything– I’m a bit more pragmatic, despite my ability to also be swept away.
Do You Know The Way To San Jose? (and that song/joke got a lot of play…)
While I may not think that the cost was entirely worth the hype, BlogHer14 delivered in ways I had not anticipated, when I packed my carry-on bag (pragmatic, right?) and headed to San Jose, nine days ago. I signed up for the whole kit and caboodle, figuring that I might as well dive into the deep end, rather than dip my feet in the shallows, so I signed up for Pathfinders. I arrived knowing no one, and decided right up front to put myself out there and see what came of it.
“I’m here by myself. I plan to go to the bar for a drink and then get dinner out tonight. Anyone want to join me?”
I posted that message on the Attending BlogHer14 Facebook wall, with it’s nearly 900 members. Chirp, chirp, chirp. I got a few likes, but no responses. Admittedly, I was a little deflated, but I’m not afraid to eat alone, so I figured I’d dress up a little and head out with my Kindle.
When The Fireworks Started:
Then, just as I was ready to leave, I saw two posts from other bloggers. The first, from Lisa, said: “Just got in from Seattle. I’m staying at the Fairmont, and I’m sitting in the bar with a glass of wine. I’ll be here until 5pm if you want to join me.” Wait! I’m from the Seattle area; I like wine, and I was staying at the Fairmont. It was 4:41pm. I’m on my way down! Where are you sitting? I desperately responded. The second post announced: “We’re on our way from San Francisco, anyone want to have dinner?” From Julie and Chloe. Yes! I’d love to join you; what are your plans? I typed. (hoping I didn’t sound needy in addition to desperate). I sent the messages and left with my iPhone, just beginning to feel the needy and desperate actually slither in a little.
When I got to the bar, my messages informed me that “Lisa” had gone to her room, but would come back down to the bar. There was a new response from “Tonya,” saying that she’d be right over too. There was nothing on the dinner invite. I grabbed a seat in the spacious bar at the Fairmont and waited. And then, it all began to change and unfold… in magical and surprising ways. Lisa (Journey Cook)– a marathoner, mother, traveler and cook– and I found each other and instantly bonded over our shared geography, similarly aged kids, and countless other dots that connected effortlessly. Ahh, I felt the anxiety begin to melt; I began to relax.
Then Tonya (Women Do Everything) arrived– A fireball from the minute she walked in; Tonya is a home maintenance expert who exudes chutzpah and verve. I liked her instantly, and we kept finding each other all weekend. Right away Tonya informed me that Julie and Chloe had responded to the dinner post, and that they’d be meeting us in the lobby shortly. As I got to know Lisa and Tonya, I suddenly had dinner plans with two other women, who I hadn’t previously met. Hello and welcome to BlogHer14!
Lisa was tired and excused herself from dinner, but Tonya and I found Julie (Fabulous Blogging) easily, and Chloe (INSERT BLOG) showed up shortly after. While we all took a little time to get a feel for each other, it was remarkably easy. It felt like I’d met them before, and we all fell into easy conversation, easy restaurant choices, and an evening that organically morphed into a spirited dialogue on aging, home-improvement, sex, marriage, blog development, and the empty nest… to name a few hot topics. Julie is a web and blog designer, whose smile is equal parts impish fun and the ninja her business card promises. Chloe (Chloe of The Mountain) is a labor and delivery nurse, wise women and hot mama, whose sharp wit kept me dizzy all weekend. All three of them had been to BlogHer before, and as we talked and laughed and connected, I found myself more and more enthusiastic and hopeful, that BlogHer14 would not let me down. I’m not sure I could have imagined a more dynamic start to my weekend!
After the initial (and infinitely disappointing) Pathfinder day, the full conference started on Friday, and some of the big magic kicked in. There are two bloggers who I have gotten to know on-line, and have come to like very much. We’ve talked about meeting some day, but that day kept slipping past us… until this conference. Emily (The Waiting), was a Voices of the Year winner, and she’s been a wonderful support in my blogging, and a friend behind the scenes. Amy (Amy Reese Writes) texted me and let me know that her son would be competing in a sports event in San Jose, and asked if I’d meet her.
Hello Universe, thanks for that dollop of icing, on my double-fudge weekend.
I was thrilled! Emily and I met earlier in the day and felt an instant bond, which comes from late night chats online, sharing our writing, and feeling like we’ve already filled in the blanks. She was so much quieter than I expected– a true southern woman, with a charming accent and introvert demeanor that I didn’t anticipate. It was a wonderful surprise, and reminded me that there was more to learn about her.
Amy showed up at the conference center late afternoon and we laughed and erupted in happy connection. Again, having shared our stories on-line, there was a comfort level that made our meeting seem so much easier and organic. I have come to envision so many bloggers as extroverts, based on their posts and online presence, and one big take away this weekend, was that our written voice is not always our in-person voice. Amy is soft-spoken, listens fully, and thoughtfully. Her smile sparkles in person, even more than it does on-line, and it felt easy and happy to connect the two images. Emily joined us eventually and we all shared a glass of champagne, and the selfies that dominated the entire weekend… BlogHer14 having designated it a “Selfiebration.”
If I Were To Leave You With One Kernel… But I Never Stop When I Should:
There were so many amazing moments over the weekend. But, this first night sums up what was for me the best part of attending BlogHer14, the easy, dynamic, amazingly real connections I made with other women, who I had not known in person before, or in some cases known of, just days before. Time and again, other women bloggers introduced themselves, jumped into fun conversations, offered advice, or shared glimpse of their lives. They made themselves vulnerable, sharing their stories (at Voices of the Year) or listening to others; they patiently shared knowledge, without worrying about competition; they laughed out loud and danced with abandon. I felt part of something so much bigger than I’d anticipated, and I was so grateful to be there. There was an ease and sincerity that is sometimes lacking when women get together in other venues and I wanted to soak it up for as long as I could! I’ve been a parent of 3 kids for 24 years now; I’ve spent most of my life around other women, and the women at this conference were so inclusive and positive, it was amazing!
Famous People Were There:
The weekend was highlighted by Keynote speakers at each meal. Teneshia Jackson-Warner started things out on day one of Pathfinders and was a wonderful surprise. Honestly, I didn’t know who she was, but her kick ass history impressed me, while her down to earth availability was refreshing. The biggie for me was The Bloggess, who wowed me with her humor, vulnerability and down to earth realness. Having read her work for so long, I expected a celebrity of sorts, but her warmth and sparkle are what really pulled me in. She was generous about signing books– posing for a photo with each of us, and taking a moment to chat. I’m a bigger fan than I was, and really enjoyed hearing her speak. Arianna Huffington was much funnier than I expected and full of one-liners, in an entertaining interview with hottie Guy Kawasaki. She preached the powers of sleep, something I admittedly could use more of, and I her “No is a complete sentence” was a true “Aha” moment for me. Now, to convince my family… Ms Huffington’s book signing was much more “wrangled” and rushed. Kerry Washington from Scandal was lovely in person, but not as interesting from a blogging/writings perspective. She was charming and very grounded, but I wanted more from writers.
If This Was Losing My Virginity, There Was Also Some Masturbation Involved:
I took enough Selfies to be permanently labeled “Lame” by my kids… Now that I’m home, I’ll give them that point. It seemed like a good idea at the time, as I tried to win a new computer, popularity, a date with Guy Kawasaki, and other sundry things that first timers want. My Twitter account, which is usually quiet and boring, was exploding with evidence of my virginal journey. It never occurred to me that other innocents were out there trying to turn their feeds off.
The Summary That This Whole Post Could and Should Have Been… But I Talk To Much:
There were big hits and there were big misses over the weekend: I was touched by The Mrs’ (watch this video!) magic mirror and “I’m enough” campaign; I was insulted and bullied by Khloe Kardashian’s security team (as I innocently stood in a public pathway, and got myself pushed). I met countless amazing women who get where I’m coming from. I wasted money on a Pathfinder day with two authors– one of whom was narcissistic and the other who was boring, and seemed unhappy to be there (neither of whom offered anything unique or informative, or anything that wasn’t read from their slides, or worth the extra $150). The food was lacking at times and the water was all together missing– there really should have been a hash tag #where’sthewater? or #gotwater? because it was blistering hot and there was no water to be found! But there were free slushies at the Sonic booth and free shots of flavored liqueurs and bottomless popcorn, in the Expo hall. I got to meet two women who I’d known on line and now count as friends, and was introduced to a new blogging friend, Kylie
Minoque (The Life of Kylie), who joined this epic meeting, and helped make my second night fantastic too. There were secret deliveries to my room– something that equally weirded me out, and thrilled me. I took selfies at every sponsor booth, every event possible… but I didn’t win any prizes. There was hours of dancing to Rev Run at the closing party, and shared Happy Meals with Emily. After a nine year hiatus from McDonalds, this was as good a place as any to go there again, and the best company possible. When I got back to my hotel, the closing party was topped off with a jello shot party in a room filled with badass amazing bloggers like Chloe, Julie, Gunmetal Geisha (who has a real name, but I was star-struck), and Aussa. If I hadn’t been so tired by then, I might have stayed… and gone blind.
The Morning After…
And so I’m home. My BlogHer cherry is popped and no one here gives a rat’s ass that I felt like a princess for a few days. It doesn’t matter that a few people said “Oh my gosh! You’re Tales From the Motherland!” (Seriously, that moment would have been enough), or that I loved spending time with so many cool new friends, or that I got lots of free swag (admittedly, most of which was not worth the $25 baggage fee, when my no longer pragmatic self had to shamefully check my luggage!), or that I felt juiced to learn new tech terms and figure some things out. No one cared that I got to meet Michelle Weber, my personal Word Press goddess (and fellow semicolon fan)– whose coolness in person is only trumped (a teeny bit) by her über- cool gravitar (deserving of 2 dots over the u). No one at home cares what a gravitar is. So, there is re-entry; there’s the morning after. There is this d post-mortem. BlogHer14 may not have been perfect for everyone, but for me it was a dose of much needed encouragement and fun, for the part of me that I most want to encourage. It was a boost for my creativity and passion, for my dreams and goals, and for four sparkly days, I didn’t give a rat’s ass about what anyone here thinks… either.
Other Posts I’ve written or enjoyed About BlogHer:
Putting My Best Foot Forward (Tales From the Motherland); Come Fly With Me (The Waiting); BlogHer14 Recap: Is This The End of BlogHer? (Chloe of the Mountain); Meeting Bloggers in Real Life (Amy Reese Writes); BlogHer: The Good, The Bad, and The Awkward (Aussa Lorens). There are so many, but honestly, my week has been
crappy really full, and I haven’t had time to write, read, or poop.
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