Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why I'll Be At BlogHer Again



Photo by Bitchin' Amy BlogHer San Diego

When you've been mothering for 17 years, a lot of you becomes a P.S. in your life. And that's a decision I don't ever regret. Devotion and Mad Crushes on my children have filled in my resume since 1995.

But for one brief shining moment in August of 2011, I had Camelot. Camelot in the form of the BlogHer '11 conference in San Diego. *(BlogHer: world's largest conference for women in social media. 4,500 attendees anticipated in NYC, where it's being held this year, August 3 and 4)* The decision to go was a hasty one: I had been plucked out of my life and thrown into someone else's by being chosen as a BlogHer Voice of The Year for Humor. I now HAD to be there.

Using his frequent flyer miles, my husband was able to find me an affordable plane ticket; I work two part-time jobs and used the money from that to buy my BlogHer conference pass. The universe threw in a helping hand: as back up, my in-laws live in LaJolla, so I had a place to stay if it was too late to find room mates.

My closest, oldest blogging friends were going: Shari from Earth Mother Just Means I'm Dusty, who was my first follower, and my beloved Varda of Squashed Mom. I sent them emails in a supplicating panic, exploding with the news of VOTY, and asking if they could spare floor space for an itty bitty little lady who'd bring her own sleeping bag. They were gracious and generous enough to let me room with them. And, not to say I'm a talisman or anything, BUT Shari AND Varda are BOTH 2012 BlogHer Voice of The Year at this year's BlogHer. Just a thought to ponder ... should I ever ask you for a favor.

I never thought that I'd attend a BlogHer conference. Going to a BlogHer conference was something for The Blogging Giants, but not me. I instinctively discounted myself because BlogHer was Big Time; the world's biggest conference for the world's biggest bloggers. Established veterans who sit 'round the campfire telling tales of yore of when everyone visited everyone's blog and commented. Legends who were of the days when Pioneer Woman only had 45 followers.

This conference was for the seasoned and experienced. Those with an online life since 2006 and before, with names known on the internet. Who the heck was I to think that I had a space among those doing the real thing?

I was someone who blogged for the connection, the fun, the friendships, the joy of writing, the love of making people laugh. I began my blog as a hopeful attempt at finding others to add into my life, and nothing more. That this blogging thing would be life changing; that I did not see coming. The amazing, talented people I've met through blogging, the change in my step since I began writing, the way I now stand with my shoulders back proud to be who I am: these words are the understatement of my life.

But with the plane ticket set, the hotel room taken care of, and BlogHer requiring that you be in attendance in order to be a VOTY, it looked like I'd be going to BlogHer. The only thing I had left to do was a run to TJMaxx. After 50 minutes there, I left with a shopping cart containing two sun dresses, two cocktail dresses, two pairs of sandals, four T shirts, one stretchy black skirt, a pair of chunky earrings, and my first pair of straight leg jeans. I was on my way.

There was a blogger that I love going and she'd be flying into San Diego at the same time, coming in from NY. We made plans to meet at the airport, and though I was relieved to have someone meet me when I landed, I still wobbled out of the terminal's tunnel sweaty-palmed and as unsure footed as a sixth grade girl in her first pair of heels. I saw a brunette holding a hand-lettered sign that read "Empress" and grateful tears sprang to my eyes from this gesture on Kablooey's part. She made me feel like a rock star, and I think I gave her a heart attack with the way I fell into her arms.

We spent an hour together and it felt more like 15 minutes. Talking about everything as fast as we could, never with a lull in our conversation. We would see each other later that night, and she left to meet a friend in San Diego, and I went to find a way to the San Diego Marriott.

I knew finding an Information Desk would be a good idea, and that's where I headed. I was hoping for a shuttle to BlogHer, but only cabs were available. There was a short woman with long, long hair standing next to me in a swirly mini-sundress, bare legs in riding boots, and a flowing purple chiffon scarf almost as long as she was tied around her neck. She was looking for a way to the hotel, too. I forced myself out of my shell and  invited her to share a cab with me and she took me up on my offer. Driving to the hotel, I introduced myself and gave her my card. She handed me hers and my mouth dropped open as soon as I instantly recognized the clean black on white design of the Gibson Girl from the 1900's in the upper corner.

"You're Blogging Dangerously!" I said with wide open eyes. "I follow you!"  In my head, true to my corny roots, I said You're not in Kansas anymore. (I actually did)

We pulled up to a hotel that stood glistening in the 2:00 p.m. sun like the city of Oz. She jumped out of the cab and with one expert swoop, picked up her luggage, paid half the fare, and was inside the lobby while I still stood there stuffing the crumpled ten dollar bill change from her into the back pocket of my new jeans. I shouted "Hope to see you later!" as I watched the hair on the back of her head swing back and forth with the speed of her steps. Tripping over the suitcases that our driver had set on the pavement, I made my way to the dream-like open air entrance of the San Diego Marriot Marquis. I stood in the lobby, taking a deep breath of relief of finally arriving in one piece at the right place. The sight of the sparkling waters of the marina behind the registration desk made the day seem even more surreal.

I was here, at a BlogHer conference.

Pulling my luggage up to the clerk at the check-in desk, I stammered about needing a key, could I get a key? My other room mates weren't here yet -- I was here by myself -- where should I go until they show up? With my elbows on the counter, I rose up on my toes as my panic began to rise with a feeling of being in over my head. As I realized where I was -- BlogHer -- I thought what the heck am I doing here? Seconds-fast doubts started filling my mind by the bucketfuls -- telling myself I shouldn't be at BlogHer. What in the world was I thinking? This is too big and I'm not blogger enough for it.

My mouth began to set firm in the conviction that I had made the wrong choice, but then I turned around and every single dark thought flew out of my head like bats leaving a cave. I had spotted Polly Pagenhart and that million dollar smile of hers. Polly blogs at Lesbian Dad and is BlogHer's Conference Program Director; she had been emailing me about VOTY specifics. With a smile I needed more than words can say, she held out both arms open to me. Let me tell you, this woman knows just what to do and can read a face in a flash. I did go for that hug, and I did hold on longer than socially appropriate; but a soul knows what a soul needs. The sincere warmth of Polly's hug and her genuine joy at meeting me was just the reassurance I needed right then, for so many reasons.

I grinned at her like an idiot until we said good-bye, knowing we'd see each other again over the next few days. Not knowing what to do with myself until my room mates arrived, I went outside to the pool that I had seen in the background behind the lobby desk. I was wearing my fussy.com T shirt because it always makes me feel BA, my new straight legged jeans, and the shiny black wedge sandals with the price sticker still fresh on the bottom. I grabbed a chaise near the outdoor bar, and set my suitcases next to me. Laying down with one of the biggest sighs of my life, I closed my eyes to catch my breath and still my pounding heart. I eavesdropped on the conversations around me:

"My page views skyrocket after stumbleupon, but my food posts don't get so much traffic."

"I know. But salads do well. Especially in summer. So does Wordless Wednesday."

"Oh, dude. I love Wordless Wednesday. Whoever came up with that is a genius."

"Yeah. Sign me up for Wordless Wednesday, Silent Saturday, Mute Monday..."

Giggles of laughter, clinking of wine glasses, smiles you could hear.

Silly as it sounds, tears slid out of the outer corners of my eyes while listening to these women. I couldn't believe where I was and it felt magical to be among others who understood the world of blogging when so many in my real world didn't. Every word these women were saying sounded so beautifully familiar. Like what it must feel like to someone who's lived in this country longer than they can remember and they finally hear their mother tongue again. After spending a lifetime feeling like I never fit in anywhere, I finally felt like I had found my planet.

And where I was at this moment, felt like home.

With my face in the hot August sun, I sat smiling. A day's worth of travel grime on my all ready too hot black T shirt, too tight jeans that were scorching my thighs, and a lump of happiness in my throat. I belonged here.

I had found the mothership.
______________________________________________________________
**If you're thinking about attending a BlogHer conference, I hope you decide to do it. It is a lifetime chance, and the memories you'll make are the kind that change you forever. Seeing people you talk to daily online, meeting them in the flesh, is a feeling I can't put to words. 

I hope to see you there. I'm thrilled to be presenting as part of a panel, 10:30 a.m. Opening Day, along with Dorothy Snarker and Bon Stewart, aptly titled "Blogging For The Love of It." 

Please stay around afterward, and say hello. I'd love to meet you; shake your hand, hug you: you let me know what's comfortable for you. It's always so fun to see a 2D avi you've followed for months, finally speak. 




92 comments:

  1. Enjoy and congrats on presenting! Lucky you!

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    1. Thanks, Gigi. I am thrilled, excited, honored, humbled, and CANNOT wait!

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  2. Meeting you was one of the highlights of my first BlogHer. I wish I were going this year but, alas, three children under four is precluding cross-country travel this time around. Have a great time!

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    1. Oh, I loved meeting you. You were so clever in your off hand way. So very classy.

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  3. I'll be there this year! I'm rooming with three other small-time bloggers and I can't wait. Oh - and your session is already on my schedule!

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  4. I'm still blogging for the love of it, so I'll be there smiling in the audience. And it was so much fun meeting you and getting to poke my head out of the turtle shell of social awkwardness while in your company. You've made such a difference in my life and I can't thank you enough. I won't be arriving at the airport, since NYC is my hometown, but I still hope we get some bonding time. Love you.

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    1. Carrie: you really did leave me verklempt with your little sign. I should have asked you for it.

      xo

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  5. This is so great. I love those conversations that you overheard and the arms that were open to you. I hope to meet you at BlogHer this year... I'll be the blonde hanging with Erin Margolin. ;)

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    1. A friend of Erin's is a new friend of mine. We love each other.

      xo

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  6. It is amazing to look at the calendar and see that in less than 4 weeks I'll be in NYC (sure it'll only take me a couple hours from DC, but still). I will find you, Alexandra, I promise you that. I will hug you and thank you and probably sniff your hair - please don't be alarmed. I have heard that my expectations are likely going to be trampled upon by the sheer enormity of BlogHer. I'm trying to accommodate that in mah mind, but mah mind ain't yet agreeing.

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    1. A, you know how I want to meet you.

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  7. I can't wait to get on the plane. And I will see you at your talk. If not before.

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  8. You've answered a question I've had for many years, that you're NOT paid for being VOTY. Not in a plane ride, a conference pass or a hotel room?

    I think BlogHer has enough money to help a hardworking mom like you (and others) out. So disappointing to realize that they won't.

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    1. Suzy, seriously, I am grateful to be chosen and given the opportunity to read before so many. It's a real thrill for someone like me.

      xo

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  9. Yay!!! I will see you in a few weeks and cannot wait!! So happy you are speaking too!! Congrats!
    It's been too long....
    xoxo

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    1. I'll always remember how I saw your dancing brown eyes just at the exact moment i needed to. Thank you. xo

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  10. seriously, these events sound like a blast...i would love to get to meet some blog friends as well...have def enjoyed meeting some for weekend in NYC...

    big time bloggers...come on now...everyone knows the Empress...smiles.

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    1. I'd like to meet you one day, B, to thank you for your support and kind words. Especially with Auggie. He looks for comments from Mr. Miller each time he posts. Thank you.

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    1. Don't stand too close to me, Miss Apothelicious...me in my Old Navy and TJMaxx.

      xo

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  12. That talisman comment made me choke! Hilarious. I so wish I could go one of these years. Maybe right now I should aspire to updating my own blog more than every other week. HAVE A WONDERFUL TIME!

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  13. I'm a total nobody blogger who is going to BlogHer and this post makes me so happy. When I was in grad school with other English teachers who spoke my same English teacher/writer language I had that same at home feeling you describe having at BlogHer. I hope I get to experience that feeling again since blogging is what I do for me - it's my space I make for myself. I want to connect with others who understand that.

    Now if I can only be brave enough to step out of my quiet shell for those few days...

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    1. What you learn at BlogHer is that no one is a nobody blogger.

      We all count.

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  14. I'm going this year - to my first BlogHer but not my first conference. I know I'll be excited, overwhelmed and so much more, but then I think, hey, why not, right? I know a ton of people going and I think the overwhelmed aspect is not feeling fake for me, but feeling overwhelmed! :P Just because of the 900 things I'll want to do AT the conference, and the 901 things I'll think I'd get to do and then, well... the ten things I'll probably actually DO. I hope I get the opportunity to meet you. :) See you in NYC!

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  15. This will be my third BlogHer and I know it will still feel like my first in many ways. I hope to see you so that we can awkwardly/shyly say "hello". You shall know me by my hair...

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    1. I will sense your Aiming Low kindred presence.

      Love you, lady.
      xo

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  16. I would LOVE to attend your session but I am not going to BlogHer :-( I can't wait to hear all about it! Knock 'em dead!

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  17. Can't wait to meet and hug you...I cannot wait to just sit in the aura of you, knowing it's going to change my life.

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  18. So great!You really captured what so many of us feel/felt at BlogHer. Still haven't decided about this year...

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  19. Congrats Empress! You are an inspiration to us all!

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    1. Oh, how I love the both of you.

      THANK YOU.

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  20. A BlogHer conference is my dream. I plan to get there someday despite all the missteps I've made along the way and my deplorable lack of technological knowledge. You are such an inspiration, and I wanted to thank you sincerely for following my blog.

    PS You made it all sound so beautiful, to meet all these lovely fellow bloggers. San Diego is a fun, charming city. Enjoy New York!

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  21. THIS IS AWESOME AND IT IS MY MOST FAVORITE PICTURE OF YOU EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  22. Cannot wait to meet you. I swear that I can feel my own trepidation about meeting "real bloggers" coming out from your words.

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  23. I will forever kick myself (mentally) for not going to BlogHer last year when it was practically in my backyard.

    I was - quite simply - too intimidated.
    Oh how I wish I hadn't felt that way then...

    So please enjoy yourself to the fullest and then give a full report when you return.

    I love to live vicariously through your words.

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  24. ** the change in my step, the way I stand with my shoulders back proud to be who I am now**

    Love that. Love your photo. Brilliant.

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    1. Love you, Inner Chick. You're such a supportive presence on the internet. THANK YOU.

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  25. If I do go to BlogHer one day, promise you'll be there to hold my hand and give me long hugs, yes?

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    1. Oh, do you even have to ask??

      Count on it, my girl.

      xo

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  26. Do you know the song I think You're wonderful, by Red Grammer? Well that what is Stuck in my head about you! (p.s. it is a kids' song) I want to go to the conference!!

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  27. one. day.
    I will be cool.
    And I will have money.
    Ok...I am cool.
    The sun never sets on the cool.
    But I don't have money.
    But I am Chuck's girl.
    So there's that.

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  28. I love this. LOVE THIS. It actually brought a tear to my eye!

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  29. I can't wait to see you. Again. Always.

    XOXOXOXO

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  30. I've been to many blog conferences now and each time I feel the exact same way as you so beautifully described. I feel like I've found the motherland. Thank you for reminding me why I go to these events. I needed the reminder.

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  31. I love this post for a million reasons. But first and foremost, for articulating what I'm sure I'll be feeling when I go to my first BlogHer next month. I'll be the one in the corner, wondering WTF I'm doing there. Probably with a giant glass of wine in my hand.

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  32. Oh, Darling, Darling Empress. I loved this post. Your sparkly loveliness just shone through every word.

    If I ever went to BlogHer, you would be the first person I'd seek out.

    Congratulations on everything. You deserve every single accolade that comes your way.

    And let me know when you're headed to other conventions. You never know where I might show up just to be in your amazing presence.

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  33. You're like a Virginia Slim...
    You've come a long way, baby
    To get where you've got to today!

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  34. Oh geez, you're so fricken humble, I can't stand it. YOU WOULD BE THE ONE I would be pointing to, whispering to whoever was next to me: "Is that the Empress? OMG! That IS the Empress! Take a picture of me with her, I'm going to blog about how I met the Empress!"
    That's WHO you are lady! And never forget it! Wish I was going to BlogHer. I'm going to a Canadian version of it in October, and sadly, most of my bloggy friends are American.

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    1. If I had your gluteus maximus, honey...humble? HUMBLE BE GONE.

      xo

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  35. Wait. What? I thought YOU were the big time real blogger when I met you last year. :-/

    Hope I to see you again this year! Perhaps at your panel. zomg you are SUCH the big time blogger!

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    1. I STILL TALK ABOUT YOU>

      xoxoxo !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  36. Thank you for this. I am scared to go, even though I am a voty too. I am scared I am not bigtime enough and afraid I will be swallowed by envy and overwhelm. Your post helped me get a grip. I am coming to see you!!!! How fun!

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    1. Christie: thank you so much for coming over, and having an open mind. Really. See Polly's comment below: it's what we tell ourselves, not what others tell us.

      SEE YOU THERE. Please find me...xo

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  37. Oh, this was just so lovely. It is quite nearly impossible to describe the emotions and spiritual import of a conference like BlogHer. You did it so wonderfully. I've been to three now and each continues to shimmer with a special magic of personal awakening. The time reinforces my value as a mother by peeling back the layers to reacquaint me with my other self.

    Looking forward to seeing you in person. Maybe a hug.

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  38. I can't think of a better representative. Your big heart, supportive nature, and encouraging spirit have helped us all!

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  39. What a beautiful post. Just what this Newbie needed!

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    1. Thank you so much, I can't wait to meet you. Please do look for me. There is SO much to see there, but please look for me.

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  40. Congrats and good luck, my friend. I'll be with you in spirit.

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  41. Beyond words (wordless comment!), how wonderful this is. Seeing you in the lobby at the beginning of that weekend was just what I needed too!

    Sisters, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SMALL BLOGGERS, ONLY SMALL FONT. Okay? (That would be a variation on the old actor's adage, No such thing as small parts, only small actors.) But I mean that: this blogging is a thing that a lot of us do, for a great many reasons, and the absolutely ONLY proper measure of you and your success at it is what's in your own heart. Period, the end.

    And anyone who feels shaky on that score can go to the Empress' session, conveniently located at the beginning of the conference. And if anyone needing another dose, there's another panel "Celebrate Your Small Blog" conveniently located right after lunch on Friday. Double dose of righteous self-possession for ya!

    Socially acceptable or no, I will totally hug anyone who walks up to me and says they need a hug. Because I am quite likely to need one at that point, too.

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    1. Oh, beautiful Polly Pagenhart: will you ever know how you set the tone for the rest of my days at BlogHer?

      Trust me. You did.

      xo

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  42. Awwww, Alexandra, you are such magic. I can't wait to FINALLY GET MY HANDS ON YOU IN PERSON!!! xoxox Your fan for life, Stacy Morrison

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  43. I need to go back and read this again. I'm going. I still can't believe it. I have that same love affair with my children that has kept me from ever even driving in a car by myself let alone leaving for days to go to a blogging conference. Will you hold my hand? The whole time???

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    1. Jessica - you're coming, really? Squeeeeee! Email or DM me and make sure we have each others cell phone numbers, because we are spending some time together, babe, count on it!

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  44. Oh Babe!!!!! Rooming with you (And Shari) was a highlight of the conference for me. I'm just so sad that BH in my hometown again this year and so I have to sleep at HOME (sob) with my FAMILY (sob) instead of with you again! And yes, Polly's smile could power a whole city.

    And you are SO my lucky talisman. So excited to be a VOTY this year. Glad I got to read at as well as produce the NYC Listen to Your Mother show, so I won't be so nervous. Once I've stood up and read in front of 250 people, what's another 4,000 or so, right?

    Speaking of talismans - seeing that picture of you in your necklace reminds me of how I wore the matching one you gave ma at BlogHer last year EVERY DAY my mother was in the ICU last month and I know it was part of her pulling through.

    Hugs - and can't wait to deliver them IN PERSON soon!

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    1. Ah, Varda: how your company eased me through the deer in the headlights first day of BLogHer.

      You are one in a million and I love you.

      And you do have special powers.

      xo

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  45. Love this post! I went to BlogHer10 and was totally inspired and figured a way to get to San Diego. Totally looking forward to it this year!

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  46. I'm a peon blogger who has never been to a conference or met one of my writing "idols" in real life, but I look forward to living vicariously through all the fabulous ladies who go there this year. I'm rarely star struck, but I can imagine the energy in that room is positively electric and enough to spark creative energy in all who are fortunate enough to attend.

    Congrats again, my friend!

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    1. You said it so well: the energy, something you can actually feel.

      The energy of a shared passion.

      I wish you could go...

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  47. Such an awesome post, A! I think my favorite part was the description of the sticker still being on your new shoes. That will be me, minus someone holding a sign for me in the airport! You are a rock star and I can't wait to see you again. Maybe this time our combined social awkwardness will override each other and we can actually connect about things other than passing the creamer. XO.

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    1. Bring your own creamer, as any seasonsed blogger knows.

      You can always ask me about my luxurious locks. xo smooch.

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  48. Not this year, but maybe in the future. I absolutely loved the dialogue - I felt like I was right there with you. I get panicked when I travel alone, too. I used to could do it so well, but this motherhood gig means I've forgotten how to be self sufficient without urchins crawling all over me.

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    1. You hit the NAIL ON the head.

      My kids have become my talismen.

      xo

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  49. I hope to bump into you at BlogHer '12 and have a chance to hug you! This post alleviated some of my anxieties as a newbie blogger conference attendee (BlogHer '12 will be my first conference, though not my first bloggy event). Thank you so much for sharing your first experience at BlogHer!

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    1. Please come look for me. There are crowds, but with a little time, you can meet everyone (almost!).

      I do hope to see you. xo

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  50. Oh, this warms my heart so much to read. I actually have goosebumps. Seriously. You ARE blogger enough, Alexandra. I am so excited for you. For all the opportunities that have revealed themselves to you because of this strange underworld we belong to and because you are finally realizing just how special--and just how much--you have touched the hearts of those around you with your words. If you ever forget, I will always be here to remind you.

    XOXO

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  51. SO glad I got to spend a little time with you last year! I'm gonna need a few moments THIS year too!!!

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    1. I only got seconds with you but knew instantly.

      I LIKE YOU.

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  52. Thank you SO much for sharing your experience at BlogHer. I'm attending my "first" blogging anything at Blogher in a few weeks and am filled with excitement AND nerves about meeting some of the blogging "giants" in my new little bloggy mind. I'm totally psyched to hear that you will be presenting!!!

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  53. Yes!!!! THIS is why I'm excited for BlogHer this year! Thank you so much for sharing and for reminding us all to take the time to bask in the community that comes with this conference!

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    1. Right?

      I was so dang mixed when I went. Even with the sweaty palmed moments of pushing myself out of my little life: it was worth it.

      SO WORTH IT.

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  54. Oh, I am so nervous about going. Reading this again, and again, and again and hoping my courage will not fail me. thanks for a great post.

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  55. What a great post. And I loved seeing that smiling face of yours up there!

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  56. Oh, what a lovely, perfect post for me to read! Thank you! I just wrote my "I'm a BlogHer newbie and I'm freaking out" post - and you have made me feel so much better. :-)

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  57. front row at your session, lady, that's where I'll be. LOVE this story & I can hear that sigh, as you set down your bags by the pool, in the SoCal sunshine...I know that sigh - all of us do, who too seldom find minutes for ourselves in the mothership... and when we do, it's a whewwwww, right up from our toes. see you SOON!

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  58. I am half a year late reading/commenting, Alexandra, but I just wanted to say this post gave me goose bumps, thinking about the chance to meet fellow bloggie friends but most of all, the possibility of meeting you one day. I would be nervous, too, to attend...

    How amazing that you got honored as a Voice of the Year!!

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  59. Here I am in 2013, and it's too late for my travel budget to swing BlogHer 2013, but I'm putting 2014 on the list because I relate 100% to your post (except the cool VOTY piece!). I feel like a small-town bumpkin amidst big fish, and when I looked at this year's conference I thought I would just get swallowed up by the great bloggers who are so much cooler than I am. But here's looking at '14 with a little extra courage. Thanks, Empress! :0)

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