We are finally back home. I still have bags to unpack. More laundry must be done. Another trip to the grocery store for items other than milk and bread might be nice. There are bills to pay, school supply checklists to complete, and phone calls to return.
And yet, here I sit. With my BlogHer gear spread out around me. My name tag is hanging on the wall while business cards, brochures, buttons, stickers and other various types of swag are dumped out here on my desk.
I am ready to remember my fabulous trip to San Francisco.
Or perhaps I’d like to click my heels and wish myself back there.
Some people like to call it BlogHer 08, but I like to think of it as the Magical Mommy Mystery Tour. What a wonderful, crazy trip it was.
(Be prepared my loyal readers. This post may be a doozy and even a bit too long for me to stand. But this conference, like this post, was overwhelming, lengthy, and a tidal wave of blogging information in of itself.)
It all started on a Thursday. I leaped onto a plane with my laptop strapped to my back, leaving my swirling world of mommy groundhog day in the capable hands of my husband. Five hours later I found myself in SF, being picked up by my long lost college roommate, her three boys and current boyfriend. She lives in Mendicino and lives a wonderful organic lifestyle on a farm there. We piled into the van, the smell of incense was thick, she offered me a sip of her raw chocolate milkshake. Oh thank the heavens, I was soooo not in Kansas Florida anymore.
We bounced through the city and met up with another long lost but equally wonderful college friend of mine whom I would be staying with. She’s an artist and has a piece hanging in gallery downtown. We stopped in to check it out. Art. Oh what a fabulous luxury to make, enjoy, consider and be a part of. ESPECIALLY without my children to wrangle. I have to give her a shout-out. You can find her here. She is amazing and I am so damn proud of her!
That night I reconnected with the old me. The me in college, the non-mommy me, seen through the eyes of old friends with good memories. Rejuvenated and officially back in touch with that that old self of mine, the next morning I was dropped off at 7:45am in front of the Westin-St. Francis Hotel. Again, I had my trusty HP laptop backpack strapped to my back (perhaps as my own blogging parachute of sorts) and I crossed the street to make my way into the hotel.
Deep breaths. Ok, where should I go? Is it really even here? What if the whole BlogHer thing is only a part of some online fantasy world. I mean, c’mon… bloggers? In REAL life? Could it even be possible? And then I saw a sign pointing me in the direction of registration. As I reached the top of the staircase, there I found a long line of women – blogging women – waiting, chatting, various and interesting. I found my place, got my name tag, my swag bag, and was off.
The maze of rooms, ballrooms, and hallways threw me right away. Where could I sit down? My overwhelmed brain was attracted and distracted by the flashing lights and stim from every direction. Table after table of vendors offered cool gadgets and big smiles. A group of women were playing Wii Fit in front of a flat screen TV. Smells of coffee, roombas vacuuming at my feet, computer screens flashing, laughter, women, even TV cameras and then a large blue mascot standing in front of me for some new PBS kids show… c’mon, hold on a sec, I can’t quite absorb all this… I need to eat first… where could I sit down? Finally, there was the grand ballroom filled with empty tables and I plopped down to eat my bagel.
The first two women I met were amazing. Shark Fu – aka Angry Black Bitch – to my left and Zanaru at Create It Herself to my right, the conversation was fun and light and I was so glad to meet them both. As the morning went on, I met Moosh in Indy, Mama Spohr, Susan Wenner Jackson from Working Moms Against Guilt, and Kim Sue Ellen from Simply me. I met Lucrecer from Art Slam– what a cool blog! And Allese Thomson just starting out at Behind the Make-up had such interesting things to say.
I jumped into my first break-out session: Is mommy blogging still a radical act? Watch part of it for yourself. It was one of the best sessions. I am also now a huge fan of Polly Pagenhart, otherwise known as Lesbian Dad.
Then I went to a mommy blogging session on Parenting and Privacy. It was there I met Christine Rury from Home Team Wins– we sat and stressed over the pictures of our children on our blogs that could be photoshopped, stolen – oh man, what were we doing to our babies? Out there in mommblogger land, the kosher amount of information we share about our children seems to run the gamut. Some don’t post their children at all, some post pics and their full names. It’s a personal choice. And I realized what sort of reality show and entertainment for the masses blogging can be.
I met more cool women over food, in the halls, having coffee: Clairenation, Lara David, Spinning Yellow, Stimey (I blame you for my new Twitter addiction! Honestly, I am glad I got over it and joined. It was so great to meet you.), ShallowGal, Crummy Cupcake, Anne Fritz from The Jet Set Girls, Katherine Gray of Dirt to Dish, and Vampituidty.
But wait. I can’t forget my new friend Terri who works with HP. She helped me get my new laptop and video camera up and running. Supportive, smart and so positive about blogging, Terri was a wonderful friend to have there! And if it weren’t for Terri, I never would have gotten video footage of me meeting a true celebrity, recognized far beyond the world of blogging: Grover and Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street. Actually, what was really fun was talking to the voice behind Grover, and she caught that too. I hope to post the video soon.
Before BlogHer wrapped up for the day, there was a community keynote with about 20 bloggers reading various posts of theirs. I gather BlogHer will be posting more of the readings from that evening. Honestly, people, these speakers were AMAZING – and you can watch the first speaker here.
That night, the bloggers made there way to an uber-hip club called Ruby Skye. It was very cool but I felt frumpy. I was still in the same clothes since I did not have a chance to change. But the food was great and I met an awesome mommy blogger: Tricia from Four Plus Four Equals Ten. We chatted, compared notes on the day and missed our kids together. On the way out the door, I met two more very cool bloggers. Military mama whom I follow and had her sweet little one with her asleep on her shoulder. And then Deb on the Rocks – and she actually does rock, no doubt.
The next morning, I felt a little less peppy and a lot more weary. I sat down from some breakfast, hardly feeling exactly witty or on my “A” game. And who should make her way and find a seat next to little ol’ me? One of my fav bloggers ever: Pundit Mom.
Um, ok. How do I NOT look like a dork? How do I just chill out and seem as unstalker-ish as possible. I did my best, I really did Pundit Mom. Not sure if it worked though. But I’ll gush here because I can: I think you’re really smart and cool and it was honestly an honor to meet you. And thanks for the little Pundit Mom pin, I wore it the rest of the day. (I know I know, my friends. I am a big old nerd.)
Revived by the cool bloggers I had met, I slung my backpack over my shoulder, found my way through the maze of hallways and pushed into the most crowded session I had been to yet: How we communicatre building traffic via content and community. I found a small spot on the floor, I could hardly see the speaker, but solomenly took notes on my laptop. It was an excellent session and I learned a great deal. Phew though, I guess I have a looong way to go.
The day continued and onto more sessions I went. My bag got heavier, the jet lag was catching up to me and I finally found myself hiding in corners just to catch up on email and try not to make too much eye contact. I had a feeling the women huddled over their own laptops here and there felt the same way too.
A quick note about the “high school”ish reputation BlogHer seems to get. Eh, I guess there was the cool crowd, the cliquish types and even the star bloggers (who are probably so nice) that I couldn’t quite bring myself to say hi to. (Julie Pippert, you’re one of them, as well as Mom-101 and Queen of Spain. WHY didn’t I just suck it up and say hi??? Silly me.) Here’s the thing. I went to a women’s college (go yoke!)and I “get” women together. Sure, you’ll have some catty stuff here and there. But I honestly think most women just aren’t used to being in an all women’s environment. They ASSUME catty stuff, gossiping and backstabbing is happening all around them. However, I’d bet if you did go up and chat to that cool group of women laughing about whatever, they would gladly have you jump in on the conversation. Women seem programmed to think other women will rip them down. It’s very discouraging. I honestly have more faith in women than that. All women environments can actually bring more strength and confidence than you can imagine. There is camaraderie, there is room for everyone to be a leader, there is no glass ceiling. It might just be hard to figure that out in a couple days, where everyone is feeling insecure and outed when they usually are somewhat hidden by the blogosphere. It certainly makes for an interesting dynamic. But enough about that.
The final highlight of the day was the Closing Keynote speakers: Heather Armstrong and Stephanie Klein. We all gathered in the grand ballroom, excited and twittering “DOOCE DOOCE DOOCE DOOCE”, our laptop screens lit up like lighters at a concert. They were great. We hung on their every word. I am not a regular reader of either but to see such successful bloggers talk about their lives in the public eye was fascinating and extraordinarily eyeopening.
That night I had a red-eye to catch home. I popped into the party over at Macy’s briefly but I just couldn’t hustle up the party-girl in me to get too fired up and stay for very long. Instead, I hauled my stuff to the lobby and called my husband. I was ready to come home.
But BlogHer had one more surprise up her sleeve for me. As I got settled into the airport shuttle van, who should I run into? But two other bloggers, of course. Not just bloggers, but panel speakers. Adele at A book Without a Coverand Shaz at Shaziamistry. We were fast friends and had an early dinner together at the airport before parting ways (Adele, I hope you made your flight! My tweezers DID make it through security, by the way…). I would recommend checking out Shaz’s website if you are a newbie blogger. She has all sorts of techie advice, especially hints about wordpress! If you want real in-depth help, she loves Starbucks (hint hint)… or I am sure she wouldn’t mind being paid for real either. But what a wonderful treat to meet such cool women on the heels of such an amazing event.
And with that, I climbed onto the plane. I popped my contacts out, said a prayer of thanks there was no “Mr. McFeely” or possible groper seated next to me to worry about, and fell fast asleep.
Friends, if you have made it to the bottom of this post, a round of applause to you for sticking out BlogHer 08 with me. And stay tuned for Grover and Abby Cadabby video coming up soon! Now I better clean all this BlogHer stuff up, it’s like I am pining away about my college days or something. Sheesh.