how to keep your sanity at BlogHer

I’m gearing up to head to BlogHer this weekend.  This will be my 3rd time going, and it’s in New York again so I am looking forward to the conference as well as a couple days of geeking out to Broadway shows. Mark will be joining me on Saturday for what we’ve dubbed our Epic NYC  Date Night Weekend.  Our last time together in New York was two years ago when we were on The View.  That time, we had about 24 hours in the city and stayed out all night visiting places we love.  I’m excited that we’ll have a bit more time this year. My brave sister-in-law and her husband will be watching our kids, along with their two, while Mark and I hit the town. I’m gonna owe them BIG. This is going to be one of those posts where I break the first rule about blogging: don’t blog about blogging. It’s also a re-work of my advice on BlogHer last year, but I think most of it still stands.  So . . . .if long posts about conferences full of social media devotees aren’t your thing, skip this one. But if you are a blogger and you are headed off to BlogHer this week, here are some of my best tips, being the expert BlogHer attendee that I am. (I’ve been twice) But first!  A little plug for my friend Tara Livesay.  Tara’s blog is the first I ever read, and was one of the main inspirations for me to start blogging as well.  She’s smart and funny but more than that, she makes me think differently about the world and inspires me.  She lives in Haiti, doing incredible work with at-risk mothers.  Every year, the BlogHer conference honoros Intenrational Activists,  women who “work tirelessly for social change through blogs and Internet tools.”  I nominated Tara this year, and deservedly, she won!! She will be at BlogHer receiving her award and speaking, and you should definitely check out her panel, along with the three other Activist recipients (Ana Santos, Fungai Machirori, and Maha El-Sanosi).  It’s on Friday at 1:15. I will be there with bells on. Alright, now for the part where I pretend to know what I’m doing.  

How to stay sane at BlogHer

The drama.  The egos.  The social posturing.  The politics.  The parties.  The private invites, the rejections, the corporate deals, the free stuff, the cat-fights over swag, the celebrities, the drinking, the dancing, the tattoos, the time Mike Tyson’s tiger was found in Pioneer Woman’s hotel bathroom . . . BlogHer is crazy, ya’ll. BlogHer was kind of like a big giant stress-dream for me.  I think it is anxiety-provoking for all of us.  It is a bizarre alternative universe, this blogging world, where corporations are courting stay-at-home moms, and where the amount of traffic or comments you get in a day somehow moves you up the social totem pole.  Most bloggers spend their days sitting at a computer – many of us doing our jobs surrounded by small children.  To suddenly be swept into an environment where there are leaders in our industry, along with brands we’d like to work with, along with cocktail parties and drinking and dancing and 2000+ other women?  It’s easy to be overwhelmed.  Hence, my first tip: Expect to be overwhelmed.  The pacing of BlogHer is insane, and so is the sheer volume of people.  Prepare to be overstimulated.  If you are an introvert, prepare to be REALLY overstimulated.  It’s normal.  Figure out what you will need to regroup a few times a day.  Don’t be afraid to skip a session to go lay in a quiet hotel room, or to seek out a few friends and go to a quiet coffeeshop. Be present.  There are a million things happening at once at BlogHer and it’s easy to get caught up in wondering what everyone else is doing.  And with the phenomena that is the Twitter hashtag, you know at any given moment that there is something going on that you are missing.  To be honest, it seems like some people take a little glee in this, announcing at regular intervals about HOW FUN this ULTIMATELY PRIVATE PARTY is that they are at, along with the appropriate hashtags.  (i.e. #blogher11 #yousowishyouwereatthisparty  #seriouslythispartyisbetterthanyours).  Don’t worry if the place you are at is the best place to be.  MAKE it the best place to be by being present.  You can’t be five places at once, but you can enjoy yourself wherever you are. Don’t take it personally when people look over your shoulder, snub you, or are generally rude.  It will happen.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a conversation with someone at a conference while they checked their twitter stream, craned their neck to see if someone better was standing nearby, or walked off to say hi to someone else mid-sentence. Normal human rules of interaction and courtesy sometimes fly out the window in this environment.  Try not to act like a douche, but don’t get your panties in a wad if someone does it to you.  Everyone is over-stimulated and social graces may fall by the wayside.  It’s not you, it’s them. Find solace in the Serenity Suite. The Serenity Suite was created for the overwhelmed at BlogHer.  It is the brain child of my friends Heather and  Maggie, a space created for people to come and decompress from the madness of the conference.  Last year it ended up being an amazing resting spot for a lot of people (and also a space for an impromptu 12-step group . . . love that).  It’s open during most of the conference, in ROOM 4246. Pace your drinking.  The 10 drink cards that came with your 3-day BlogHer pass should be an indication of the amount of alcohol involved, and the private parties will be passing out lots of cocktails as well.  If you drink, you might want to think through your strategy/boundaries before you find yourself struggling to walk straight after an overly-sweet Truvia cocktail at 5pm with three more parties on your roster (speaking from experience).  BlogHer is about having fun, but it’s also about networking, and at the end of the day it is a professional conference full of people you may work with in the future.  You probably don’t want to be remembered as the girl who fell on the escalator outside of Sparklecorn and bled all over the hallway. So monitor your drinking accordingly.  Prepare to be sleep-deprived.  The parties go until the wee hours, and even then you may have a hard time sleeping.  I barely slept last year . . . I think it was a combination of my body still being three hours behind my own time zone, and the way my brain was racing with thoughts of ALL. THAT. SOCIALIZING.  I have a hard time settling down to sleep after any big social event, be it girl’s night, a party, dinner with friends, etc.  But at Blogher, it all seems so magnified because instead of one party, you are hopping to several, and meeting SO many people, most of them people you have never met before but feel like you know because of their blog.  So at night my brain was buzzing, as I rehashed every interaction and worried whether or not I had adequately expressed admiration without seeming stalkerish, or fretting over the fact that I had not had more time to chat with certain people, or whether or not I was succeeding at seeming fun and friendly because my default mode of morose and sarcastic is not that approachable.  You may have to really concentrate to quiet your mind at night.  If you have insomnia at home, you may want to bring whatever helps in that scenario along with you. Wear clothes you are comfortable in.  I am always amazed at how much of the BlogHer twitter stream is devoted to clothing choices.  And shoes.  And losing weight.  You’d think we were all attending some sort of a beauty pageant.  As opposed to a conference FULL OF WOMEN.  Women who sit with a laptop on their lap most of the day.  Who probably don’t spend a lot of time fussing with their hair (or slipping out of their pajamas).  I’m really not sure who we are trying to fool. Don’t get me wrong – I get caught up in it, too.  But I really think the best strategy is to avoid going and shopping for a bunch of new outfits, and to wear things you know make you feel good.  For one, wearing a new outfit means that you might be in the middle of an important conversation when you realize that your Spanx show when you sit down, or your new dress wrinkles in an unflattering way if you bend.  Most of these people don’t see you in your daily life, so your best outfit at home is probably your best choice for a conference.  Stick with what you know works. IMG_2510 (And I will be doing just that.  Prints and summer patterns be damned.  I like black dresses, and that’s what I’ll be wearing.) Pack your clothes in outfits.  Speaking of clothing and pacing . . . BlogHer is a whirlwind.  It is unlikely that you will have a lot of time between keynotes and cocktail parties to leisurely change into your evening attire.  Most of the time at conferences I am busting into my room with about 15 seconds to spare as I change for the evening.  I’ve made it a practice to have my outfits on a hanger, with corresponding jewelry and accessories hanging from a ziploc.  I iron all my clothing for the weekend on the night I arrive, and have everything hanging and ready to go.  I am never this anal at home, but I really value the time at conferences and don’t want to be spending the dinner hour ironing a dress and fishing earrings out of my suitcase.  Also, since I typically fail to sleep at conferences, I like the time that this buys me when I’m trying to get out the door in the morning. Make a map on mapquest.  There’s nothing quite like being lost in a new city.  If you have some off-site activities, you can plot them all out on a saved map with mapquest and then print it.  It helps to have a visual of where parties are, especially if you are as completely directionless as I am. Put everything in your schedule.  It really is helpful to plot out where you want to go, and to put the times and locations of parties into your phone’s calendar so that you aren’t trying to search through eventbrite or your email archives for addresses prior to the parties.  Again, the pacing is crazy.  A little planning before-hand will help you be less frazzled during the conference weekend. Don’t be afraid to talk to people you admire, but give them grace if they disappoint.  It is normal to want to introduce yourself to writers that you admire.  But keep in mind that they are human, too . . .  and if they are making a living writing about their personal life on the internet, there is a good chance they are either introverted or socially anxious OR BOTH.   They may also be overstimulated, or late for a session, or tired, or just at the limit of social interaction.  Also, certain bloggers might feel like celebrities at a conference but with very few exceptions most of us aren’t used to being recognized when we go out on a daily basis.  It can be disconcerting, therefore, to suddenly find yourself in a group of people who know who you are, and not everyone handles it well.  I can say for myself, the one thing that goes through my head when someone gushes about loving my blog?  I’m going to disappoint you right now.  That’s what I’m thinking about – that this person won’t find me that likeable in person.  I know this has caused me to act less-than-personable before.  If you do have the courage to approach a blogger you like and it is awkward or you feel snubbed, don’t overanalyze it. and definitely don’t let it ruin your night.  It happens.   It’s not you, it’s them. Get out of your comfort zone.  It’s easy to gravitate to the group of people you know and feel comfortable with, but do try to put yourself out there and meet new people.  One of the things I love about the blogging community is seeing the unlikely close relationships that happen between people from really different walks of life. Say yes.  BlogHer is a short time frame.  Give yourself over to it, make the most of it, and sleep and work later.  GO TO THE COMMUNITY KEYNOTE.  Seriously.  This is what it is all about – hearing the best writing of the year, read by your peers, and boosting them with your support.  I don’t care what brand event it coincides with.  There’s just no excuse to miss the Keynote.  It is awesome and you will be missing out. Don’t fret about the private parties.  Private party events are not a measure of your worth as a blogger. Let’s repeat together, shall we?  Private party events are not a measure of your worth as a blogger. Most of the private parties are sponsored by brands that are looking for bloggers who will promote them.  Some of them event required promotion to get on the invite list, making people tweet or schill posts for a ticket in.  If you aren’t going to private parties, make your own fun.  Invite people to dinner, and enjoy the public parties because they really are a ton of fun.  Go to Sparklecorn.  I promise, the fact that I am now writing for MamaPop does not influence this recommendation – Sparklecorn is legit awesomeness. This party is the most fun of the conference, due in no small part to the fact that it is a) open invite b) devoid of product pitches and c) focused on dancing to great music.  I had a blast last year, and managed to get through the evening without my feet bleeding.  Plus there is a famous DJ and unicorn cake.  UNICORN CAKE! Prioritize friends and learning over parties.  If you do get a lot of invites, it can be difficult to decide which parties to attend, and how this fits with the friends you want to spend time with.  BlogHer can feel very decentralized and so dominated by private parties and invite-only events that the feeling of community can really get lost.  Last year, even though there were upwards of two thousand women, none of us were ever in the same place at once, and many times I had to split off from friends because of different party schedules. This dynamic felt really awkward to me..  I was invited to some parties.  I wasn’t invited to others.  It was weird either way, since I couldn’t just invite whatever friend I wanted along to wherever I was going.  But it all pulled the focus away from the thing.  You know, the blogging/community thing.  And speaking of parties . . . Be honest about the private party dynamic with your friends.  It’s hard to know how to approach the party situation.  You can be open about where you are going and share notes, but then someone is liable to feel left out (or assume you are bragging about your invites).  But the other alternative is to keep mum about where you are going, which is a weird dynamic between friends, too.  One of the yuckiest moments for me last year was when a friend lied to me about a private party.  She told me she was tired and going to bed, and later I saw her out at a private event that I hadn’t been invited to until the last minute.  It would have been so much better to just have her tell me that she had a private event and excuse herself.  Remember, your loyalties are to your friends, not to the PR person who asked you to stay mum about a party.  Keep perspective on the swag.  You’ve probably spent a lot of time, money, and effort to get to this conference.  Do you really want to blow off a session to go to a swag suite to get a labeled tote bag and ipod speakers?  Is a bag of stuff valued at $25 retail really worth a taxi-cab ride to an off-site party?  Is it even worth paying for an extra bag to lug it home?  It’s easy to lose rationality about free stuff, and if you really lay out your priorities for the conference, I doubt it’s about sample-sized detergent or hair pomade.  Keep your wits about the swag. Adjust your expectations. It is a crazy, manic experience, and I didn’t feel like I got enough time with any one person, but that is probably just not possible with that many people in one place.  You probably won’t make it to everything you want to attend, and you probably won’t get to talk to everyone you want to meet.  That’s okay. And if you are going to this conference and see me, please say hello.  I really would like to meet you – please don’t mistake my deer-in-headlights expression for aloofness.  In case you want to find me, I look like this: Okay, that is a seriously flattering photo of me. At the conference, I will look more like this: Please note the bags under my eyes, the obligatory special event breakout, the butchered bangs, the double chin from eating crappy hotel food all week, the food stuck in my teeth, and the stain on my shirt.  Not pictured: the sunburn I got on my head in Palm Springs that has resulted in a peeling scalp that looks like mutant monster dandruff flakes. If you’re going, leave a link to your “about me” page in the link-up below so I can stalk you a little before we meet. (If the link-up isn’t showing below, click the post title to refresh).

this week in iphone photos: blogher edition

kristen howerton

This past week was BlogHer, so before I left I had a little mani-pedi session with India, in a joint effort to both make my feet presentable and assuage my guilt for leaving for the weekend.

After learning that hotel parking was $26 a night, I decided to take the train down to San Diego.  It ended up being really relaxing, and I had a chance to chat with Ciaran and assemble some of my marketing materials for the conference. (I stole this photo from her page.)

IMG_2716 - Copy

This would have been a great promotional idea had I actually remembered to pass out the gum at the conference.  Instead,I lugged it around in my purse and then brought it all home with me. Next year?

In other news of me being forgetful, I did a whole bunch of stuff on Thursday including a party with our MomsLA crew, a party with the completely awesome writing team of MamaPop, and a party with Clever Girls (who hook me up with these pretty sidebar ads), followed by some great conversations in the lobby bar until the wee hours.  But I failed to take a single picture of any of it.   So we’ll start with Friday morning.

IMG_2728 - Copy

Our ShePosts staff, together at last!  Esther (in the middle) is the founder, I am the managing editor, and Kim Tracy Prince (on the left) is our all-star writer.  I don’t think we’ve been in the same place at the same time all year.   When your job is reporting on the news of the blogging world, it means at conferences that nearly every conversation is proceeded with “this is off the record”.  I had to constantly remind people that I spent ten years as a therapist, so confidentiality is kind of my gig.  But man, I do have some juicy tidbits lined up for that blogging tell-all that is sure to make me hundreds.

IMG_2722 - Copy

I met some sweet friends for breakfast on the first big day of the conference.  Katherine and Ellie and I were all sporting yellow.

IMG_2729 - Copy

Continuing the yellow theme, Heather and I had a little down-time in the cabana.  Heather is my editor at Curvy Girl Guide.  I kept looking for a pool boy to do our bidding but he was not where to be found.
IMG_2731 - Copy

Maile was my roomie for the weekend.  She is my people – we have so much in common that it’s frightening and she was a breath of fresh air in the frantic pace of this conference.  Even if she did keep me up until 4am each night against my will.*

*this is not true, I was a willing participant.


This is the only photo I took of Sparklecorn.  I was too busy dancing like a fool and being groped by Robin Plemmons.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again . . . there is no party like Sparklecorn.  (There is an awesome slideshow of the night over here.  Blink and you will mess my sweaty dancing self.)


On Saturday morning I was invited to a swag suite for breakfast, and it involved neither swag nor breakfast, but rather a very pressured sales pitch to join an affiliate program.  The combination of hunger + having my time wasted made me a bit grumpy.  Just ask Heather.

On Friday, I had lunch with some lovely gals from Microsoft – a nice transition from the morning mayhem.  I’m a Windows girl so it was fun to learn about some of the new things on the horizon.


Saturday night I had dinner with some more lovely people (there were just so many of them!), including Karen and Kelly.  All three of us are a part of the adoption triad and part of transracial families, and it was so good to sit and chat about some of those unique dynamics with two women I really respect.


Mark was planning on bringing the family up on Sunday for a couple kid-friendly events.  But a combo of Maile leaving mid-day on Saturday and learning about a potential sitter (thanks Stephania!) made us decide to have them come up early and spend the night.  And that’s how I came to crash the Aiming Low party with four kids.  When I talk about Aiming Low, I really mean it.  I have a baby.  In a bar.  The kids feasted on meatloaf and mac and cheese, and got their Internet, Hellz Yeah temporary tattoos and custom body art from Robin. 

They also got to meet their Uncle Nick, who I think was trying to get Karis drunk. 


Nick is Esther’s husband, and I was really glad he was there for Mark at this conference full of female bloggers.  Of which both Mark and Nick are neither.  Which made them instant besties.

After some carousing at the Aiming Low party, our sitter arrived (hi Katherine!) and we put the kids to sleep and made our way to the CheeseBurgher party.   I had some frieds (dancing fuel) and then hit the dance floor.


And then we pretty muched danced until our feet bled.  Robin and Cecily and Jenny and Aimee and Sarah – so much fun having real-life and internet-life boundaries blur into great friendships.


Robin and Deesha are like long lost dancing soul mates. 

I was a little nervous having Mark at a conference.  Would he think that this conference business is just a cover for a bunch of girls getting together to party?  (He did).  Would he have fun even though he didn’t know a soul? (He did).  I am lucky to have an extroverted husband who worked the room better than I did.

Okay, remember when I said we danced until our feet bled?  Well, that wasn’t entirely true.  I did have a wee little incident trying to backtrack up the down escalator after realizing I’d left my purse in the ballroom.  You know those rules about wearing shoes on escalators, and only going in the intended direction?  Turns out there is a reason for them.  And I took quite a tumble that pretty much sliced my toes open, which meant that Mark had to pull me off the elevator in his arms.  At which point, I started passing out, because that’s what I do when there is blood+pain.  So I just looked like a really, really bad drunk with bleeding feet in front of about 20 other bloggers.

My friend Heather helped me to a chair and made sure I was okay, and THEN SHE TOOK PICTURES OF ME.  And I can’t even be mad at her, because it’s what I would have done, too.  It’s what we do.


The next morning we had breakfast with Aimee and Heather, to try to further illustrate to the child that mommy’s friends on the internet are real people, too.


Then we went to an event where the kids got to meet Ruby from The Feelings Show.  (Best kid’s DVD ever).  We love this show.  We love Ruby.  Can you tell they are a smidge excited? 


All in all, I had a blast at BlogHer.  And I walked away with some really great souvenirs!

that’s what she said (Blogher edition)

Alright, one last Blogher recap.  I know, I know.  Last year I remember people talking and talking about the Blogher conference and wishing they would move on already, and here I am blathering on about it for three posts .  But I suppose that for many of us, who spend our days in a groundhog’s day existence of diapers, swiffering and playdates, that a few days in New York City is a whole lot of excitement and grist for the blogging mill. 

On Friday, the conference officially started.  Unfortunately, I was up until 4am the night before.  Not by choice . . . in fact it was really frustrating.  I think it was a combination of my body still being three hours behind, and the way my brain was racing with thoughts of ALL. THAT. SOCIALIZING.  I have a hard time settling down to sleep after any big social event, be it girl’s night, a party, dinner with friends, etc.  But at Blogher, it all seems so magnified because instead of one party, you are hopping to several, and meeting SO many people, most of them people you have never met before but feel like you know because of their blog.  So at night my brain was buzzing, as I rehashed every interaction and worried whether or not I had adequately expressed admiration without seeming stalkerish, or fretting over the fact that I had not had more time to chat with certain people, or whether or not I was succeeding at seeming fun and friendly because my default mode of morose and sarcastic?  Not so approachable.

Anyways, I hate this about myself – this racing brain anxiety thing, and when I saw that the clock said 4am I realized that the 7am Tutus for Tanner 5k was probably not going to happen for me.  Which really sucked, because most of my friends were going, and I had been given a darling Team Sparkle tutu for the event, and taken up precious suitcase space with stinky running shoes.   But more than all that, I was bummed because it was a great cause, for a blogger I adore.  At 4am I turned off the 6:30 alarm and fell asleep.  I accidentally woke up at 10:30, and I was supposed to be hosting the Serenity Suite at 11am.  And thus began my first full day of Blogher.

In addition to missing the 5k, I also missed the opening breakfast and the blogger speed-dating session, both things I was excited about.  I tried not to have a full-on freakout that I had managed to miss the entire morning of a two-day conference.  I also tried not to freak out that I would not have time to blow-dry my hair on the first full day of the conference.  Both thoughts were equally horrifying.

With wet hair and a wrinkled shirt, I made my way to the Serenity Suite, the brain child of my brain twin Heather and her friend (and soon to be co-author) Maggie.  It was a space they created for people to come and decompress from the madness of the conference, and it was the perfect way to start the day.  It ended up being an amazing solace spot for a lot of people (and also a space for an impromptu 12-step group . . . love that).

I had lunch with my roomie Christine and new friend Meagan (whose writing about her attachment journey with her new son is something I wish I’d discovered sooner, because we are living parallel lives right now).  After lunch, there were four session options but none of them really appealed to me, so when I hooked up with Alison Alyson Allison and she said she was gonna wander Times Square with Kacia, I was in.  Little did I know this would be the only session I would have time for . . . but we’ll get to that detail in a minute.  When we got back from sightseeing it was time for the Community Keynote, where thirteen bloggers read what were determined to be the best posts of the year.  This was amazing.  The writing was so good, and yet so varied . . . from lesbian divorce to breast cancer to a rap about Twilight.  We laughed, we cried.  It sort of all clicked as to why we were all gathered there for such an insane weekend.  For the love of the writing.

After the keynote, there was about 15 minutes to change for the big Blogher Gala – so I ran upstairs and experienced a zipper malfunction with the dress I was planning to wear (you know, that thing?  Where it comes off the track and you can’t get it to go up or down?).  So I spent a frantic fifteen minutes trying to figure out what else to wear and then another fifteen minutes trying to figure out how to get the hotel iron to work, and then another 15 minutes trying to straighten the hair I failed to blowdry, that was now 37% it’s normal size from walking around in the New York humidity.  I was really, really late to the gala, and by the time I got there a lot of people had left.  And again, I had this sinking feeling that I was really sucking at Blogher.

At the gala I hooked up with some of my fellow theater geeks – we had planned a little flashmob event and sang Tomorrow from Annie.   It was fun, it was a surprise, and everyone joined in.  Love those moments.  A lot of people had left the gala by the time we did this, and I think this sort of exemplified one of my biggest disappointments with Blogher.  The whole thing was so decentralized and so dominated by private parties and invite-only events that there was very little sense of community in terms of the group-at-large.  Even the Blogher-sponsored parties required a vigilant watch on Twitter to get on the RSVP list. It felt like even though there were upwards of two thousand women, none of us were ever in the same place at once.  And with the phenomena that is the Twitter hashtag, you knew at any given moment that there was something going on that you were missing.  To be honest, it seemed like some people took a little glee in this, announcing at regular intervals about HOW FUN this ULTIMATELY PRIVATE PARTY was that they were attending, along with the appropriate hashtags.  i.e. #blogher10 #yousowishyouwereatthisparty   For me, it all felt really awkward.  I was invited to some of them.  I wasn’t invited to others.  It was weird either way, since I couldn’t just invite whatever friend I wanted along to wherever I was going.  I thought it made for a lot of unnecessary drama – and while I get that people are sick of the Blogher/high school comparisons, it is prevalent for a reason.  Because when else in your adult life do people operate under some sort of secret party popularity code?  If people are ascribing adolescent comparisons it is because it all felt very adolescent, and I wasn’t fond of being catapulted back into those old feelings on either end. It felt out of hand and I don’t know what the organizers can do to quell the number of outside events, but there were even a lot of things planned during the Blogher conference schedule.  And I get it . . . these brands want to reach out to bloggers while they are all in the same city at once.  But it all pulled the focus away from the thing.  You know, the writing thing.  That being said, I did get to attend some very swanky parties, so I’m not oblivious to the appeal.  I also tried to pretend like I wasn’t impressed with things like penthouses or views or free pomegranate martinis.*

*No, I didn’t.  I acted like one of the Beverly Hillbillies, taking photos and exclaiming loudly, “This is the nicest place I will ever be!  Let’s take a lot of pictures, ya’ll!”

By Friday night, I had given up any illusions that my Pacific Time body was going to fall asleep before 3am.  So when I walked back into the hotel lobby in the wee hours just at the time a crew was headed out to karaoke, I didn’t need a lot of arm-twisting.  Especially because it was such a fun group of girls, most of whom I had the pleasure of meeting when I spoke at the Casual Bloggers Conference.  Marie, Allison, Carina, Susan, Kami, Jenny, and Ashley . . . seriously, these girls could be going to a John Deere convention and I would sign up just because they are so much fun.  Not to mention, all of the totally get my own personal vision and groundrules of karaoke, which is that karaoke should NOT be a place for ballads or actual singing.  It should be a place for bad 80’s tunes, loud singing, and air guitar.

I don’t know how to explain what happened that night in that underground karaoke bar in midtown.  All I know is that by the end of the night, all of us were best friends. And not just the girls I came with.  The weird couple in the back, the nerdy boy who came alone, the Asian couple, that guy named Mike and his two really drunk girlfriends – there was a lot of love in that place.  And a lot of white people singing hip-hop.

The next day I had a busy schedule.  I hosted the Serenity Suite in the morning, and then a lunch table for adoption bloggers. After lunch I had my interview with Project Mom Casting, which went really long.  The good news is that while I was waiting for my interview, I got to meet a lot of amazing bloggers – many of whom I’ve admired for years.  The bad news is that by the time my interview was over, I had missed the two afternoon sessions.

So – let’s review.  During the entire conference weekend, I missed every single session and only made it to the community keynote.  And a lot of parties.

It’s like a bad freshman year, where you realize that you just partied, got too little sleep, spent a lot of money you didn’t have, and learned absolutely nothing.

I think I might have also gained 15 pounds.

I still don’t know how to efficiently upload photos to my blog (hence the 7-day delay in this post), or how to properly edit my photos (still rocking Microsoft Paint over here), or how to update my facebook page remotely or how to do SEO or whether or not I really need to move to wordpress or any of the other things I was hoping I might learn at this conference. 

But you know what I do know?  Ashley does a mean Eminem impersonation, Georgia is very nice (and not at all bossy) in person, Christine is a pastor’s wife who happily wears condom earrings, Jill is not scary, Esther is even more adorable in person, and Jenny knows all the moves to the Beyonce Single Ladies video.  So . . . there’s that.

Saturday afternoon, I also missed the dinner with my fellow Grown in My Heart writers, which was another letdown, but I was shaky and exhausted and knew I needed a nap if I wanted to avoid a meltdown before the night o’parties.  And a night o’parties it was – starting with Blogalicious, and then Sparklecorn (thrown  by MamaPop) and finally, Cheeseburgher.  These parties were the most fun of the conference, due in no small part to the fact that they were a) open invite b) devoid of product pitches and c) focused on dancing to fun 80’s and 90’s music.  I had a blast, and managed to get through the evening without my feet bleeding. 

The next day, I skipped the brand breakfast I had been invited to (since I spent the weekend skipping things, why stop now?).  As I do on every trip to New York City, I was getting that insatiable urge to try to see every broadway show possible.  Linda and I schemed all morning trying to figure out how to see two shows in one day. We saw the matinee of Memphis (loved it), ate dinner at the legendary Sardi’s (loved it) and then were joined by Theresa to see Next To Normal (psychotically loved it).  After the show, we took a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park – something I never would have done myself, but ended up being an idyllic end to our quintessential New York day.  I had so much fun with these gals, and since we were all on west-coast time, we hooked up with another SoCal friend (Sugar) and headed down to the Standard Bar in the meatpacking district.  We laughed at how we had managed to choose the most LA spot in all of New York City, but redeemed ourselves by ending the evening at Hogs and Heifers, were the four of us were mercilessly mocked by a bartender with a bullhorn.  So much fun.

In retrospect, the weekend was a lot of fun, even though I walked away without learning much, and with the realization that if I go again, I need to adjust my expectations. It is a crazy, manic experience, and I didn’t feel like I got enough time with any one person, but that is probably just not possible with that many people in one place.

Okay, I promise, I’m done talking about Blogher.  Humiliating stories about my daily life to resume shortly.  Well, except that I might rant about the anti-formula drama, and I might finish that post where I query whether or not it’s appropriate for a bunch of white people to use the N word gratuitously in background music on their Blogher recap, when most of us would agree it’s not okay to say or write.  Or I might just become distracted and these half-finished screeds may become yet another memory in the graveyard of drafts in my blogger dashboard.  Only time will tell.

If you’ve written your own Blogher recap?  Well, scroll down and link it up. 

And here is a whole bunch of pictures in random order because how to easily reposition photos on my blog?  That’s another thing I didn’t learn at Blogher. 

(an artist’s rendering of my Voice of the Year post)


Posted by Picasa

Here are some of my favorite recaps of the weekend.  Did you write one?  Or maybe a post about how sick you are of reading other people’s posts about Blogher?  Link it below. 

Welcome to My Brain

Our Little Tongginator

Three Girl World


Uppercase Woman

O My Family

Extraordinary Ordinary

Ann’s Rants

One Crafty Mother

Is There Any Mommy Out There?

Okay, Fine, Dammit

Your turn:

party planes, puke fests, and fondue feuds (blogher days 1 & 2)

In my life, I’ve had a couple variations of recurring stress dreams. One involves me being unable to find something right before a big event (it’s my wedding day and I can’t find a hairdryer, it’s time for prom and I can’t find my dress, etc). Another recurring dream involves me finding out that I am failing a class (in college I took an anthropology class where you could skip the final if you got 100% on the midterm. I did, and then I skipped that the class for the rest of the semester. My subconscious has never let me live that down). The other recurring dream involves me humiliating myself in front of others.

My weekend at Blogher 2010 was an amazing experience, and I am so glad I went. But a good portion of the conference felt like some surreal stress dream where I planned and planned and yet everything that could go wrong, did.

It started with the plane ride on Wednesday, which got a little bumpy over the middle of the country. I should mention, I decided to make the flight from LA to New York on the “party plane” – dubbed as such because there were about ten other bloggers on the flight. Everyone else was talking and laughing and drinking. But being the queen of motion sickness, my stomach starting letting me know that it wasn’t so happy. About an hour before we landed, I was struggling to keep my breakfast down. And then suddenly, I lost the struggle. Numerous times. In front of ten other bloggers I had just met.

Let’s just say I don’t think I won the First Impression Rose that day. And thank God for Virgin America’s generous supply of seat-front vomit bags.

After the flight, I hopped in a car with Linda and Donna and tried my best not to have any more public displays of puking. I had one overwhelming thought on that hour car ride into Manhattan – I WOULD LIKE TO STOP MOVING. When we arrived at the hotel I had about an hour before I needed to meet up with some other bloggers that I had arranged to see Broadway shows that evening. All I wanted to do was lay down – but I knew I needed to get some food in my stomach, get an Alka-Seltzer, wash up a bit and get going. So I threw my suitcase in the room, brushed my teeth, and then set out to find a pharmacy and a deli.

What happened next is where the stress dream feeling really kicked in, because it was a comedy of errors trying to get all of those tickets to their rightful owners. I needed to be a four box offices at once, and it felt like an Amazing Race episode in Times Square. When I finally got everyone their tickets and sat down in the theater to see Fela, I was really ready to fall asleep.

Jessica, Lori, Cecily, Deb, Heather, Ellie, me

Fela, though. What an amazing show. It was exactly what I needed. An avant-guard play about a Nigerian musician, full of amazing African music and dancing, and with a social-activist message. I was loving it.
After the show, several of us met up for fondue. Because really, what better way for women to bond than over melted cheese and chocolate? I began to witness some of the rumored Blogher drama as the group of us struggled over which cheese to choose. There was a lot of ego involved in deciding between the Swiss or Cheddar. Specifically, one blogger tried to pull rank because she had the most twitter followers, but then another gal insisted that she have her way because she had a better Technorati score. Ultimately we went with a face-off between everyone’s Alexa rating, and that moment in time will forever be known as the great Blogher ’10 Fondue Feud. Or #fonduefeud, if you would like to join the debate.
(Actually all of these ladies were perfectly lovely and we had a fabulous time. And ordered both types of cheeses with very little fanfare beyond stopping our chatter long enough to acknowledge the waiter.)

I was so tired by the end of this long day, but somehow found myself wide awake when I arrived back at my hotel room at 1am. Hello, pacific time. After a couple breathing exercises Ambien I finally fell asleep, and that wakeup call felt early. On Thursday morning I had an appointment with David’s Bridal to choose some cocktail dresses for the Blogher parties. It was a lovely experience all around – their reps were great, the dresses were adorable.

PS I love that little silver number and think it looks very Mad Men/vintage, and had to laugh when they told me it was a mother-of-the-bride dress.  I only hope I can wear something that cute when my kids are old enough to be married. 

Thursday afternoon my roommate Christine arrived, and we got to chat a bit before heading out for the SocialLuxe party. Even though it was 24 hours after I my flight, I was still feeling nauseous, and put very little effort into my appearance for the second night in a row. Those perfectly planned dresses with matching accessories and shoes for both Wednesday and Thursday night?  Yeah, those never happened. Both nights I found myself stumbling into a social situation hoping I’d remembered to brush the knots out of the back of my hair.

SocialLuxe was a blast.  It was fun to be nominated for an award and hear my name called out at the party.  As I foretold, Jenny (The Blogess) won.  I had hoped to meet her, and use my defeat as an “in”.  I imagined myself pretending to be outraged, but then giving her a little nod and a wink to let her know I’m just joshing, after which she would throw her hands up and shrug her shoulders and hug me and become my best friend forever.  Weirdly, none of that actually happened.  But I did see her from across the room and she seemed darling.

After the SocialLuxe party, we went to the Nikon party, a tasteful little rooftop affair where a bevy of buff calendar models were hired to chat up a room full of female bloggers who spend most of their time wearing pajamas with a computer on their lap.  The firemen worked the room – chatting us up about our lives and our work, pretending to be earnest about wanting to understand what this blog thing was about. “You ladies look great tonight. Where are you from? So, a blog. Is that like a chat room?” It was a scenario that I found hilariously awkward.

After the Nikon party, we went back to the hotel for some of the official Blogher parties. I was getting tired but then I got a call from one of the gals from our Grown In My Heart writing team. They were all gathered in one of the rooms, drinking wine. We had never met in person before, but I could hear their laughing all the way down the hallway. We ordered pizza and chatted into the night.

Christine from welcome to my brain, Marcie from Grown In My Heart, Carrissa (above) from My Everyday Miracles, Claudia from Musings of the Lame, Judy from The International Mom Blog, me, Michelle from Gotcha Baby (and shot by the camera-shy,Tonggu Momma )

Well, this story has gotten awfully long and I’m only up to day 2 in New York. I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to describe the ways I felt like I would have gotten an F in Blogher, if we were being graded – and some other assorted mortification. For now, time to go hop in a hotel pool with four eager children who cannot swim. Fun.

*Let me leave you with a little video some of my OC Family peeps made.  There was a hilarious twitter hashtag brewing while we were in New York: #homeher10.  Sick of seeing all the #blogher10 tweets, a couple funny folks started tweeting about being homebound for the weekend.  And then Suzanne, Foolery, and Marcy made this mockumentary gem.

homeward bound (re-entry from the blogher alternate universe)

I’ve been on several mission trips in my life, and typically the last day is devotd to a process called “re-entry” – where participants some time debriefing in preparation for acclimation back into real life.  On a mission trip, time is usually spent discussing how one might react to the newfound awarenss of the excesses and privilege in their first-world life.  One might be warned of the culture shock they may experience, the discomfort they may feel returning their current lifestyle, and the importance of assimilating new learnings into effective life change that lasts beyond the trip.

I’m feeling like I need a re-entry debriefing.  Only, in many ways it is exactly opposite of debriefings I’ve needed in the past.  This weekend was full of excess – it was an alternate universe where my time was my own.  Remember my post about trying to add a little hedonism to my life?  Yeah, I got that this weekend. 

I have so much to say about the madness that was Blogher.  It was stressful, it was a blast, it was exhausting, it was humiliating, it was affirming, it was inspiring.  There were moments when I felt like I was validated as a writer and propped up by a community of my peers.  There were moments when I felt like I was surrounded by a collective body of some of the smartest women in our country.  And then there were moments where I felt like I was a thirteen-year-old who was too insecure to walk from the lunchtable to the bathroom without a friend on my arm.

But now, I find myself wondering how one returns from a weekend like that to the daily grind of laundry, diapers, and bedtime routines.  Who is going to leave swag on my bed?  Who is going to invite me to a penthouse party?  Where did the free food and drinks go?  Where are the NY Fire Department calendar models who are being paid to talk me up at a party?

(Clearly I was very bothered by this).

This weekend brought up a whole mess of feelings, and entitlement is one that I am trying to squash.  Because I met a lot of amazing, smart, and talented women.  But I also met a lot of entitled women.  Women who seem to have forgotten that this little blogging world is not real life, and that nobody owes us anything, and that all of this free stuff or noteriety or wooing by corporations is not going to make us better wives, mothers, or writers.  Even if we do have an “engaged and growing audience”. 

More on the “blogger as celebrity” bit later.  But I will say, I noticed a converse relationship between Women Who Acted Like Divas (a small minority, really) and Women With Legitimate Writing Chops. I also noticed that Ree Drummond spent some serious time just standing approachably in the lobby, chatting with whoever wanted to talk to her.  But I’m giving too much away.  That is a post for another time.

As I sort through my reaction to this conference, there are a lot of aspects I want to diminish, but a couple I want to take home with me.  The first is community. There was a really strong sense of community.  Diversity was hugely valued here, from physical disability to religion to race to sexual orientation.  On a broad scale, it felt supportive and accepting.  It really made me long to spend more time with my own friends.  Having time away from daily responsibility is such an amazing way to connect with other people, and I probably had some of the most meaningful conversations I’ve had in a long time.

I also had FUN.  It was so great to really let loose and be spontaneous.  Dancing on the stage at Sparklecorn?  Sure.  Heading out to Karoake at midnight?  Okay.  Walking around times square with no intentions?  I’m in.  Sing on stage in an impromptu Annie flashmob?  OF COURSE.   I felt like I found a side of myself that has been dormant for a very long time.  I felt the trauma of the last year loosen it’s grip a bit.  I laughed.  A lot.  That felt good.

I also feel like I am walking away from this weekend inspired to be more creative.  The community keynote at Blogher featured thirteen women whose posts were chosen as the best of the year.  We laughed, we cried . . . but mostly we marvelled at the way these writers crafted a story.  I also got the chance to see three plays while I was in New York – all of them amazing and creative in their own way.  All of it left me pondering the beauty in creating something that touches others.  And behind all of thefun and silliness and drama of this conference, this is what I want to take away. . .  a desire to create.  I’ve been in a fog and I’ve been ignoring that aspect of myself, because it has seemed superflous.  Optional.  Self-indulgent.  This weekend was a reminder that creativity is vital.

So, I fly home today, ready to kiss my kids, to be more engaged, and to pay more attention to nurturing my creative side.  And yes, the hotel we are living in will never be as glamorous as the Hilton, and I won’t have four parties to choose from tonight.  But that’s gonna be okay.