This is a loooooooooooooooong post. A long one. But I think (immodestly?) an important one. If you can't stand hearing one more thing about BlogHer, skip to the bottom where you read about the next bloggy thing. But...the reason why you should join for the next bloggy thing may not be clear until you read the rest of the post. Just saying.
The word "emotional" has been overused in all of my posts this weekend. But it's true. BlogHer has been a very emotional experience for me. I had never been to a conference before. Josh would go to conferences and I didn't quite understand what he got from them, why he wanted to go, and why he was sad every time I begged him not to go to a conference. And now I get it. I may still beg him not to go to a conference in a future, but at least I'll know what he is missing out on.
I am now home. After the keynote, I had a tearful goodbye with Lori, Luna, Millie, and Frenchie, and we caught our shuttle to the airport. It was really hard to leave. It was hard to stay and be so far away from the twins, but it was also hard to leave. Yes, they announced that I won the BlogHer hero award at the keynote. Which means a lot to me in light of the compassionate blogging movement I want to help out with that grew from the panel I attended at the conference. Due to the award, I had an interview printed in the Blogging Heroes book at the conference but I haven't gotten a chance to read it yet. I asked them to use a screen-shot of the blogroll. Why the blogroll? Because this community is about us. And we all deserve the recognition because the ALI chickies and man-pies rule.
I use the analogy a lot, but the conference was a lot like taking a trip to Wonderland. It goes by at warp speed. You meet so many fantastic people--those you already read incessantly and those you never knew existed in the blogosphere. And you bond with them intensely but briefly. I wanted to spend hours with each person I met, but you end up having these twitter-like meetings. You bump into someone and chat for a moment and then get dragged off in another direction and you're constantly mindful of the panels and suites and activities that are filling the schedule.
And the ideas--the ideas are shooting past you at lightening speed. I had so many people tell me about so many cool projects and I wanted to be involved in EVERY SINGLE ONE. And I will be involved in every single one. I will somehow make that happen. I feel like going to BlogHer gave me an extra tank of energy. It made me so proud to be involved with the organization and to be part of this incredible group of women. And I always think about my daughter and how I'll tell her about this time in my life. How I'll tell her that I was part of a group of women who made a difference and left their mark on areas of the Internet. And in doing so, they changed off-screen lives as well.
And I cannot write without crying how incredible it was to meet people face-to-face. You know their words, but imagine your computer screen opening and the author climbing into your living room and enveloping you in an actual hug with their arms rather than just their words. Sometimes the chance meetings were funny and I was so star-struck (that's Her Bad Mother in the elevator! Heather Armstrong! Stephanie Klein in the lobby!) and others were emotional. I wanted to hug Cecily through the whole conference. She is such a powerful, amazing woman and she's beautiful and bright-eyed and intelligent. And she rocked the panel with her thoughts on engaging negative commentors to build bridges. I could sniff Chookooloonks all day long--her perfume smells so good--and she had the greatest posture I've ever seen. She is so amazingly kind and thoughtful and beautiful. Seeing WhyMommy--who has changed the off-screen world so tremendously with her breast cancer information campaign--and getting to hug her in the elevator. I got to see Lesbian Dad's son and even hold him for a brief second before stranger danger kicked in and the tears flowed.
Before I go into more people, can I just talk also about something unique about this conference? I've never been to another conference, but I have to assume some of this is unique. On Thursday night, we had a couple hundred women playing Wii boxing (I made it to the third rounds!) and drinking beer. In three inch heels and sassy dresses. Can you imagine that at a male event? We had the movers and shakers of the Internet world all playing Wii in heels. And kids--there was childcare, but people also brought their children to the panels. And as much as it may have annoyed some, I actually thought it created this really beautiful vision of women who were not leaving home behind in order to discuss hard topics and make a change in the world. There was a kibbutzim mentality where I felt comfortable holding anyone's child or stopping them from racing into an open elevator when they toddled off from their mum. I didn't even know their mother, but there was such a feeling of community that it felt like we truly all were pitching in to help each other out. And that women share the load.
Which, also speaks volumes about processing this conference as an infertile woman. It was certainly child-friendly. It was more than child-friendly. It was somewhat child-focused in terms of the sponsorship room and the childcare suite. It was also Christian-centered and was held over Shabbat so anyone observant couldn't attend. It was also omnivorous-centered and the boxed lunches were of the ham-or-turkey variety. The vegetarian options weren't vegan therefore, I had to go out of the building to eat lunch.
And that is fine.
The timing of the conference didn't bother me and the menu of the conference didn't bother me because I also know that it served the majority even if it didn't include me in the minority. It would have been great if the conference could have reached even farther with inclusivity, but I also didn't think it had to because perfection doesn't exist. Get it right for me and it screws it up for someone else. Attending the conference would be a very different experience (from my own) if you were in a wheelchair or single or deaf or a recovering alcoholic. Or any of a number of situations. I just don't think it is humanly possible to make the conference comfortable for everyone.
So, that said, you should know before heading over that the majority of attendees either have children or are not in a place where children bother them. I think of it in the same way as a baby shower. The baby shower should go on and be a big raucous event regardless of me. And I should attend when I can emotionally. And I should be able to tend to my own needs and step back when I need to without offending anyone. If you're in a great space emotionally, you should attend BlogHer and perhaps avoid the Sesame Street suite and the swagaganzas. If you're not in a great space emotionally, the conference may not be the best space for you.
And, that said, I think for me it always boils down to sensitivity or insensitivity in determining my comfort level. And the fine chickies of BlogHer were damn sensitive. They were certainly thoughtful towards the ALI crowd by providing not one but two relevant panels (the IF one and women without children). That goes a long way for me. And it also reasons that it would be an easier event for me because I have my feet in both the parenting world and the infertility world.
Being able to stand on that bridge and look both ways made it a lot easier.
The reason I went to BlogHer was to meet the ALI bloggers face-to-face and I got to meet so many of them. And I will use the term again--that was very emotional for me. There were a lot of tears because I think we were all so overwhelmed to finally be sitting in the same room after reading each other for so long. Frenchie stopped by at the end, Rachel Inbar found us, and Amber came to our panel. I got to see Dramalish twice even though she couldn't come out with us Friday night. She is as sassy and fun as you imagine. And so pretty--did you see her picture? Michell drove up from Sacramento Friday night and I got to spend the whole evening with her. And she is just as warm and friendly and caring as you imagine. Millie came to both the Friday festivities and the conference on Saturday. She not only made me laugh hysterically and reminded me off cool writers past, but she traded baking tips...
And I am crying now.
Bleu drove up with Bliss to catch us before the panel and being with her was so incredibly special. It made me feel like I was home when I was so far away from home. Pamela Jeanne was so poised and confident. It was amazing hearing her thoughts on the panel. Monica was just as fun and vibrant as she is on her blog. I am going to start dragging her to the DC get togethers.
And you know when Dorothy has to leave Oz and it means saying goodbye to the Scarecrow and Lion and Tinman? And even though she wants to be home (because there is no place like home), she can't imagine also saying goodbye to these people who she spent so much time with and who shaped her experience?
I would say there was a big collective scarecrow--every ALI blogger was a piece of straw creating this collective brain that threw so many fantastic ideas in my head (see below). The Lion was definitely Luna. She has such a ferocious and beautiful spirit. The well is deep--she may cry deeply, but she also cares deeply and hugs strongly. She has so much courage and she doesn't even know the depth of what she possesses already in her heart. She is such an amazing woman.
And my tinman...perhaps, more aptly, my tinlady...Lori. She has a heart that is more enormous than her body and it spills love out in all directions. We spent the whole weekend alternating between laughing and crying and teasing each other incessantly. I think I spent equal time talking to her as I did trying to convince her husband all the reasons they need to come to DC. It was not my first time meeting Lori, but she was a large reason why I went to BlogHer. Because I just wanted that time. I wanted that time with everyone hence the idea you're going to see below.
I am not trying to make you jealous if you couldn't go; but perhaps the incessant talking makes you want to get involved. If getting to a conference physically isn't possible, there are still so many ways to get involved from home with the various projects that have come out of the conference. And on that note, I am going to hold off discussing our panel until Thursday when I do so on my BlogHer post. Because there were a lot of great ideas that we should all unpack.
But this is the next bloggy idea:
On October 13th, BlogHer is holding a one-day conference in DC. That's a Monday. It's also Columbus Day weekend (which doesn't affect me but may affect some?). Lindsay and I (and Lori will be dragged into this for suggesting it if we can get her out to DC) would like to invite you to our pre-conference: O.V.A.R.Y.*. It would begin Saturday evening around dinner time and run through Sunday evening (or, if you're going to BlogHer, through the Monday formal BlogHer conference as well). Lindsay and I are waiting to see a number before we start throwing out conference ideas--serious breakout groups based on topic? 24-hours of debauchery?--but would people be interested in attending?
Actually, here are the questions:
(1) would you drive down or up or east to get together with other ALI bloggers (and every single ALI blogger is invited)?
(2) would you be coming to BlogHer and already staying in a hotel or would you need a local blogger to put you up for the night?
(3) what would you want to see in the gathering? Just a social event where you get to meet up with other bloggers or small discussion groups?
(4) *what does O.V.A.R.Y. stand for? I know I'd like to use it to match with U.T.E.R.U.S., but what the hell does it stand for that screams, "this is a party!"
A side note--I would like this to be inclusive, but I apologize in advance that it will not be able to take everyone's needs into account. I think it should be a child-free space, though everyone is welcome: those still building their family, those pregnant after IF/loss, and those parenting after IF/loss. Gay/straight, young/old, single/married, crusty ovaries or problems with the man-pie hardware...every single person is welcome.