Not quite sure how to sum up BlogHer, but I realize if I don't post something soon, the statute of limitations on all BlogHer-related posts will be long gone.
First, we must remember that the big weekend coincided with a family reunion at my in-laws in CT. While I was devastated to have to miss the the latter part of this gathering (19 people under one roof), it made jumping on a train to the big city quite convenient.
I planned on chronicling my outfits for the whole weekend and sharing with you how much I spent on each (Photo Below: Old Navy shirt: $3, Ann Taylor Pants: $5, both from the thrift shop), but I soon realized it's a lot less awkward to ask my 9 year old to photograph me than people I've just met, so all I've got for you is the train outfit. I know you feel like weeping right now at the loss of a play-by-play wardrobe report.
At check-in, I heard a woman call my name. Although I didn't recognize her, I was filled with gratitude and relief that someone reached out to me. Turns out it was Headless Mom , a 3-time BlogHer alum, and I didn't recognize her because, well, on her blog she's headless. She was warm and outgoing and made me feel at ease right away. She let me stick to her like an STD on Jersey Shore during those nervous-making first few hours. Turns out we're sorority sisters! S-weet!
I became more at ease as the weekend progressed. My roommate Kate, served as Julie McCoy, and as a former meeting planner and all-around delightful person, she helped make an often overwhelming weekend a lot more enjoyable. I believe that without Kate I would have stayed holed up in the hotel room most of the time. There were more than 2,000 women there. That's a lot of noise, luggage, and estrogen even for an extrovert like me.
I was thrilled and grateful throughout the weekend to see that the connection forged by reading each other's blogs is genuine. Thanks to Headless Mom, Christy, Kablooey and others, I now know it takes about 2 seconds to get comfortable with bloggy friends, having shared their joys and sorrows with them on-line.
I must admit I wondered-- would it be awkward meeting big-time bloggers whom I feel like I know? Would I be overly familiar, talking about their children, husbands, and gynos? Would they be mean? I loved meeting Jessica, Marinka, Kelcey, Vodkamom and others. They were just as charming and hilarious in person as on screen. Loved. Loved. Loved them! I pictured us all having a pajama party a la Grease, which somehow did not happen, but I'm proud that I introduced myself and I tried hard not to stalk them all over the Hilton.
A big highlight was meeting my new BFF Jill when she and Christy came into our room Friday morning while I was still in bed. With my bleary eyes (can you say too much white wine on Thursday night??) I thought she was the charming Stacey, whom I'd met before, so I kind of lunged at her, nightgown bunched up around my midsection.
I'm pretty sure, as my high school friend would say, that my "spiders were escaping," so this may have been a tad alarming for a first greeting. Sorry, Jill. Thanks for continuing to hang with me the whole weekend! Stacey, my dear, I'm sure you were glad that when we finally got to see each other, I was fully clothed.
Jill and Anna.
My favorite times were smaller gatherings, at dinners, in the hotel bar, and in the Serenity Suite. I wish there could have been more chances for this, but I also understand that for first-timers like me, the weekend had to build up to that. We needed some structure to give us a purpose and make us feel that we belonged.
I think those who got the most out of the weekend probably set up breakfasts, lunches, and dinners in advance with people they wanted to hang out with. This probably gets easier to do and more comfortable with time. By NOT knowing that many people, however, I was able to meet wonderful new women, and I have a some great new (to me!) blogs to check out.
You hear a lot about SWAG at BlogHer. The whole swag thing left me feeling...meh. I realize now that I spent HOURS in the Expo Hall picking up free samples when I could have and should have been chatting with interesting people.
My kids were not overly impressed by my "haul" and wondered why I couldn't be one of "those Cool Nintendo Mommy Bloggers." Hmmm. The verdict? The swag thing made me feel-- as I peered around trying to see what other people had-- acquisitional and empty. I really wanted to feel relational and full. I mean I was full, but Butterfinger samples are not what I'm talking about. The expo serves a purpose and is a place to go when feeling at loose ends, but it is NOT the highlight of BlogHer. And fancy swag at private parties? Kind of just makes me feel left out, unless I'm invited, in which case, no problemo.
I realized as we went along that what I want more of at a blogging convention and in life are those moments of sitting, laughing and sharing. When my fancy jeans (White House, Black Market: $7 at the thrift store!) are sagging in the crotch, my shoes are kicked off, and wine, friendship and the joy of being a woman and being away put a flattering haze around everyone, laughter happens, and people connect.
For the past 2 1/2 years, blogging has made me feel connected to you, even if it's 2 am here and you are halfway around the world. And because of that, and what I now know, I will no longer need to talk about "In Real Life" friends and "Bloggy" friends. We are all friends, and for that I am grateful.
Shoot! I forgot to tell you about Saturday's dinner. If you'll humor me I have a juicy tidbit for you tomorrow.