I'd never been to the Blissdom conference before, but this year, I just knew I had to get there.
I did the Responsible Grrrl thing, talking to my dad and the Not Boyfriend about whether I should attend a conference on my own -- in this case meaning that I'd be going without a woobie-friend to cling to and paying for it out of my own wallet.
"Why is this important?" they both asked when I told them I was weighing whether to make the trip to Nashville at the tail-end of an extraordinarily stressful month, on a limited budget, with no real idea what BlissDom was all about. I was relying on them to help me count the costs and so I didn't really expect this question from either of them.
"I need to be with my people," I said definitively.
Tracey of Sweetney, Kyran, Katherine Stone, Meagan and me. Didn't Christine Koh do a great job capturing the happiness?
"Then, go," they both said. But me being me, I debated more. Even after the conference sold out and my budget got tighter and my concerns about switching visitation weekends amped up.
So I put out the feelers. Could I scrounge up a ticket? Could I hunt down an affordable airfare? Is there anyone who'd want to room with me?
And that's when the good advice from my dad and the Not Boyfriend and the universe colluded to get me to BlissDom. I asked one person if she knew of any extra conference passes for sale and within five minutes, she'd found me one. I proposed a weekend switch with The Ex and in a strangely civil two-minute conversation, had it all arranged. I logged on to two travel sites before I found an airfare for $135. I reached out to a few blogging ladies I am getting to know better and within moments, had an offer to share a room. Weeks of weighing it all, and the whole trip was set in twenty minutes. Tops.
Before I boarded the plane, my dad called me with one more bit of advice: "Don't force this to be something you think you need," he said. "Be open to it being whatever it is. You will hear something this weekend you need to hear, I know it."
A pause to note that my dad is a sage man who has a social-worker practicality and calm. But spiritual hoodoo-guruness is not normally his way. These words said by this man, though, were just one of many signs pointing me toward BlissDom.
He was right.
The opening keynote was by Jon Acuff, a man I may not have otherwise ever heard, who is so funny and on-point and very clearly loves speaking to groups of attentive blogging ladies. I am not even sure I could relay what exactly he said that made me tear up and clap and want to meet him in person (so worth the half-hour wait in line), but I knew that his keynote contained the words I needed to hear.
But there were more.
Some of those words came from Meagan Francis. I have known Meagan since the early days when we both contributed to Chicago Moms Blog. And when her book, The Happiest Mom, came out, I pored over her wise and funny words and was thrilled to interview her. But it wasn't until last summer when we shared margaritas poolside at BlogHer and I heard this mom of sixteen (OK, five) spit out gangsta rap lyrics that I knew we needed to be friends. So when she offered for me to room with her, I snapped up the chance. We immediately established a Circle of Trust so we could share secrets and ideas and brainstorms and brilliance and gossip and stupid texts like we've been roommates forever. This is one dynamic woman who very well may be my next woobie. Also, there are apparently photos of us club dancing, so I will have to keep her close in order to prevent those from being leaked.
Some of those words were spoken by Christine Koh. See this stunning lady in the J. Crew-fabulous outfit? She gave an inspiring on doing LESS as a life strategy. She also has a killer potty mouth. How could you not adore her? We shared a drink (she asked the bartender to make something up for her and within moments, he created a cocktail just for Christine called The Leg Spreader...just saying), some very deep and spiritual talk about death and taking professional chances and what makes great content online, and a burning desire to do karaoke (that never materialized, unfortch). I was so honored she included me in her own BlissDom round-up post and just hated to say goodbye to that mama. Christine feels like a kindred spirit and one day I am going to borrow that yellow pencil skirt and it won't be awkward at all.
Some of those words have yet to be written. But I have all the faith in the world that the book Christine is writing with the savvy Asha Dornfest will bring a message I will need to hear. Christine and Asha announced at BlissDom that they're putting their Minimalist Parenting centeredness on to paper in a book due out next year. Don't you love it when smart ladies do smart things together? (Follow their good Minimalist Parenting works here.)
They are doing amazing work and I loved adding my words to their campaign.
Some words were a long time coming -- in this case from the supahhh-smart Joanne Bamberger, also known as Pundit Mom. Our work has overlapped, but Joanne and I have never had a chance to just sit down and talk. Before this weekend, that is. Joanne is changing how women's votes and analysis and concerns and issues are being covered in this presidential election and I am in awe of how informed and real and empowering she is.
There was more good/naughty stuff after I declared to Mr. Lady that we WOULD be friends, and with the one person who did get plenty of time on the karaoke mic, Jim of BusyDadyBlog. I've known Steph from Adventures in Babywearing for a million years, but in a few days of seeing her light up a conversation with her sparkling eyes and devious smile, I felt like we became better friends.
And when Kyran Pittman took an inside joke and turned it into a Pinterest board...yeah, well...she sealed it. I am totally going to stalk her now. She may not even know that I am stealing words before she even says them, but I am. And scrapbooking them. With fancy stickers and glitter glue.
In a conversation about being brave and taking bold leaps, I felt a swell of tears and sisterhood with Laurie. And when Christine asked who I'd met who I would like to get to know better, I didn't hesitate in answering "Zakary." So, watch out, darling, I'm-a-coming over to be your next Facebook-besty.
AND OH.EM.GEE! How could I leave out Joe Jonas and Rascal Flatts? They were there. And we were SO CLOSE to them. OK, so we couldn't stop giggling when Joe Jonas thrust pelvically toward all the cougars in the audience and handed out final roses to screaming moms, he did earn some points for reportedly saying during photos that he would probably become "someone's stepfather" that night. Those big names were definitely outdone by a lunch-time performance by the snarky, so funny, still-humble Chris Mann from "The Voice". Watch and vote, friends, he's worth it.
BlissDom is a lot of glitter and loving on people and coupon bloggers and workshopping and tears. All of that is wonderful to each attendee for different reasons. And not all of it is exactly what I need. But because there aren't big line-ups of A-listers there and many of my regular bloggy laydeeez were not in attendance, the pressure was off to see people and be seen and network hard and be at every exciting, exclusive party. Instead, I could just cover myself in as much glitter as I wanted and let the days and parties and little moments unfold.
I came home completely exhausted and with nothing much left to say. I'd been there, to the joyous pants-peeing gangsta-rapping non-karaokeing circle-of-trust listening and laughing place I needed to be. If only for three days. If only so I could return to this space in a better place. And I have.