A couple of weeks ago I confessed that that I hadn’t spent a night away from all of my kids in 9 years, and that I was more than a little nervous about having kid free time and leaving them all behind to go to my blog conference. Shortly thereafter my plans changed. I decided to bring Melanie (15) with me.
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Before you think that I copped out of being alone, let me explain. I was in the middle of reading “The Color of Water” You can buy a copy here and in it the main character, who is the 8th of 12 children, talks about how he had never been alone with his mother until he was 6 years old when she would walk him to the bus. That time became very important to him. It made me sit and think about my own children. As much as I try to spend time with each one of them, and listen to them and let them know I am really paying attention, that is still not the same as being with me one-on-one. And let’s be real, one-on-one happens next to never. I’m pretty sure it’s why Lloyd (4) still sneaks into my bed at night – because there are no other siblings there.
So I got to thinking – what if I took one of the kids with me? It would need to be one of the big girls, because they would be spending a lot of time alone while I was at the conference. But we’d be in downtown Austin, so she would be able to explore or just hang out at the hotel pool. Hmmm.
Basically by virtue of being the eldest, and knowing that there will be more conferences to come that I can take the others to, Melanie got to come with me. I was so excited to have some girl time with her, and for the opportunity to push her out of her comfort zone ever-so-slightly.
Confession: Melanie seems to have inherited her mother’s anxiety issues. (I’m sorry, dear girl!)
A big part of me being able to function as an adult is the fact that my mother used to make me do things that I didn’t like to do. When I was a kid, I would rather have gone hungry than have to talk to a stranger and order my own food at a restaurant. Seriously. But my mom made me. As I got older she made me place the order when we would order Dominos. She made me go into the store to pick up a few grocery items. When things didn’t go smoothly and I returned in tears and empty-handed, she would make me go back in.
I. Hated. It.
But eventually it got easier. It turned out that talking to strangers wouldn’t literally kill me, even if I felt like I was dying on the inside.
And it occurred to me that this would be a grand opportunity for Melanie to have to stretch out of her comfort zone. She’d have to either talk to someone to order room service, or face to face if she was brave enough to leave the room. She’d thank me, some day.
Friday morning I woke up at 6am to give myself plenty of time to straighten hair and get ready without feeling rushed. Then it happened. My beloved Chi flat-iron died. If I hadn’t already done my eye make-up, I would have cried. My mom gifted me this Chi 8 years ago. She decided to move up from the 1” heating plate to the 1.5”. I accepted the flat iron gratefully, but skeptically. My Revlon flat iron had put me back $35-ish dollars. What was so magical about the Chi that it could command a $100 price tag? I soon learned. Once you iron your hair with the Chi, it stays flat and it also makes my hair smooth (totally unlike it’s usual frizzy self!). I am a sweat factory, and with my old iron I would get that bump about an inch from my roots whenever I would sweat – so like an hour or two after I ironed my hair. Not so with the Chi. I have been in love ever since. So when the little button to turn it on broke, I was at a loss. I have since bought a new one – this one from Amazon to the rescue!
I had packed a curling iron too – because I am a nervous over-packer not because I actually thought I was going to use it. I fired it up and did my best to tame my 80’s hair band ‘do. Awesome.
My other plans took a sharp right turn on Friday morning as well when I went to check in at registration. I saw that there was a student ticket available for the conference. Doing quick math in my head, I figured out that it would be roughly the same cost if Melanie had to find her own meals close to the hotel, or if she was able to eat at the conference. I asked the ladies at registration and they said it wasn’t too late, she could still join. But did she want to?
I texted my girl and this was how that went:
So I know I wanted her to push out of her comfort zone and do some solo flying – but looking at the conference agenda, she was going to be spending most of her time alone. Not super fun. And having to socialize would still be pushing her (and me!) so that still counts, right?
While I was waiting for Mel, I introduced myself to the first people I saw. Leslie and The Mister from My Kitchen is Open were so nice and friendly. Even though I felt as awkward as all get out, they were talkative and open and helped set the stage for a great day.
Melanie came down and had to get an official picture in front of the BlogHerFood signage.
Once Mel was with me we still had a bit to wait until the breakfast began. Dying on the inside, I introduced myself to another person (comfort zone, where for art thou comfort zone?), the sweet Paula from The Sweet Almond Blog. We also connected with Gemma, a lovely lady originally from Ireland. I could listen to her talk for hours! If you want to hear her lovely lilt and get some awesome mug-recipes, check out her YouTube channel. And just like that we had people to sit with at breakfast, and I didn’t have to worry about asking a table of strangers if I could sit with them (don’t worry, I had to do that plenty during the break-out sessions).
The rest of the day was a blur of main stage sessions, meals, break-out sessions and receptions.
I handed my business card to anyone who made eye contact or paused long enough for me to thrust one at them. I’m guessing I probably looked a little maniacal by the end of the day. Initiating conversation with strangers all day long is pretty close to my personal hell (for it to truly be my personal hell, you would have to add on me being late to everything, or me waiting on people who are late). By the time the welcome reception was closing down I was d-o-n-e. Melanie had taken a break (doing school work is a break, right?) in our room during one of the classes, but was with me for most of it.
We hit the elevators at 7 and shared it with one other person.
Me: I am so ready for bed. (Mel nods in agreement.)
Fellow attendee: Bed? It’s 7 o’ clock! I’m just going to change, then we’re heading out to dinner.
Me: We had dinner between the last session and the welcome reception.
Fellow attendee (still looking at us like we are crazy): But it’s s-e-v-e-n.
Melanie (plaintively): We’ve been “people-ing” all day!
Fellow attendee: Well, you two wild ones have a great night.
Pretty sure she rolled her eyes too. Hahaha. Yes, we act like old ladies. Yes, we are fine with that.
We had a wild night for sure. First we went for a swim in the outdoor swimming pool on the 8th floor. We were the only ones out there, as it was kind of cool. We stayed for less than half an hour before shivering our way back to the room. Then we put on Pride and Prejudice (the BBC version), took turns showering, and quoted Star Wars at random intervals. That’s how the Flawed Ladies throw down when we have no little ones to attend to. I wondered what I would do without the herd, and now we know.
Before bed time Melanie and I got to FaceTime with the Flawed Family at home. It was my first time using FaceTime because I was out of town. That was new. It was sooooo nice to see the smiling faces of crew. And Dory amused us all by stealing the phone. It looked like she was trying to eat the phone, so I am going to assume that she was trying to give me kisses.
On our last morning in Austin I really had to give myself a pep-talk to return to the conference. While I was learning so much, a large part of what I was learning was geared towards people who have a much larger following than I do. They were throwing around numbers like “5,000 page views a day” and “100,000 views per month”. Um, yeah. The-little-blog- that-could over here hasn’t even broken 5,000 lifetime views. Discouraging.
-BUT- I promised myself I would get my money’s worth out of my conference ticket, so back down we went.
My comfort zone got stretched even further on the last day, as both of the break-out sessions ran over. Then I was faced with the choice of being the rude person who walked out before being officially dismissed, or being the rude person who showed up late to the next class. Erg. Melanie and I opted to leave the last session that was running over so we could be on time for the food excursion we had signed up for. It was great to meet and chat with new people while we waited (and waited, and waited) for our food at Max’s Wine Dive (a really odd name for a crunchy brunch restaurant that also served wine).
Then we hoofed it back to the hotel, because we were once again running late (I was dying people, DYING) for the last class before the closing keynote.
Since this was a conference for food bloggers, a lot of the experts were people I had never heard of. I don’t have cable, so the only Food Network stars that I know or remember are the ones that graced the screen 10+ years ago. Because I had no clue who the closing keynote speakers were, aside from Freddie Prinze, Jr. (20 year old me would have been sooo excited, but alas, I am older and not much of a fan girl these days), Melanie and I opted to skip the closing keynote session. The fact that the closing party was at a bar that Melanie wouldn’t be able to attend, and that we had checked out of our room at noon also carried weight. We realized that by skipping the last meeting we could conceivably make it home before the little ones’ bed time.
Driving home from Austin went smoothly, and we ended our Saturday with hugs and kisses from all our favorite people. If the conference had been a day longer, it would have been a day too long. Two and a half days was just the right amount of time for Melanie and I to have fun together, and yet to also begin to feel the need to be home.
Adam held down the fort admirably and didn’t utter a word of complaint. Best. Husband. Ever.
Would I be willing to go to another blog conference? Definitely. But I will likely look for a different conference next year – one that doesn’t have such a specific focus. Will I take another one of the kids with me? For sure! I am already looking forward to hanging out with Angela.
And if you notice that my Instagram photos are being presented differently, or my Pinterest Pins are styled better, well you can thank to my teachers at the BlogHerFood16 conference. Here’s hoping I put what I learned to good use.