The Weekend-Long Hug

I was one of the many thousands of bloggers who went to BlogHer13 in Chicago this past weekend.

The last time I went was in 2011 to San Diego. I spent weeks planning all the things: outfits, sessions, parties…oh the parties. I packed an extra bag to take my swag home in.  I stressed and stressed and stressed.  Then I walked around the conference overwhelmed, sick (from the first trimester yuckies), tired, and depressed.  I didn’t do all the things I had planned; instead I followed what my roommates were doing. Some times this was awesome, other times not, but I did it because I had no confidence in myself. I was afraid to do anything alone (other than walk back to our room in the middle of the day or early in the night so I could get in some pregnant napping).

This time I spent almost no time pre-conference planning. I looked over the sessions, added the ones that sounded cool to my schedule via the BlogHer app, said yes to a couple outside parties with the intent to for sure go to one.

And then Jen came to pick me up on Thursday afternoon and we did the road trip thing to Chicago.

I don’t really know how to describe the three days/nights I was at BlogHer other than to say I came home with a peaceful heart.

It started at check in. I noticed that Ilana was standing behind us in line to check in. Our eyes met and instead of looking down at my feet, I smiled and said “hi” and she recognized me!  We were hurried because just as I was going to say something more, I needed to get out my credit card and blah blah, but we did manage a hug, and it set the tone for the weekend (so thank you, Illana!).

And then not an hour later I tripped and fell over my own flip flop in the middle of a busy sidewalk downtown Chicago. I was nervous this would cancel out my happy beginning and instead set an inauspicious tone for the weekend.

It did not.

scraped up knees. Jen laughed at me. Hard. I deserved it.

scraped up knees. Jen laughed at me. Hard. I deserved it. I would have laughed too.

In fact, the rest of the evening made up for a little bit of the bloody knee.

I am not going to go on and on about any of the parties, the sessions, or anything that I think could have been improved on. I’ll save all that for my BlogHer survey.

What I will say is that this year it was just me and Jen in a room, and that fit my style better. We live near each other, so there was no pressure to do ALL THE THINGS together since, you know, we can do that at home.

We did get quality time together though. Of course.

roomies!

roomies!

I could write a whole post about my love of Jen…but I will save that and say this: I am blessed beyond words to have a friend like her. I hope everyone has a “Jen” in her life.

first night dinner with some of the most lovely ladies on the internet.

first night dinner with some of the most lovely ladies on the internet.

This year I kept the outside parties to a very bare minimum opting instead to hang out with my friends and stick to the BlogHer events. I hugged people and they hugged me back.

In the past seeing someone I recognize and read and love would send me into a flurry of self-doubt over whether I am good enough to say hi…or whether they will like me as much in real life. This year I must not have packed that self-doubt because over and over again I walked up to bloggers I admire and said hi.

On the shuttle from hotel to conference center

On the shuttle from hotel to conference center

On Saturday, I had a meeting at 9:50am. Jen wasn’t really up to being out of bed yet, so I ventured off on my own deciding to see where the day took me. There were some sessions I thought I would check out, and I wasn’t nervous about being alone. I knew I would run into someone.

And I did.

New friends on the shuttle. A reader in line at Starbucks. Friends in the expo. Sluiter Nation fans in the sessions. Twitter peeps in the hall outside the sessions.

We got our make up done...and Shireen got mad lashes, yo.

We got our make up done…and Shireen got mad lashes, yo.

I met people I have been following for what seems like forever…and made fast friends (and was reminded why Indy bloggers totally rock, by the way).

I reconnected with old  friends and laughed and danced and laughed some more.

Me with #WineJen

Me with #WineJen

I got a massage, a manicure, and my make up done.

I felt pretty because I was treated like I was beautiful.

Each night I watched women toss off worry, stress, and body issues and boogie the heck down. Women from all roads of life, all sorts of blogging platforms, and all kinds of beliefs came together and had fun. And loved on each other.

after my manicure and make up

after my manicure and make up

Not once did I think about my squishy middle…or even my newly skinned knees.  Not once did I worry about being judged. Not once did I think I was less than anyone else.  Not once did I feel insecure.

Arnebya and I waiting for some music we can DANCE to.

Arnebya and I waiting for some music we can DANCE to.

I was told I have a Michigan accent…by a Texan as she giggled when I said “back pack” and “map”.

I had lunch with someone who I love and respect as a writer.

I watched someone read her VOTY piece and bawled. Even though I had read the post. It was part out of the emotion of the post and part because she and I had talked for so long about how we absolutely had to meet one day. And now we have.

I was hugged by someone whom I just knew had the best hugs…but was blown away by how good they are.

I found out that someone whom I thought was probably a kindred spirit, was actually a kindred soul.

I found someone who “gets” my looks like only Cortney does.  She is both disturbed and happy about this fact.

And of course there was someone who talked me into doing Karaoke (I’m the loon who starts on the far left and chooses to dance around rather than sing. You’re welcome).

Oh this list could go on and on long into the night. I don’t know where to stop!  I want to tell each and every individual whom I talked to that I loved talking to you…because I totally did. I loved it all.

They make me happy in my heart.

They make me happy in my heart.

To those I didn’t talk to, you made me happy too. The VOTY recipients, the fashion show participants, the session leaders, everyone who smiled at me…you also made me so proud to be part of this community…part of this thing that is blogging.

The weekend felt like a great big heart, soul, and body hug.

I came home exhausted, but happy. Renewed. Joyful.

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