Tuesday, August 2, 2011

(Thinking 'bout) BlogHer11: What a Difference a Year Makes

As I rush around in a whirlwind prepping for BlogHer11, I am feeling very aware of how different this all feels from last year. This is my second BlogHer conference. A milestone in a way.

Last year I really lucked out. BlogHer10 came to my hometown, New York City. If it hadn't come to me, I wouldn't have gone, I was still just at the fringes of this world. (Though for all the life of me I felt much deeper in.)

This year I am well aware of how new I still am at this, how I am still just feeling my way. I am in awe of some of the "old timers," deeply impressed their fortitude, the honing of their craft over many years. And at the same time I am feeling deeply connected, have a long list of virtual friends I am dying to see, committed to meet.

I am also deeply, spine tinglingly honored by having been chosen as a BlogHer Voice of the Year this year. (Honoree, not speaker. That exaltation belongs to my roommate, the marvelous Alexandra, the Empress of Good Day, Regular People)

(If you are new to The Squashed Bologna and want to know a little bit more about who I was last year at this time, you can peek in here at my pre-BlogHer10 post full of funny stories about my past conference life: Look, Ma, I'm going to BlogHer... with tales of Sundance, SXSW, and Toronto Film fests, including the story of how pregnant me nearly threw up on James Caan.

And also my very personal BlogHer10 debriefing post, here: The BlogHer10 reflections of a very. slow. newbie. blogger.)

In my book, milestones need marking, reflection. I marvel at the changes that have come about via my blog; the growth, transformation, both personal and "professional" in my life in this past year. And my blog has really evolved in this short spate.

Other things, of course, remain the same. Jake still autistic; I still have ADD; my home is still an unholy mess, one step away from being featured on Hoarders: the Apartment Stories. 

But? I can feel myself really becoming a writer. Stretching my wings. Oh, they're still wet and shiny new, somewhat untested. But wings, people. It feels kinda awesome.

This year I have found my tribes.

One is the tribe of writers at the wonderfully supportive virtual writers community that is The Red Dress Club. It took me a long time of reading and ruminating before I began to write to the prompts. There was resistance (I don't like "being told what to do"), but then?

I took risks, tried new things (fiction!) and in the end wrote some of my absolutely favorite posts to those prompts. (Want to read some of those? Try these: The Last Room, In my Grandmother's House, Cheryl, Sweat Memories or Breakers)

But the main thing there? The other writers and readers. It is a true community, one that I am proud to be a part of.

And the other tribe? The special needs parent bloggers, including the amazing Autism Moms and Dads. They are the core of why I need to go to this conference, the connection most vital. While I have always sought out other parents in a similar boat, having started the Special Needs Sibling Saturdays guest post series on my blog this past spring has extended my reach and knowledge of this amazing community.

I am thrilled and honored to host the incredible stories of their families that other bloggers are sharing there. And to get to meet so many of my guests at once this upcoming weekend? Beyond priceless.

The difference a year makes...

Last year I came home every night to my family (though they may have been sleeping when I arrived), woke up and breakfasted with them every morning. This year I am traveling across the country, for the first time since I was pregnant with the twins; traveling alone for five days, for the first time since I gave birth.

All this for me, who is always last on my priority list. But also for my family.

Because I am going to meet and exchange information with other special needs parents, to brainstorm up a better world for our families.

Because I am going to try to learn how to turn my writing into something I can make money at. Because I need to begin to return to the world of work soon, and if I can find a way to earn a living doing what I love and do best? My world will swing into a better balance, and my whole family will be the better for it.

And even though I will surely be up all night tonight -- packing, planning, writing out lists of what my children need to be doing each day; the wheres and whens, the thousand things I take care of unconsciously, routinely that need to be spelled out for others (because while Ethan can - and WILL - tell people what they are doing right and wrong for him, Jake as yet cannot, and so it is up to me to make sure his world continues on as he needs it to, while I am gone) -- I know I will arrive in San Diego grinning from ear to ear.

Ready to learn.

Ready to connect.

Ready to meet my tribes.

Writers, over-sharers, special needs parents.

Bloggers all. My people. Yes.

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