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BlogHer13: The Best Conference I’ve Never Been To

blogher sign

Thousands of bloggers from across the U.S. flocked to BlogHer13 in Chicago.

Last weekend, I went to my first BlogHer. Sort of.

I planned a last minute trip to Chicago with two of my Listen To Your Mother (LTYM) St. Louis cohorts, Naomi Francis (Master Events) and Laura Edward Ray (Brain Dead in the Burbs), and coincidentally we stayed at the same hotel as the word’s largest social media conference. It’s karma, says Laura.

Having been to these types of ginormous networking conventions before (Book Expo America in NY), I knew it would demand a lot of emotional and physical energy and stamina (not to mention many wardrobe changes). The truth is, since I was still jet lag from a recent 10-day trip to Israel, I wasn’t sure if I would be up to it. Besides, our goal was to do a little sightseeing in Chi-Town over the weekend and join the rest of the LTYM directors/producers for Sunday brunch at Yolk. At least we would finally get to meet Ann Imig, founder and national director of LTYM, and many of the other women we bonded with, virtually, this past year to create a national Mother’s Day movement. By the way, it made my heart swell with pride to see all LTYM names listed as VOTY speakers, panelists, and even fashionistas at BlogHer.

So, Laura drove to the Windy City with her teenage daughter, and Naomi and I decided to take the Amtrak train with her twin four-year-old boys Jake and Luke, who never slept a wink during the entire five hour bumpy journey.

train jake look out window

Jake & Luke stay busy on train.

I was looking forward to this trip, even though the last time I stuffed washable markers and Teddy Grahams in my backpack was more than a decade ago. Now I have teenagers, and all they want is their iPhones and earplugs.

So while all you BlogHer attendees were enjoying Queen Latifah, Open Mic Salon, Killer Karaoke, progressive parties, from Queerosphere to Multi-Culti, I was trying to entertain two active little boys without losing my mind. Thankfully, Naomi made delicious tea sandwiches for us to nibble on (a perk of traveling with a professional caterer), and we kept busy making automobile shapes out of fuzzy neon-colored pipe cleaners. By the time we landed at the hotel, it was midnight, and we were exhausted. After a couple of playful pillow fights, we fell asleep.

sandwiches

Naomi made almond encrusted chicken salad sandwiches and egg salad with watercress.

 

naomi with boys on train

Naomi with her sons, Jake & Luke.

queen latifah

Queen Latifah is in the house!

The next morning, while all of you were having breakfast with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and tweeting her famous quote, “Next time you’re about to call your daughter bossy, take a deep breath and say, ‘My daughter has executive leadership skills,’” I was stuffing my face at the complimentary buffet. It’s true. I ate lox and bagels, a made-to-order omelet, potatoes, fresh fruit, oatmeal, and even slipped a tiny jar of Hero marmalade in my purse. Please don’t tell anyone. But it wasn’t about the food (yes it was). I was there to crash the ninth annual BlogHer. So after a leisurely breakfast, Laura and I ventured upstairs to McCormick Place and milled around the hallways like we belonged there. We must have looked like we knew what we were doing because the Samsung people approached us and insisted on taking our photo.

ellie samsung

Posing for Samsung.

Who were we to say no?

I tried to look at the nametags of bloggers who were passing by to see if I recognized any of them, and I was hoping that I would run into some of my favorites, like Ilana Rosengarten Wiles (Mommy Shorts), who brought her new daughter Harlow and “passed her around like the Torah.” No luck. Also, I would have killed to meet Ree Drummond, who I’ve been following for years before she made Food Network. Even typing her name makes my hungry. Again, I met nobody famous, except the guy in the upholstered pantsuit.

Anyway, we even tried to make friends with this big, burly security guard and asked if we could pop in and say hi to our blogger besties, but he wouldn’t budge. We weren’t about to pay $200 for a one-day pass, and we had made plans that day to tour the city anyway. Still,  it was worth a shot.  At least we got a free Samsung phone charger.

In the afternoon, while you were schmoozing with Randi Zuckerberg, I was waiting in line for an hour at Garrett’s for cheese-caramel popcorn (it was worth it) and pretended to not be scared shitless on the giant Navy Pier ferris wheel. While you were acting crazy in the photo booth, I was trying not to freeze my ass off while we riding on top of a two-decker trolley. And while you were taking selfies with Lourds Lane, I was snapping photos of my beautiful Italian beef sandwich at Bar Toma and shoving in my mouth a jumbo Chicago dog at Portillo’s.

ferris wheel ellie with luke

Luke & Ellie ride the ferris wheel at Navy Pier.

Itlalian beef

Italian beef sandwich at Bar Toma.

ellie hot dog

Enjoying a Chicago dog at Portillo’s.

 

Even though we didn’t officially make it to BlogHer13, I still felt like I was part of a special group. I’ve been writing my column/blog Mishegas of Motherhood since 2006, and I’ve met so many talented, intelligent, creative, funny women along the way who have figured out how to monetize their passion. I have a lot to learn from you. Thank you all for sharing your honest stories and inspiring so many of us.

ellie, naomi, laura at brunch

Ellie, Naomi, & Laura at LTYM brunch.

group with Ann and Stephanie

Laura, Stephanie, Ann, Naomi, & Ellie with the LTYM St. Louis gift basket, including our faves, Zia’s salad dressing, Switzer’s licorice, Cardinals baseball cup, and Vintage Vinyl tshirt.

Most of all, I feel honored to be in the company of the LTYM team, including these lovely ladies who were in the spotlight:

Ann Imig (Ann’s Rants)  hosted this year’s Open Mic Salon during the Voice of the Year reception and was a reader for Inspiration.

Alexandra Rosas (Good Day, Regular People) read I Wish You Could Have Known Her.

Alexandra joined Erin Margolin (The Gay Dad Project) at ROYO: Shedding the Façade and Writing Our Vulnerable Truth.

Erin also presented Crowdfunding-When $20 from Family and Friends Isnat Enough To Fund Your Dream.

Vikki Reich  (Up Popped A Fox) presented Roundtable: Anatomy of a Story and strutted her stuff on the catwalk.

Deb Rox (Deb on the Rocks) presented  Ad Hoc Advocacy vs. Non-Profit Structure and hosted Queerosphere.

Also, Vikki and Deb and were  featured in Best Quotes.

Stephanie Precourt (Adventures In Babywearing) read “Water Wings.”

Lisa Page Rosenberg (Smacksy) read “A Cry for Help.”

Varda Steinhardt (The Squashed Bologna) was on the Healthminder Panel and presented Special Needs and Caregiving: The Sandwich Generation.

 

LTYM group in Chicago

The LTYM 2013 directors/producers at Yolk.

 

See you next year at BlogHer14. I’ll be the one at the breakfast bar.