10 Things I Learned at BlogHer13

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The view from my room at the Sheraton in Chicago was not shabby. Who knew a lake could be so big? #getoutofjersey

I got back late Saturday night after three whirlwind days in Chicago where I saw none of the city, other than the fabulous view outside my hotel window, but did have a front row seat to dozens of amazing and inspiring speakers at BlogHer13. Herewith, a report of what I now know:

  1. Sheryl Sandberg is a rock star.  First of all, she looks amazing close up; she’s tiny, has fabulous skin and a great blow out. She came down to where we were all eating breakfast before her appearance/interview Saturday morning and was quickly engulfed by dozens of women trying to catch a little of her feminist pixie dust. I have such a girl crush on Sandberg right now that even I abandoned my normally passive demeanor and elbowed my way up front. While waiting for my chance for a photo op, I watched as she interacted with the other bloggers, shaking each one’s hand and asking where the woman lived and then patiently listening to anecdotes about how that woman had been inspired by her book to lean in. She then took two of those stories – complete with the women’s names and where they were from – and referenced them during her interview on stage. Like, that’s a pro, man.

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    Breakfast with Sheryl Sandberg at BlogHer13 in Chicago. Highlight!

  2. I lack common sense. No one does well on three hours of sleep. Inherently, I know that. But it took me so long to pack for Chicago – like put all the stuff that had been lying in piles around my room into my bag – that I found myself blowing my hair dry at 11 p.m. with a 4 a.m. airport pickup looming just hours away. And then, because I truly enjoy personal sabotage, I sat up with a big glass of red wine and watched Colbert until midnight. I looked like someone had punched me in the face by about 5 p.m. the next day and quickly passed out after the wine that accompanied my room service dinner (salad and fries: heaven) hit my bloodstream.
  3. You are apt to overlook packing vital technology when overtired. When you’re operating on about 3 and a half hours of sleep, it’s really easy to overlook the iPad that’s been charging next to your bed all night, just about 12 inches from your head, and leave it on your nightstand as you scramble to get out the door. #imadope
  4. She’s just a regular girl. Like me. To unwind or “lean back,” as they say, Sandberg told us that she binges on TV and recently finished seasons of Girls and Nashville. Seriously, we were separated at birth.
  5. Sometimes, all you need is a pal or two. I immediately connected with Emily Grossi of Em-i-lis during our pre-conference session after admiring her fabulous Coach strappy heels and sassy shorts. We picked up Heidi Jeter (no relation to Derek), who blogs at Still a Dancing Queen, the following day after I noticed her sitting by herself on the shuttle bus. I recognized her from my session the day before as I walked past, and when I sat down a few seats behind I thought, “This is no way to make friends.” I got up and plopped down in the seat next to her and said, “Hello.”
  6. Forget alcohol. Nothing cures the fear of flying like striking up a conversation with the really cute, chatty guy sitting next to you on the plane. I skidded into the airport for my return flight Saturday night and made my way to my gate with about a half hour until boarding. I quickly made my way to the closest bar and guzzled some red wine so I could sleep through the flight home. (I find dozing through takeoff and landing is the best way for me to keep from obsessing about crashing throughout the flight.) As I pulled out my classy neck pillow and prepared to nap, I said something to the guy next to me and two hours later – which included enough turbulence that the captain had us fasten our seatbelts – we were landing in Newark. Now if the universe would just put another cute, friendly guy next to me I won’t have to pop the Valium my mom slipped me for my flight to Greece this weekend.
  7. Talking about writing a book is not the same as actually writing the book. I went to numerous break out sessions on book writing and getting your work published on other sites or publications and learned that none of that is going to happen unless I do the work. Dammit.
  8. The world is not overrun by people from New Jersey. In fact, it wasn’t until the third day of the conference that I even met another person from the Garden State (shout out to fellow Jersey girls: Brooke at carpool candy and Lisa at Mom a la Mode). There were women at BlogHer from all over the country: Seattle, Montana, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Florida, Wahington, D.C. and lots of women from the Chicago area. It was great to be reminded the world doesn’t begin and end with the Greater New York City area.  Who knew?
  9. You could do nothing all day but read fabulous blogs. Prior to BlogHer, I couldn’t really find any blogs I wanted to follow. But after attending Friday night’s Voices of the Year event – hosted by Queen Latifah (who was 45 minutes late) and featuring bloggers reading from this year’s winning posts –I  couldn’t believe the depth and breadth of writing out in the blogosphere. Everything from figuring out you’re gay, to sex after 40 to the perils of crafting. Something, and someone, for everyone.
  10. I can choose intimidation or inspiration. After meeting and hearing all these smart women who take their craft so seriously, I
    Leaning in at BlogHer13: What would you do if you weren't afraid to fail?

    Leaning in at BlogHer13: What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?

    have decided to choose the latter. I choose to be motivated by a community that cares about the best tense for writing a memoir or what makes a blog post funny (comparing your kids to hamsters, perhaps?) rather than surrender to my inner Debbie Downer.  Because the overarching message of the whole lean in thing is asking yourself the question, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid to fail?” And maybe between the inspiration and all that pixie dust, I’ll become a better blogger, too.

 

 

fuck fear

My girlfriend emailed me this video yesterday and had written “Fuck Fear” in the subject line and I was inspired not just by the whole “Lean In” thing but by the sentiment of those two words combined.

I’m tired of being afraid. Of not feeling good enough. And I have to keep reminding myself, “If not now, when?”

Luckily, just looking at myself in the mirror nowadays is a reminder that I am not the girl I used to be, when I see the slight sag in my belly while I’m sitting drying my hair or the deep wrinkle creating a slash down the side of my cheek.

And I will be very disappointed with myself if I don’t at least TRY to live the life I want to live before it’s too late.

So I started this year off by announcing to my therapist early in January (thus going on the record) that I was no longer fucking around and had three goals for my year:

  1. To concentrate on my writing.
  2. To go on an adventure.
  3.  To to be open to love.

And while, as noted previously, I haven’t been super-proactive in the love department, I’ve actually followed through on the other two.

Obviously, at long last I got it together and launched the blog and while I don’t post as often as I’d like to, I’ve been pretty regular with my writing. And now that I’ve conquered that part of the equation, I’ve decided to throw my hat into the official blogger ring and attend the BlogHer conference in Chicago and hobnob with fellow over-sharers in July.

(Sidebar: I knew it was a sign I should attend when BlogHer announced that Sheryl Sandberg would be their keynote speaker.)

And in August, right before I say hello to 47, I will spend a week sailing around the Dodocanese Islands on a small boat surrounded by strangers on what I hope is the adventure I’ve been longing for yet tired of waiting to find someone to share it with.

So, I say, “Fuck you” to fear (or try to, at least) and not only do I encourage my daughters to take risks and believe in themselves, but my boys as well.

My youngest son, who’s 10, learned that this morning when we found ourselves scrambling, once again, to get him out the door to an early saxophone lesson. It’s been the bane of our existence the entire school year, getting him to the weekly lesson and practicing at home a few times a week. It’s all led to him feeling inadequate as the other kids have improved and he continues to struggle with the instrument.

So I looked into his big eyes this morning as we sat parked in front of the school, — and really, you’ve never seen such bright blue eyes — just brimming with tears, and I assured him that he could be just as good as those other kids, he just needed to get serious and practice hard before next week’s concert.

And then I told him what I named this essay  and to dry his tears and get out there and give it his all.

Because life is an equal opportunity challenger, as we are reminded is this quote that I’ve been loving by Teddy Roosevelt delivered over 100 years ago:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

My little guy got out of the car and walked towards the school’s front entrance, weighed down by the instrument case in one hand and a backpack stuffed with about 20 pounds of text books and pretzels, hanging from his back. About 10 steps from the front door he turned around and gave me a little wave and then opened the door and entered the arena.

dear sheryl

Dear Sheryl,

OMG, I totally love Tina, too!

I read Bossypants once and listened to it, like, three times on long drives. I even let my then-9-year-old son listen along, which I’m aware is incredibly inappropriate, but I can’t help but hope that some of Tina’s funny, feminist wisdom seeped into his budding male psyche.

And I know you’ve got a couple of kids, so I’m wondering if it was Tina’s “A Mother’s Prayer for Her Daughter” that moved you, as it did me. Did this wish of hers resonate with you, too?: “And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.”

Amen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixHpLjumkCw

And, wait, you love Anna Quindlen? I love Anna Quindlen. I’ve followed her since my mom introduced me to her “Life in the Thirties” column in the Times and lapped up everything she’s written since. In a pivotal moment of the fantasy Lifetime Movie of my life that loops through my head, I actually got to meet Ms. Quindlen while in the throes of my divorce. Afterwards, when faced with the challenge of a bullying ex-partner or out-of-control teen, I would actually think, “What would Anna do?” And 9 times out of 10, I’d think, “She would not be putting up with this bullshit,” and react accordingly.

Sheryl, I also couldn’t help but notice that you are familiar with the Shel Silverstein lexicon. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent curled up on a twin bed with a few bodies tucked alongside me reading our favorite Where the Sidewalk Ends poems over and over. “One Sister For Sale” was always a favorite, but I liked to go back to “Jimmy Jet and His TV Set” from time to time as a cautionary tale for my little ones (sometimes I’d check their bottoms to see if cords were starting to sprout).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And when the kids were just old enough, I made sure our “Free to Be, You and Me” CD was on heavy rotation in the car as we drove around town to remind the kids that a penis, or lack thereof, does not dictate who you are or what you are to become. Oh, and that “Parents Are People,” too.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0_qbtLnsVI

And YOU want to meet JK Rowling? I want to meet her, too! But whereas there is a very good chance that you will actually meet Harry Potter’s creator, I had to settle for a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando a few years back.

So, it’s weird. When I read the interview with you in the Times’ “By the Book” feature last weekend and noticed all these similarities, I was like, “Holy crap. Sheryl Sandberg and I are, like, practically the same person.”

It leaves me asking this: How is it that you ended up the COO of Facebook and I became a New Jersey housewife?

Just wondering,

Confused in the Garden State