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BlogHer '09 Chicago: I survived

I was reminded this weekend that there are different types of exhaustion and sleep deprivation. As a mom of two, I have very recent and extensive experience with lack of sleep. But the lack of sleep that comes from being woken constantly by a baby and the exhaustion of chasing a toddler is so completely different from the exhaustion and sleep deprivation that is a BlogHer conference. This weekend was decidedly much more like conferences and events I attended while doing my Master's degree. Needing to have your brain on all day, meeting hundreds of new people, attending parties and remembering to eat...it almost killed me. But I survived.

People that weren't here have been asking, begging, hinting that they can't wait for my posts about BlogHer. Truth be told, I didn't think I would write one. I mean, I write about parenting on my blog. I don't write about conferences or about blogging in general. But then I saw other people writing some great stuff recapping parts of the event that I was involved in and I thought I'd compile those links and put them in context.

So...due to popular demand, here is my BlogHer 09 experience.

Day 1 – Thursday

I got up Thursday morning and got ready to go. I was ready by about 8:15am, but didn't really have to leave the house until 9:00am at the earliest. But the kids seemed content and I thought I'd take the opportunity to leave a peaceful house rather than wait for them to start whining or crying or clinging to me, so I said my goodbyes and snuck out early. Half way to the airport, I got a phone call from Porter Airlines telling me that my 11:30am flight had been cancelled, but I could take the 10:00am flight or the 1:00pm flight instead. It was 9:00am and I was still 30 minutes away from the airport, but they said they would hold the plane for me. And they did, which was great because I was meeting Sam from babyREADY in Toronto for lunch and this meant we had time for a leisurely lunch at a restaurant instead of scarfing down take-out at the airport. As I was leaving the airport to get on the ferry to meet Sam, I tweeted that I had just arrived in Toronto and Aurelia Cotta inquired about which airport I was at....turned out I had just walked passed her sitting with her laptop waiting for the earlier flight to Chicago. Sam and I had a great lunch and then as I made my way back to the airport I ended up on the ferry directly across from Don Mills Diva.  I recognized her, or thought I did, but was worried she would think I was insane if it wasn't her, so I didn't approach her to say hi. How crazy would it sound to go up to someone and say, “Hi, I'm PhD in Parenting, I think I know you from the Internet” if it wasn't actually the person you thought it was?

Once I finally got to Chicago, I had to suffer in a warm taxi in a thunderstorm in rush hour traffic while glancing frantically over and over again at the time on my phone because I was rushing to get to the Social Luxe party, where I was one of the finalists for Most Provocative Blog. I didn't win, but it was a huge honour to even be among the famous bloggers that were nominated with me. The award for Most Provocative went to The Bloggess and Her Bad Mother. Both very deserving. I guess I'll just have to work harder at provoking the blogosphere! I got to meet Allie from No Time for Flash Cards, who had nominated me for the award. Glancing around the room it was great to start recognizing people from their twitter avatars and their blogs and getting to know them.

After the party, we headed back over the Sheraton and waited for my roommate, Amy from Crunchy Domestic Goddess, to arrive. Once she was there and settled in we went for some Chicago deep dish pizza and then went to the Room 704 party hosted by the amazing VDog and Mrs. Flinger and others, but we got there too late to get any of the swag bags with the vibrators in them. I finally got to meet Jenny from Zrecs and tons of other people too.

Day 2 – Friday

On Friday morning I got woken up at 6:00am, which was more than an hour before I had planned to get up. It was my husband and daughter calling because she was proud of herself for being able to sleep so well without Mommy there. Although I wasn't happy to have had my sleep disturbed (couldn't they have waited an hour?), I was relieved that her first night away from me went so well and it was great to hear how pleased she was with herself.

We went downstairs, registered for the conference, and got some breakfast. Then, we wandered into the large ballroom where the opening remarks and keynote were taking place and that is where the size of it all hit me. There were 1400 bloggers, mostly women, in one room. It was insane and empowering.

After attending a morning breakout session on Finding your Mommy Blogging Tribe, I had lunch at the Attachment Parenting table at the Birds of a Feather luncheon. Here I got to meet Melissa from Raising them Green and Attachment Parenting International and Cate Nelson who blogs at Eco Child's Play and other places.  Cate put up a post recapping her BlogHer experience including that lunch: BlogHer 09 Meet and Reads.

In the afternoon, I was one of the panelists on the session called Your Blog is Great, Get People to Know About It. My co-panelists were Jen Miner from Traveling Mamas and Jessica Smith from Jessica Knows. We were overwhelmed by the interest in our session. Every seat was taken and there were people sitting on the floor in the front, in the aisle and standing in the doorway in the back. The pregnant Assertagirl was very skilled at climbing over stray limbs to bring the microphone to each person that had a question. One of the amazing things about BlogHer were the live bloggers reporting on what happened in each session. Carrie from Frugalista put up her post recapping our session here: Live Blogging from BlogHer 09: SEO and Social Media. I was floored by the number of people that attended the session and blown away by seeing bloggers, writers and business people that I admire and look up to in the audience, including Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids, Kelby Carr from Type-A-Mom and Jeremiah from Zrecs sitting in the audience.

After my session I was glad to be able to slip in and listen to someone else speaking. I headed over to the What is Pro-Woman in a Post-Palin World? session because the topic was fascinating and because this was my chance to meet Veronica from Viva la Feminista. The women at this session were fabulous and it was great to be able to meet Veronica in person. I also picked up a copy of the latest edition of Ms. Magazine with its controversial cover image for the story on Mom 2.0.

IMG00091That evening we did the party circuit, including the BlogHer Cocktail Party (where I got to meet Mrs. Potato Head), the Type-A-Momfluence party, the Mommy Needs a Cocktail party and the MamaPop party. I met many more people that I know from their blogs and from twitter and also met some new friends, like Casey from The Beautiful Letdown.

Day 3 – Saturday

I woke up an hour before I wanted to be awake because of a horrible leg cramp and couldn't get back to sleep. So I got ready and headed down to the conference level with my laptop and got to chat with Gwynne from Lemonade Mama while we waited for breakfast to begin. At breakfast, I sat with the ladies from Mabel's Labels, with Tara from Feels Like Home (who managed to order a Pepsi on twitter and have it delivered to our table while live blogging the session!) and Melissa from Raising them Green and a few others.

After the morning keynote, I got ready for the Twitter Basics Geek Lab session that I was leading. In a jam packed half an hour, I tried to teach a bunch of twitter newbies the basics that you need to know to survive and be effective using twitter.

In the afternoon, I attended a session on Advanced Search Engine Optimization with the amazing Vanessa Fox and then a session about the BlogHer ad network that I am part of. It was great to put some names to the faces of the wonderful team that coordinate the network. After the session I got a copy of Jennifer Taggart (The Smart Mama)'s new book Smart Mama's Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child's Toxic Chemical Exposure and got her to sign it for me.

Saturday evening I went on a two hour walk of Chicago in search of some gifts to bring home for my kids and then headed out to the BowlHer party at the bowling alley across the street from the hotel.

Day 4 – Sunday

Time to check out! Crunchy Domestic Goddess was heading out before I was, so she got up and headed out to the airport. Then I packed my stuff, had a shower and met Allie from No Time for Flash Cards for some breakfast at Starbucks. We chatted about our blogs, the conference and about Everything Mom (Allie's sponsor). I did a bit more walking around Chicago on a beautiful Sunday morning and a bit more shopping before catching a taxi to the airport.

At Midway airport, I grabbed lunch and chatted with Amanda from High Impact Mom and then headed over to the gate for my flight. I flew from Chicago to Toronto with Aurelia Cotta, Don Mills Diva, and Cheaty Monkey and then continued on to Ottawa on my own. I drove back home and unloaded hugs and kisses and tons of swag on my kids.

Want to know more?

Thank you so much to the whole BlogHer team for organizing this wonderful event. I won't even attempt to tell you all the great things that happened or all the great people that I met because the post would go on for pages and pages.

If you want to learn more about what happened, you can check out:

Hope to see you all at BlogHer 10 in New York City next year.
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Reader Comments (26)

Wow! Sounds like SO MUCH FUN! I'm totally going to go next year!

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLoukia

Your session was GREAT!! I was one of the ones lucky enough to get a seat. It was crazy how many people we smooshed into that tiny room. People were talking about that session the rest of the day. BTW what WAS that stuff falling from the ceiling?

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteryournontoxiclife

@yournontoxiclife: Thanks!! ...and I have no idea what that was. Just glad none of it fell on me.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I had a great time hanging out with you guys! Thanks for letting me tag along. :)

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCasey

That was a great summary, thanks. I want to check out all your links.
I got so excited reading people's posts during BlogHer that I bought a ticket for next year!

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCapital Mom

It was a pleasure and an honour to meet you, friend. :D

See you next year???

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVDog

Glad I finally got to chat with you on the way home!

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDon Mills Diva

It was great to meet you and have you as my roomie. And while I consider myself tall, I felt short compared to you and several others. ;) See ya in NYC next summer! :)

I'd love to go. Sounds fun, exciting, and yes--exhausting.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSandy

The conference sounded great! Here's a question: do bloggers ever consider themselves akin to journalists? I feel like I get my news from blogs these days!

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlina

@Alina: Yes, in a lot of ways and no in other ways!

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Hi! It was great to chat with you for a bit, I learned a lot from your session. I am glad to see I'm not the only one who had lots to say about BlogHer!

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEllen

PS, I gave you a shout out in today's post.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEllen

I am so impressed at how well you broke down your time!! Great job. Wish we all could have sat down for lunch or dinner at least ONCE! Ugh.


[...] To all of you who are awesome, classy (or not, you know I mean that in the best possible way), thoughtful, wonderful, hilarious, inspiring, indignant, and representing Toronto in style — thank you, [...]

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSwagHer ‘09

Now I *thought* I hadn't met you, but as you were hanging out with Amy, we probably did meet briefly, but it's all a blur. I love your blog. I don't comment much, I lurk. But I love it. And I wish we had connected more. Next time?

And congrats on being nominated for the award. With so many blogs out there, it's always nice to get some form of recognition!

@Lynn: I don't think we met either. Amy and I were together a lot over the weekend, but we didn't go to the same sessions for the most part. So it is possible you were with her whenever I wasn't!

July 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I just added the link to my post over on BlogHer about the power of twitter: http://www.blogher.com/power-twitter

July 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Wow, what an informative post! I can't wait to check out a lot of those blogs I haven't heard of! Sounds like you made the most out of BlogHer '09. Can't wait for 2010!

July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDagmar Bleasdale

Great post, I'm still on the fence about 2010 (not that I don't want to go...just logistics etc) but it's great to read about other experiences. Glad you had a great time!!

August 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

i'm so sad i didn't get a chance to meet you. (i did get to meet your cool roomie thou.) love reading your pieces. as a first time parent who wants to do the right thing, keep it natural, etc, you're posts have helped a lot (and giving me the ammo to convince my hubby ;-)). thx so much!

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Jo

@Sarah Jo: I didn't realize you were going to be there or I would have looked for you. We'll have to meet next year in NYC!

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

She forgot to mention how great of a speaker she was :) I was in your session and you did rock.

August 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

[...] Box WordPress PluginAs most of you know, I just got back from BlogHer ’10 in New York City. I enjoyed last year’s conference, but this year’s conference was about 10 times better and about 5 times worse (figures are [...]

[...] some time reading through Ph.D. in Parenting’s account of BlogHer ’10, and then of BlogHer ’09, which led me to the question of whether babies belong at BlogHer parties and bars in general or [...]

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