So I am stepping WAY WAY WAY out of my comfort zone.
Next week, I’m heading to New York City for the annual BlogHer conference.
It’s a three day conference celebrating all things blogging. I’m heading down a day early for the pre-conference HealthMinder day, which will have specific special needs panels.
If you don’t know me, you may not know why this is feeling so out of my league. I’m the one much happier behind a computer screen than in a crowd. At a party, I’m hanging by the food and drink table or leaning up against a wall in the corner. I prefer to stay quiet, unnoticed. I get anxious and nervous at Costco, so giant conferences make me edgy.
But I just had to go to this one. And I have four reasons why.
Reason #1: In addition to writing here I’m also the managing editor at two other blogging sites. For over a year now, I’ve been a part of the amazing team at the SPD Blogger Network, a group blog for parents of children with sensory processing disorder. The site has a special place in my heart. SPD was Howie’s first diagnosis. Two years ago, when I started to write my own personal blog here, I connected with Hartley Steiner at her blog. She encouraged my writing and put my blog on her site. When she founded the SPDBN, she asked me to be there to help. And there I’ve stayed. We’ve created a loving, supportive and understanding community there on the blog site and on our Facebook page. It’s the place I come to when I’m feeling particularly low or incredibly proud. Every story is shared with honesty and love. I understand my son better because of the incredible people who write for us every day.
The SPDBN relies on posts from parents. Each day we post a new story. I’m going to BlogHer to meet other parents who share a similar journey and I hope I can convince them to come write for us.
(side note: I’ll be the one with the cute Otto the Octopus. See photo below. Made especially for me to take to BlogHer by the incredibly talented SPDBN team Karla from The Itsy Bitsy Spider. Find Otto, find me.)
She made those other cute guys for my boys. I may snag one of them to take with me as well…
The other site I help manage is The Oxygen Mask Project. It was started with my friend Shannon as a way for us to reclaim ourselves, reminding us that we need to take care of ourselves if we’re going to take care of our kids. It started small. We started tweeting with the #yearoftheoxygenmask, sharing what we had done for ourselves that day. For me, it was drinking my coffee when it was hot. And showering. While to many that sounds stupid, for me just doing that was a challenge. I was so busy getting people out the door to school/therapy/baseball/piano/therapy that there was never anytime for me. I hit bottom. And now we have 880+ Facebook friends and 52 posts from writers from all over the world. And every day we’re talking about how we’re important too.
There will be a special panel at HealthMinder day called Overcoming Burnout: Replenishing Your Reserves. I’m going to BlogHer because this is exactly what we’ve been talking about for six months.
Reason #2: Two of my favorite people are being honored at the special Voice of the Year. I can’t wait to hear my friend Varda as a reader for the “Heart” nominated posts. I expect there to be very few dry eyes in the house.
And I’m so thrilled that my friend Stimey was nominated as a Voice of the Year for her incredible post Not Even Wrong. This post changed my life. That’s not hyperbole. I read it at a time when we were having tremendous struggles with Howie and school. Her post about her son Jack changed EVERYTHING about how I viewed Howie’s school life, and made me step back and look at how we needed to teach him. Because my perspective changed, I was better able to communicate with his team at school and we all turned things around. I am forever grateful to Stimey for what she wrote. I’m going to BlogHer to tell her in person. Again.
Reason #3 goes with Reason #2: I’m going to be with friends. Including friends I’ve never met.
And, yes, I know that probably only makes sense to the blogging/social media world.
The best example of this is how I met my BlogHer roommate, Kristin.
Last summer, my kids’ school opening was delayed a week due to Hurricane Irene. I was completely stuck for ideas on how to entertain them when they were supposed to be in their classrooms. I whined about this on my blog’s Facebook page, and this angel named Kristin asked if I wanted to join her and her boys at their swim club. We had never met, but had a mutual Facebook friend and had become friends that way. I sent her a message saying simply YES! We chatted via email and text, and there we were at her swim club for the whole day. Our boys played and swam – sometimes together, sometimes doing their own thing. And because we were both autism moms…well the rest is history.
We’ve only seen each other once since that day at the pool. But when I decided to go to BlogHer, I asked Kristin if she’d go too. In addition to her amazing blog, she’s also written for the SPDBN and The Oxygen Mask Project. So now we’re taking the bus together down to the big city, and I’m hoping she’ll help me get out of the corner.
But this is what blogging has done for me. In addition to the incredible “in real life” friends I had, I’ve connected with a whole group of insanely smart, funny, snarky special needs parents who have taught me so much just through their words. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of them before and now count them as my closest friends.
I can’t wait to meet this friend, and this friend, and this friend, and this friend, and this friend. I’ve been reading their work for so long and now I get to put a face with the words.
And I’m hoping a few other friends will come join me for a drink or two. Or three..
I’m going to BlogHer to connect with the people who have taught me so much.
Reason #4: I need to get away.
I’m not going to lie. This has been a long long summer. I need a little break. In addition to the usual summer things, I’ve started a new project and it’s been a lot of work to get off the ground. I’m stressed. And I’m taking it out on the kids.
I need a break to sleep. And shower. And pee alone.
I have to get some time to regroup. To feel better. To breathe. I’m going to BlogHer to find myself again.
I’m terrified of the three days away from my family. I’ve never been gone this long. But I know Tim and the boys will be fine. We have an incredible support system around us here who will help if (when?) things get sticky. I will have a social story ready for the boys so they are prepared too.
And when I come back I will be ready to take it all on again.
I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and going to BlogHer’12. See you there.
“Start spreading the news,
I’m leaving today.
I want to be a part of it –
New York, New York.” – New York, New York by Frank Sinatra