Tuesday, July 21, 2015

BlogHer15 Highlights: the Best Crazy, Last-Minute Decision

The 11th Annual BlogHer Conference in New York was a trip of a lifetime. Because so many of you are such supportive and caring friends, you've asked me to share some about my experience. 

First, at the start of July, I made a difficult yet easy decision to resign from the company where I've worked for the past nearly four years. My expiration date had hit me in the face at an unexpected time, but I'm a decisive gal, so I did the necessary soul-searching and decided it was my time to leave. I'm eternally grateful for the growth I experienced while working there, and even more grateful for the relationships I was honored to create during that time. Plus, I now have my own personal sister city, San Francisco. 

After resigning, I desperately needed time to reset before starting my new job (which begins tomorrow!). I've been working pretty much non-stop since I was 18. It's baked into my DNA; I'm the daughter of two hardworking parents plus two hardworking stepparents. Since I'd been hoarding a lot of vacation time unintentionally, I used that time to take a few weeks for myself. Let me just say that the Europeans have it figured out; taking an extended break is exactly what the doctor ordered. 

I spent long days by the pool. I stayed up until 2 a.m. watching movies with my 12 year-old daughter. I read books. I woke up early and watched The Today Show in bed. I re-vamped my summer Capsule Wardrobe. I canoodled with Mr. Arndt. 

One day during this delicious hiatus, I came across a post from a writer named Jessica Lahey, who recently released her book, "The Gift of Failure." I came to know about Jessica through my contact at the New York Times Motherlode, and I find her ridiculously smart and inspiring. In the post, Jessica announced she would be signing copies of her book at BlogHer15. 

I knew very, very little about BlogHer. I knew even less about SheKnows. Yet, because I have wanted to meet Jessica since I was first introduced to her writing, I made a crazy decision to register and book travel plans. When else would I get this chance?

As a BlogHer Conference rookie, I set basic goals:

1. Meet Jessica Lahey.

2. Connect with anyone remotely related to The Today Show. (My dreams are simple: Write a book. Talk about that book on The Today Show. Observe a reader passing my book to another reader at the airport). 
3. Learn about WordPress. I bought a WordPress domain and special theme over 2 years ago, but I find it intimidating.
4. See Central Park for the first time.
5. Time permitting, get off property to eat calamari at Carmine's at Times Square.

BlogHer delivered. I was able to tackle everything on my list and then some. I intend on writing full posts about many of the things I experienced because it was truly life-changing. Until then, here's a list of key takeaways:

1. The most important thing I learned at BlogHer is that competition doesn't exist there. Every woman is valued. Every woman is beautiful, has worth, and has their own unique voice to share. If every woman there wants to start a blog or write a book, so be it! What a beautiful thing! I'm generally skeptical of big groups of women because I've been in situations where women are catty and competitive. Not the case at BlogHer. 
2. Two of the panelists for the keynotes, Gwyneth Paltrow and Christy Turlington, are beautiful on the outside not just because of amazing genes and good health, but because of their internal beauty. Also, I was delighted to see that they both have real foreheads that move. The older I get, the more I appreciate a moving forehead.
3. I learned so much about how white women are perceived by women of color, and how much work we white women have to do to support our friends in non-white communities. I had some powerful, enlightening, life-changing conversations that have helped shape new, important views. I developed a massive girl crush on Selma director Ava DuVernay, whose closing keynote made me want to jump up and do cartwheels, I felt so empowered. 
5. BlogHer can be overwhelming, but not because of crowds. The freebies are out of control! I had to buy a brand new suitcase just to schlep the freebies home (and I gave away a lot of it before I left). I want to talk more about this, and how I would like to see us reduce our need to have so many things while learning about wonderful new products. All of that stuff doesn't help me with my need to simplify in the least. Eek.
7. Jessica Lahey: get to know her writing and her philosophy on raising children. Jessica was not only superbly gracious, she greeted me with a hug, signed my book, and introduced me to two of the most fantastic women who gave me terrific advice about getting a book published, and advised me on my Today Show dreams. 
8. It feels so great to be 42 and be inspired by women of all ages. During one of the sessions on memoir writing by Brandi Bowles of Foundry Literary and Media, I noticed the woman in front of me was writing on a page, and I could see three exclamation marks on it. I love people who take handwritten notes! I snapped a picture because it inspired me so, and it represented so much enthusiasm and hope. Well, what do you know? The woman who wrote it is the lovely Hope Arcuri, a 19 year-old Duke student who writes Words of Hope Blog. Hope writes with such truth and has so much promise as a young writer. Go read her blog; I expect big things to happen from her. 

9. I also met a woman in my age bracket (but man, she doesn't look like it!) named Amy who writes the hilarious blog, "'A' My Name is Amy." I shared just enough time sitting on the floor talking to Amy to know that her kids and her readers are very lucky people indeed.
10. I overcame my paralyzing fear of public speaking by reading for an audience at the Listen to Your Mother Open Mic. There, on stage in front of a room of women, I read one of my blogs. Now I know why comedians get addicted to the work. To read something I wrote and to hear others laughing was a complete rush. To have women approach me later in the conference to compliment my work was a thrill I can't describe.

I'm forever thankful to the sponsors and the organizers of BlogHer15. The only thing keeping me from my sadness in it being over is the promise of another conference in 2016.

Go live your dreams, friends! It's all within reach -- you just have to want it.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Nursing the Sleepover Hangover

When your kid is invited to a sleepover, it's like a commercial for a Royal Caribbean cruise. The list of perks is so sexy, you'd be crazy to deny them. After minimal prep that includes begging your child for the very last time to please put down the hula hoop and pack an overnight bag while your husband makes a beeline for the garage to grab a musty sleeping bag, you're rewarded with the delightful benefits of an easy 14-16 hour break from reality. As you drop off your squealing kid to the kind, unwitting hosts, you leave waving and smiling, knowing in a matter of minutes you and your husband will bask in the glory of a table for two, not a trace of Crayons and pink lemonade in sight.

At home, you giddily unlock the parental control on Netflix for back-to-back episodes of Orange is the New Black. Your husband, warmed up by the full frontal nudity, pours you another glass of wine and offers you a back rub. Thank you, sleepovers!

You rise glowing and rested, noting that it's so quiet that you can imagine your life together as retired people. You take one look at your husband when you realize you're the retired people on the Viagra commercial. Your passion reignited, instead of sneaking in a muffled Saturday morning quickie before the kids wake up, you realize you have the green light to engage in unbridled passion reserved for hotels and Kardashians. You spend the rest of the morning drinking coffee and reading the newspaper, refreshed and ready to conquer the weekend.

Then you pick up your kid.

The happy, pumped-up ball of energy you dropped off last night has been replaced by a child you hardly recognize. The kid who hugged you tightly and thanked you endlessly for allowing you to spend a night away from home greets you with a blank stare that would frighten Putin. With effort, you manage to get your kid to thank the host for inviting them when you realize that the host is also greeting you with the same blank gaze. You are afraid. You scan the floor for wayward socks, grab the unfolded sleeping bag and haul ass to the SUV before things get ugly.

That's when it hits you. Your kid has a sleepover hangover.

You've been here before, but parental amnesia is part of the package, so naturally you didn't see it coming. It's a lot like your cousin Sal's wedding. Remember that lusty trifecta of wedding romance, an open bar and an 80's cover band? When you woke the next morning in an unfamiliar hotel room wearing Sal's cousin's bow tie and little else, turning back time wasn't exactly an option.

The most important thing to do when you guide your zombie-like child into the car is to minimize conversation, otherwise, someone is bound to say something regrettable. Don't bother asking the kid what time they went to sleep because you don't want to know the answer. The car ride home will likely lull your child back to sleep, so depending on their age and weight, you'll probably want to ask your husband to carry them inside. He'll be rejuvenated from your morning tryst, so he'll happily oblige.

Here's the easy part: sleepover hangovers are just like regular hangovers. It's all about rest and rehydration. Even better, unless the kid completely binged on pizza and Sour Patch Straws, it's unlikely that they'll spend the morning puking. Gently guide the kid into their bed or onto the couch, hydrate them with orange juice and feed them a super carby breakfast. Turn on cartoons, a fan and turn out the lights. I usually stick around to make sure the kid doesn't pass out in the middle of eating a toaster strudel, just to be safe.

Just like a regular hangover, you'll want to wake the kid every few hours and give them more liquids. Wash, rinse, repeat until the child looks like your child again, and only then should you inform them that they will never attend another sleepover again. At least not for a few more weekends.

(This appeared in the Huffington Post on July 10, 2015 in the "Parents" section)