Tag Archives: BlogHer

Hello, Friend. I Am Afraid of You.

Me on Day One of my first BlogHer!

Me on Day One of my first BlogHer!

Two years ago, when I went to BlogHer for the first time, I didn’t expect much. I’d only been writing for a few months and I knew that I knew pea turkey squat about the world of blogging. I met this one really cool woman, Heather, who was starting a blog, too. When I asked her what she wrote about, she said, “Well, I’m not really sure what my niche will be…” I looked at her with my gob hanging open and replied, “You’re a lesbian vegan parent of multiples, one of whom has special needs…and YOU can’t find a niche? I’m screwed.” Heather and I were standing on the Expo floor, surrounded by sponsors who wanted to establish relationships with bloggers–maybe like us?– who could generate content about their products. Air freshening candles, tapioca pudding, car seats, vibrators, seltzer water, hair care products from Best Buy…what the ever lovin hell?

I couldn’t figure out where I fit in. Then on Friday night, the Voice of the Year keynote blew me away. In the midst of all the expo noise and the SEO tips and the social media optimization strategies, these women were recognized for getting up on stage with a microphone and telling stories. I had found my niche. Telling stories.

20140725_210343So last year, I went for it. And I got a spot on that stage with that microphone. The entire trip to BlogHer14 in San Jose centered around that seven minutes on the stage. By that time, I knew I could sustain my blog. I knew I could tweek widgets and self-host and run ad code and learned even more about those things at the conference. But the whole conference was pre-VOTY nerves and post-VOTY high.

Something different happened after last summer’s conference. I kept my place at the blogger table on social media. I friended other writers and I followed people so I can learn from them. My friend, Dee, said, “Why are you liking stuff on a site about natural hair for Black women?” Because Patrice at Afrobella is a pro. I’ve been watching how these women build community by participating in their communities on line.

In the days leading up to BlogHer15 in NYC, I’ve found myself more anxious than I have been at the previous trips. And that’s completely weird because I know far more about blogging and branding than I ever have before. I’m not looking for a niche, or the spotlight this year.

I’m looking to meet my friends.


I want to hug A’Driane’s neck because for a year I’ve been learning from her about how to raise boys with quirks. I want to see what shoes Luvvie will be wearing and I want to vote for her Red Pump Project HIV charity to win The Pitch. I can’t wait to see the dress that Alexandra ordered from China–it’s a gem of a clustercuss. I want to talk happiness with August and books with Thien-Kim and parenting with Vikki. I’ll listen and learn from women who aren’t like me. I’ll go to the Queerosphere party and I’m going to dance at killer karaoke like a white woman who learned her moves from Molly Ringwald sometime in the mid-80s. I want to hug the ones who are hurting and promise them that they will be OK.

All of those connections that we’ve been building over the interwebz for 12 months will have to step out into the light of day. I don’t know what anyone’s voice sounds like. I don’t recall who is tall (well, Arnebya is) and who is short (Queen of Side Eye…ahem). I know Casey is handsome and her daughter is fancy. I’ll find these dear people in a crowd and then…

I’ll be me. Simply me. And I’ll be present. And I’ll be OK, too.

Because what I realized today is that this anxiety stems from some whack idea that when I am seen in the light, I will be revealed as that awful person that the voice inside my head sometimes tells me that I am. Even if that person isn’t real, if they don’t exist anywhere except inside my head. I might be the sum total of the worst parts of me instead of the best parts of me.

Hello friends. I am afraid of you because of how I might judge myself in your presence. But I have found my niche among this band of storytellers and I am thankful for the place at the table.


The good fortune I took to San Jose


I’d Like to Thank the Blogcademy…


You guys.


Y’all. Seriously. Y’all.

My little light?  It’s getting a big chance to SHINE!




Every year at the BlogHer conference, there’s an evening party called “Voices of the Year.”  Last year, Queen Latifah was the host!  It was one of the highlights of my first blogging conference–a joyful celebration of writing, because good blogging always comes down to good storytelling.  Last year’s VOTY stories ran the gamut from discovering one’s gayness at Jesus Camp, poisoning yourself in the effort to craft a perfect pine cone wreath, fighting to save a suicidal child when the medical establishment isn’t listening, chasing pin worms with a flashlight, being mistaken for your child’s nanny, living on the thin edge of poverty, and explaining race to your mixed race son.  I laughed.  I cried.  I was inspired.

Any blogger can submit a piece to Voices of the Year.  This year, over 2000 stories were submitted.  The selection process went through round after round after round.  From that pool, one hundred blog posts are selected.  Then from those 100, a dozen lucky bloggers get to go onstage in front of the whole conference and read a story.  

BH14_VOTY_Selected_150X15Y’all…I got selected as a Voice of the Year.


And I got selected to read.

Hot Damn!!!

Or to quote Carlos’ favorite new phrase:  Seriously, dude.

I am thrilled.  Delighted.  Honored.  Scared-Shitless-But-Gonna-Do-It-Anyway.

And I’m proud.  Proud of myself.  Not for getting chosen by a panel of reviewers–I didn’t have any control over that–but for choosing myself. Back in February, when the submissions were opened, I chose myself.  It took me a couple of tries to get up the nerve.  I made a few visits to the website before I had the guts to hit Submit.  I overcame my doubts and said, “This is something I want to shoot for.  This is something I have the right to try.  This is something that would be really really really fun to do.”  I gave myself permission to want it.  I gave myself a voice.  It was heard!

I am tickled pink.

So today’s message is:  Put yourself out there. 

Oh, and here’s the funny part.  I’m at a bit of a loss.  If you go to the announcement page for 2014 Voices of the Year, there are links to these wonderfully entertaining posts.  But the ones that get read on stage?  They don’t have links–they’re a secret.  Y’know, gotta keep the suspense up.  So the link beside my name is just to Baddest Mother Ever, not the specific post that got selected.  

Wellllll…unfortunately, I can’t remember which story I submitted!  Duh.  So after a couple of days of playing it cool, I will have to email someone at BlogHer and say, “Thank you SO MUCH for giving me this opportunity to read….now, can you refresh my memory on what exactly I wrote?”  

So today’s message addendum:  Put yourself out there, but jot down where you put yourself.  

Six Word Mantra


Do you have a mantra?

The word “mantra” comes from Buddhism and Hinduism.  It means a word or phrase that you repeat during meditation to aid your concentration or focus.  Like “Ohm.”  (That’s that symbol you see on a lot of yoga tank tops.)  Sometimes we use “mantra” to refer to our words to live by or essential wisdom.

I tried having a mantra once, back when Fartbuster was hanging out at the Buddhist Center in town.  I was learning how to meditate so instead of starting out like a normal person with five or ten minutes for a few days a week, I signed myself up for a four-hour session on a Saturday morning.  Yeahhhhhh…For my mantra, I chose “Breathe in, breathe out.”  The first three minutes were bliss, but in the fourth minute into the four hours I got that Bush song “Machinehead” stuck in my head because the chorus goes “Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.  Got a machine head, it’s better than the rest.  GOT A MACHINEHEAD!”  And so on.  

That was my last meditation retreat.  

In Tibetan Buddhism, an important part of spiritual practice is reciting the Six Word Mantra:  “Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hum.”  At one of the sessions I attended at BlogHer, the leader was a yogi who encouraged each of us to write and share our own six-word mantra.  These six words our focus and concentration on our writing.  

I distilled mine from a famous quote from Dag Hammarskjold, a Swedish diplomat who served as the second Secretary-General of the United Nations.  

“For all that has been–Thanks.  For all that will be–Yes.”  

These are the two lessons I have learned in my life:  gratitude for the story I have lived and enthusiasm for the stories that lie ahead of me.

So my six-word mantra was:  WHAT WAS?  THANKS.  WHAT COMES?  YES!  

What’s your six-word mantra?  

Gratitude for This Day

This day is trying so hard to be perfect that it’s just becoming a little show-offy.  Like the beautiful and sweet toothy Midwestern girl who knocked sinewy Miss New York down to first runner up in the pageant.  Here are a few things I’m going to write in my gratitude journal for Wednesday:

navy pier

The weather in Chicago tonight feels like something that the Chamber of Commerce ordered up to persuade people to move here.  Seventy and blue skies with a soft breeze.  While shopping on the Magnificent Mile, I bought myself a little green and white scarf to WARM UP.

green scarf
This city tries hard to be beautiful (and succeeds).  It’s the cradle of skyscraper architecture.  Invented here, not in New York!  I have rested my feet by plinking fountains, marveled at street planters overflowing with orchids and looked out over a lake so blue it’s hard to believe it’s not an ocean.

When I asked the doorman for directions to a pizza place, he winked at me and asked if I was buying.  The waitress at Giordano’s complimented my use of “y’all.”  Gaggles of tourists don’t mind looking like tourists.  I’ve gotten friendly answers from every person I’ve asked for help.  I like Chicago so much because it bustles with NICE PEOPLE.  Even when your car gets blocked in, it’s by an ice cream truck.

good humour

Getting to spend time with Jessica, who lived across the hall from me for six weeks in the summer of 1985, when we were at Governor’s Honors.  I haven’t seen her since high school.  I was a little intimidated about seeing her—she graduated summa cum laude from Princeton and is the managing editor of a prestigious scholarly journal.  And—even WORSE—she has the most beautiful hair.  I had such a good time catching up with her that now I’m going to have to miss her when I go back home!

(That’s her up there dealing with the ice cream truck).

The food, good lord, the food.  A stuffed crust pizza with the perfect balance of salt and butter in the flaky crust.  An engineering marvel akin to the John Hancock Building.  Two glasses of rose for lunch because red would have made me want a nap.  Tapas at Emilio’s for dinner—dates wrapped in bacon, garbanzos whipped with olive oil and served with shaved radishes and grilled peppers.  A cold bowl of gazpacho.  Goat cheese rolled in candied pecans with a pear poached in wine on the side.


I get to spend four nights in a hotel bed.  No one has played hide and seek in it.  No cats have left hair on the pillowcase.  The sheets were washed by someone else, very recently.  I can sleep in the shape of an X and use all four pillows.  I can turn the air conditioning down to 64 and snuggle under the duvet.

hotel bed

My room overlooks Navy Pier, so I’ve been watching the Ferris Wheel spin around and around.  I think the Ferris Wheel was introduced here, during the Columbia Exposition in…1896?  It was the American answer to the Eiffel Tower!

ww at navy pier

And while I was sitting here watching the Ferris Wheel, I heard an odd booming noise.  Fireworks!  On a Wednesday night!
I got over the delight of that and got back to writing when a huge golden moon appeared out of nowhere.  It’s lighting up the rippling surface of the lake.

pink flower

Like I said, Chicago is kinda showing off.

Five Things I’m Taking To Chicago

1.  Five hundred business cards with my new logo!  I hope that’s enough.


2.  The Hamsa hand I bought in Paris.  It protects from the evil eye and catches luck.

"Hand of Miriam" or Hamsa (Arabic) used to ward off the evil eye.

“Hand of Miriam” or Hamsa (Arabic) used to ward off the evil eye.

3.  Wonder Woman!  She’s riding in my messenger bag for the whole conference.

4.  My gratitude journal.  It goes EVERYWHERE with me!

wonder woman

5.  My White Knight.  The one who will save me.  The brave and bold.  Me.

smiling me

6.  Oh, and several pairs of these.  Clean.

Day Two

Click those links to read some classic Baddest Mother Ever stories!  And share them with your friends!

Thanks for all the love and support and encouragement.  I’m EXCITED!!!

They Sell Underwear In Europe

It's a CARRY-ON!

It’s a CARRY-ON!

The Blogher conference is 72 hours away!  I’ve checked the weather in Chicago.  I’ve got 500 business cards with my new logo (and I’ve even practiced the “quick draw” to get them out of the holder…I kid you not).  I’ve borrowed a notebook computer so I can look like the cool kids when it’s time to take notes.  I went to the grocery store and stocked up on things G can cook easily when he’s taking care of the kids for four nights.  I’ve done the laundry.  Twice (darn you, cats).

Now it’s time to pack.  And I don’t feel ready.

Whenever I am nervous about going on some new adventure, I recall another piece of travel advice dispensed by Richard many years ago.  “They sell underwear in Europe, Ashley.”

Scene:  It’s 24 hours before our flight to another country.  I’ve got three lists–purse, carry-on, checked bag–and they’re organized by item type.  I’m crossing through each item and double-checking.  I’ve already got backup copies of my credit cards, passport and insurance cards zipped into the lining of my jacket AND in the inner pocket of my purse.  All toiletries are organized in clear containers and ziploc bags, with double bagging around the more gooey items.  But I’m still nervous about forgetting something.

Richard, on the other hand, walks to the dryer and pulls out a load of clothes, folds them loosely and slings them into a bag.  Zips it up and he’s done.

As I’m dithering about forgetting something, he says, “Let’s go!  As long as we have a credit card, we’re good.  They sell underwear in Europe.”

It reminded me of the line from Absolutely Fabulous, when Eddy and Patsy are trying to leave on holiday and Eddy keeps running around saying, “Money!  Tickets!  Passport!”  And then she runs out to the car but has to return three times to get…you know.  Money.  Tickets.  Passport.

Overthinking things?  Perhaps.

But there was that one time that G and I flew to Brasil with the kids and realized that we had left Vivi’s beloved Pengy in the car.  Try scrounging through the Sao Paolo airport in search of a replacement penguin.  Or the time Richard and I went to Bermuda with a broken camera (Grant had dropped it while taking pictures of his feet) and came back with three rolls of pictures that cut our heads off.  Or the time I needed Imodium RIGHT AWAY in Oxford on a Sunday morning.

What’s your thing that you just can’t travel without?

I’m Really Not That Tall

I need to declare something publicly and I need to say it to people who will hold me accountable.  I hope y’all don’t mind the responsibility.  I guess this is as good a place as any.   OK, here goes.

I am a blogger.

Well, DUH.  Over the last four months, I’ve been writing diligently and posting with great regularity and really digging the feedback from the people who read this…stuff.  I can say that I enjoy writing.  I can encourage others to express themselves.  But that exact arrangement of words?  Yipes.  So today I’m putting it out there–I am a blogger.

So what?

Well, there’s this conference for female bloggers called BlogHer and it’s in Chicago this July.  I’ve had it on my radar for months and had it on my calendar for months.  I saved tax refund money to cover the expense.  I’ve even reserved the vacation days at work.  I’ve stalked the website, clicked on the schedules, looked at the photo gallery of the hotel, checked flights to Chicago, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger on registering.  Because that conference?  It’s for BLOGGERS.

There's an impostor among us...

There’s an impostor among us…

If I actually went, it would become some “Carrie Goes to the Prom” nightmare, right?  They would let me register, but once I walked in the meeting I would be called out in front of everyone for presuming to place myself at an event for REAL BLOGGERS.  For example, I looked at one of the photos of a discussion group at last year’s conference and noticed that everyone was using an iPad to take notes.  I don’t even own one.  Well, we do have one that G won in a raffle and we mostly use it to entertain the kids on long drives.  It might be under the love seat in the den, cloaked in a skim of Cheetos dust.  Why would real bloggers let me in with my nasty Cheeto-smelling raffle iPad????  I am a fraud, clearly.  

But even I must acknowledge the ridiculous nature of posting on my BLOG that I can’t call myself a blogger.  Every word on this thing is written and managed by…me.  Baddest Mother Ever is a wholly owned subsidiary of MissAshleyCo, Inc. Worldwide.

Sometimes I have a hard time believing that I am allowed to claim what is mine.  Even when I have done the work myself.  Sometimes I can’t even recognize myself.  Do you ever feel like that?  

A couple of years ago, I got a Facebook message from a woman I knew in college.  Lizzie was a year behind me, an international student from Bangladesh,  a young woman very far from home.  Back in those days, we had an old tradition where the sophomores hazed the freshmen, so my class indoctrinated Lizzie’s class.  Then 20 years later, she wrote to me on Facebook to say that she always appreciated the fact that I was kind to her during the hell week.  She said something along the lines of “I remember you because you were this tall girl with laughing eyes and your smile let me know that it was all a joke and it was going to be OK.”  My first thought upon reading this?  She must have me confused with someone else because I’m not really that tall.

I’m 5’9″.  That’s pretty tall by most standards, right?

After many years of therapy, I can at least catch myself doing this.  My brain heard a genuine compliment.  But I was so uncomfortable with someone acknowledging the simple fact that I’m nice and generally kind to people that I had to deny the very idea that she was talking about me! 

I shared this story about Lizzie with my friend, Heather (who blogs here at Allonsee).  Heather is one of the few people I know who doesn’t essentially doubt herself on a daily basis.  She gets frustrated and she gets muddle-headed at times, but she’s pretty secure in the fact that she’s an OK, intelligent person.  Can you IMAGINE what it would be like to live in her head for a day?  Now, whenever I start belittling my own skills or attributes or chances, Heather can simply say, “And you’re not even TALL!”  It’s become a form of shorthand that is much more polite than saying, “Get your head out of your ass and look around.”

To make a long story longer…This afternoon, Heather happened to ask me if I had registered for BlogHer at the very moment that I had the registration website open for a little spot of stalking and self-esteem bashing.  Damn her and her impeccable timing.  She sent me this list of reasons I should do it:

Why Ashley should go to Chicago …

1. It’ll be like her giant girl college experience. 
2. It is in Chicago in July for pity’s sake 
3. She loves writing and so do they 
4. She gets to take time and money to do things that are interesting to her because SHE HAS TIME AND MONEY THAT IS HERS 
5. There is NO entrance bar for BlogHer – she is not going to need to show her “Valid” pass to get in. 



#5 hit me right in the gut.  Yep.  That was what was stopping me.  I thought there was some “Official Blogger” pass that I didn’t have in my wallet.

I did it.  I registered for the conference and I booked myself a hotel room.  I even registered for the pre-conference session called “My Blog as a Book Proposal” because while I’m putting it out there to the universe I might as well put it ALL out there.  It’s time to start calling myself what I want to be.  I am a blogger.  I am a writer.  I am a creator and an author and a storyteller and a joyful citizen of the messy parts of life.

Oh, and for the record–I am tall.

Are you feeling tall today?  Or curled up in a ball?  What word do people use to describe you that you have trouble calling yourself?