BlogHer ’09. WOW. It was a transformational experience for me before it even started. It gave impetus to the kind of weight loss that warrants a Discovery Channel Health special. And I know, YOU KNOW. I won’t shut up about it! The thing is, losing that weight changed my life. And I did it with an incredible amount of support from you. Have I told you that I’m grateful? I AM. I need you to know that. I need to say thank you. There ain’t no readers like My Mommy’s Place readers. Hey. Ho. Nothing has made me realize that like BlogHer.

The BlogHer conference is this huge thing. Now that I’m home and the experience is sinking in and the post-BlogHer commentary is popping up all over the blogosphere, it reminds me of that story of the Blind Men and the Elephant in which a number of blind men observe an elephant, and the one that feels the side of the elephant believes it is like a wall, the one that feels the tusk believes the elephant is like a spear, the one that feels the trunk believes it is like a snake and the one that feels the tail belives it is like a rope. (That may have been the longest setence EVER.) I went to BlogHer. I observed it. I participated in some of it. But I don’t think I got it all and I know other people saw it differently. For me, BlogHer was incredible, but not necessarily in the ways I expected.

I arrived at BlogHer prepared for one hell of a party. I had carefully selected and packed outfits I’d envisioned in photographs with my new BlogHer friends, our drinks held high and smiles plastered on our faces. I had spent more time reviewing the party schedule than the conference schedule, because the let’s-get-ready-for-BlogHer articles I’d read told me that was where everything really happened. I had a swag strategy, because who hasn’t heard about all the stuff you get at BlogHer? You need an extra suitcase just to get it all home! And I was sure to bring plenty of business cards. No one may know me now, I thought, but after BlogHer, THEY WILL.

Things didn’t happen quite like that.

The truth is, BlogHer was big and loud and crowded and overwhelming and I wasn’t quite the social butterfly I thought I’d be. I spent a lot of time just looking around going, “Woooaaah.” I took three pictures. Of things like Mrs. Potato Head. Many of the parties seemed less like social events and more like mobs where swag wasn’t a perk, but the purpose. Even when I was brave and engaged someone, I was just one of a thousand faces standing between where that someone was and where they wanted to be. There was just SO MUCH going on.

The best interaction I had with new people came when I had made a specific connection with them on-line prior to BlogHer, like the “I’m going, you’re going, and I’m making it a priority to meet you,” comment I left on The Redheaded Lefty’s blog, or the plans to share a room with my best blogging friend Karly, who is so cute and freckly, I mostly wanted to grab her face and kiss her cheeks, because her freckles were asking me to do that. But I resisted. Even while she was sleeping.

I had suspected prior to BlogHer that Karly was much cooler than me. I was right. But in addition to being cool, she’s kind and hung out with me throughout the weekend and introduced me to nice people. Even after we went to dinner Thursday at The Grand Luxe Cafe and I threw up all the little secrets I’m not allowed to blog about while she ate her chicken enchiladas. Like I said, KIND. With a strong sense of obligation.

Things also went well when people were forced to be in one place with me, like in the shuttle from the airport or during a panel, which is uplifting because they could have slit their wrists with my business cards or banged their heads until they were unconscious. They chose to converse with me instead and that means I can’t be THAT BAD.

I rode the shuttle from the aiport with Liz of This Full House, Andy Wibbels of Six Apart, Elizabeth Norton of Cape May Moms, Palinode and Schmutzie. See how I know their names? They told them to me! We talked and stuff! I met Liz first and she was very warm and friendly and question-asky in a way that made me feel really worthwhile. I couldn’t stop staring and smiling at Schmutzie because she’s like, FAMOUS and surrounded by sparkles. She was also very friendly and didn’t seem to be the least bit weirded out by me, even if she was. Everyone else was just as friendly and maybe even sparkly, but they were sitting behind me and I was too busy gazing at Schmutzie to turn around. And later, while waiting for a panel to start, I talked to Sue from The Chocolate Cake Club and TexasRed, who gave me some great ideas for a quilt I’ll be making for a friend in the coming weeks. I wish I’d had the chance to spend more time with all of them, but eventually the shuttle ride and panels came to an end and they escaped.

The rest of the time, I fumbled through introductions and created awkward moments. I think I caught a conversation flu on the flight to Chicago or maybe my mojo doesn’t jive in a different time zone or something. I was lame. I made an effort to meet my favorite bloggers face to face in spite of this. I realize those meetings were a lot more exciting for me than they were for them, and while no one was unfriendly, some of them did a better job of making me feel that way than others. In the end, it taught me the value of saying, “Thank you for reading what I write,” when someone tells you that they do. And that crying and fanning your face may not be the best way to tell someone, “Your blog rocks” as it could also mean, “Help me, I’m choking.”

So, I’m not the crowd devouring friend making machine I thought I was. Perhaps I’m better behind the laptop screen. I am still so glad I went. Because I couldn’t see the big picture from here. I couldn’t understand the fascinating revolution I am a part of and feel the buzz in my brain of new thoughts and ideas and a fresh perspective. The people I met were worth meeting, no matter how clumsily I did it. And I am inspired, more than ever, to share my thoughts here after listening to what so many of them had to say. Because I realize that what I write at My Mommy’s Place isn’t validated by clicks or hits or even comments or BlogHer, but by the connection it makes with you. And all the while I was gone, I was thinking about you and all the things I’d do once I got back to you. I sort of feel like Dorothy, going all the way to Oz to find her heart’s desire right in her back yard. The trip was thrilling, but there’s no place like home.