A blogging conference that wasn’t really about blogging

CAUTION:  Introspection ahead. 

Now then, before the incredible ladies who put together the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged (AWBU) conference get too upset, let me clarify.  This most certainly was a conference about blogging.  There were sessions on blogging and dozens of bloggers hanging out talking non-stop about blogging (among other things).  Heck, even the servers at the restaurant knew to ask us “are you the bloggers?”

For me, though, this experience wasn’t about my blog, or the blogs of others.

In the beginning, it was about boots.

Free cowgirl boots from Country Outfitter to be exact.  I really am ashamed that I’d given fleeting thought to attending AWBU for a while, but until I heard about the boots, I wasn’t sold.  How shallow.  ***hangs head in shame***

Beyond the boots, the experience was about identity.

The whole conference centered around identity, in my view.  Are we food bloggers, mommy bloggers, lifestyle bloggers, writers, women…those were the questions. Many AWBU recap posts I’ve read in the last days said some variation of “I was really afraid I wouldn’t fit in.”  That is also about identity.  That is about wanting to be an interesting enough version of ourselves to merit new friends and acquaintances.  It’s always a strange dichotomy – we want to fit in, but we also want our individuality.  It was obvious that the conference achieved that for many of the attendees. It was great to watch. For me, though, I’m not sure.

If I’m honest with myself, I wasn’t worried too much about fitting in at AWBU; I knew I wouldn’t.  Most of the categories listed above (except for the “women” one) don’t apply to me.  Plus, I’m not generally the type to form instant connections; it takes me some time.  I had a couple of great gals to share the roadtrip with, and we stuck together most of the conference.  Surprisingly, I knew several people there, and so we all got to spend some time around tables and between sessions chatting.  I loved that, especially since there seemed to be a silent pact among us that we wouldn’t pull out our phones.  I have a bunch of new twitter friends, and some fun blogs to follow.  But I’m not sure I made new lifelong friends to help me on my blogging way.

This isn’t a reflection on the conference, but on me.

See, on paper I am a blogger, but I wouldn’t say I’m an actual “blogger.”  Not like some of the women I encountered at AWBU.  Though I like to dream that my writing could one day be interesting enough to inspire someone to pay me money for it, I haven’t trained or worked at it, and I don’t spend much time trying to improve it.  I just like to write.  I’ve always been ok with that, and even after AWBU, I still am. 

In this blog space, I like to tell myself I have the freedom to write about whatever strikes my fancy.  In reality, I write about a small piece of what goes on in my brain, with a pretty hefty filter to keep me from delving too much into politics or workplace woes.  And there’s a big old lid on my snarky side (though I’m sure it leaks out from time to time).  Within those boundaries, this blog has been about my search for identity.

How does a perpetually single working gal from New England make a life for herself in Arkansas?  Check that…how does she make a meaningful life? 

I discovered that last question at AWBU, during one of the “content” sessions.  I figured out the answer later, during another session.  It will fuel some changes and focus to this space in the future.  That made the whole trip worthwhile.

Still, I regret, just a little, that I didn’t branch out and meet more new people.  Maybe, if I attend next year, that’s what the conference will be about for me.   We’ll see. 

Or maybe it will be about the swag.

Yeah, that’s right. Enough of this introspection crap.  Let’s have some fun. Grab a beer and join me on a journey through the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged swag bag.

1.  The Boots, from Country Outfitter.
You’ve heard about these already.  Mine were the Tony Lama’s Golden Tan Navajo type.  They are cute as can be.  However, the acrobatics I had to do to get them off after a night of jig-dancing will make me reconsider my sock choice next time.  Stay tuned, because you might be able to win a pair in an upcoming giveaway (probably in October).

2.  The storage, from Ziploc
I swear, I have never seen more plastic containers in my life.  A few glass ones were thrown in there too, and some even had ice cream from Yarnell’s in them.  At one point in the weekend, I crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t win a bag of Ziploc products, because I’d already been given enough to replace my whole cupboard-full.  One good side effect of this might be that I can use my spiffy new glass containers to make packing lunches more fun.  Clearly I lead an exciting life.

3.  The boot polish, from Kiwi
Anyone know how to polish brown suede-ish boots? I would guess one doesn’t use the black boot polish.

4.  Mrs. Meyers cleaning products & coupons
Whooee, that company is sure trying to make cleaning stuff a therapeutic process.  I’m not sure I buy it, but I will gamely go wash a pile of dishes in my sink that I left there before AWBU (quit judging).

5.  The Healthy Families bag
I tried, I really did.  But I wasn’t able to muster the proper enthusiasm for the baby books and swag designed to help raise healthy kids.  So I gave the whole shebang to a friend who’s expecting.  And wouldn’t you know it?  This normally no-nonsense gal got all smiley and giggly.  Excellent swag relocation.

6.  Arkansas Farm Bureau – magazines and a sunglasses strap
I love farmers.  I also love their markets.  But I can guarantee you I won’t be raising my next Thanksgiving dinner in my suburban backyard.  I will, however, enjoy reading about those who do.  And I will try to do so in a setting where I fear losing my sunglasses.  

7.  All You magazine
Brutal honestly here – there are too many magazines in the world.  I know, because I work in marketing, and I’m “offered the opportunity” to advertise in all of them.  However, I can’t wait to read All You, especially since they claim I can walk off my midsection with their special workouts.

8.  Coupons from Petit Jean Meats
I was really, really hoping there would be bacon in the bag.  There was not. 

9.  Crayon white board from Crayola
I’m officially 5 years old anytime I see anything Crayola.  Where’s my 96-count crayon box with the built-in sharpener?

10.  Zebra Duck tape from Acumen brands.
I don’t know what I’m going to do with this tape, but it’s definitely not going to be used for any typical duct tape tasks.

Plus, we had pens and notepads from nwamotherlode.com, thank you cards from one of our printing partners, and enough brochures and flyers to keep us busy for a while.  And the mason jar from Ball/Jarden Corporation, of course. 

So, if you want to tape something up while washing your new storage containers with lavender soap while wearing cowboy boots, come see me.  And if you doubt the validity of this swag haul, which was actually far too significant for one bag, I submit to you exhibit A:

Phew.  Ok, I’m done.  I have once again whiled away my evening blogging about blogging.  Next up, an exploration of “slow stories” encountered at the Ozark Folk Center.

24 thoughts on “A blogging conference that wasn’t really about blogging

  1. I love this, Jodi. It made me ponder, appreciate, and laugh. All good things for a blog post. So glad you joined us this year, and I do hope to get to know you better next year.

  2. Thanks, Fawn! You all did such an amazing job on the conference. It was one of the most well organized and easy things I've ever been to. It was REALLY evident how hard you worked.

  3. Unrelated: because of my Chicago roots (well, one root really) when I hear your name in my head it's in a Chicago accent because my sister had a friend with a similar name. I can't even recall the name anymore, but it sounds like yours. With a Chicago accent. That is all.

  4. I was kind of scared of the boot polish, actually — I gave mine to Julianne. I did enjoy the magazines, though, so I encourage you to read them. You might well be inspired to raise that turkey.

  5. I FORCED myself to sit with people I didn't know very well… something I don't normally do, but I am desperate for grown up professional women in my life. Coming from San Francisco to small town Arkansas has and will always be a bit of a shock to my system and this year I realized how much I miss being with smart, intelligent, thoughtful women my age – my town is aging rapidly – so AWBU was my chance to see if I can make that happen. I'm glad you were there and maybe, just maybe, we can hang next year. Or heck, see each other IRL.

  6. It was a lot of swag. My hubby was excited for the shoe polish. He knows I don't do shoes or iron- think it was in the marriage contract but is has been awhile.

  7. Random! It's the "nos" portion of my name (assuming you're talkign about my last name) Bez-nos-ska – that "nos" just begs for that flat midwestern sound. 🙂

  8. Yes, I think I'd have to force myself too. You're right – I came here from Madison, WI, where I had a posse of folks in my age range and life stage to keep my brain sharp. But you can find that here, too – it just takes a little more work. 🙂 I'm glad that AWBU was a good step for that. Hope to see you soon!

  9. Next year, I think we should have longer breaks organized into groups of people we do not know (scary) and just sit and get to know each other. I was so busy I did not get to sit and talk to all of you as much as I would have liked. That will change next year. I am so glad you came!

  10. Wow – your hubby irons for you? That is a great find. I've given up on ironing – that's why I got a steamer for Christmas a few years back.

  11. I loved reading your recap! I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to connect at AWBU…hopefully we can have an NWA get together in the coming months. There's a lot of tips and ideas that were mentioned that I have no clue where to start with!

  12. Jodi, I love this. I've enjoyed your blog so much because you do not pander, and you convey your thoughts honestly. Here's to much more of that!I love how the introspection throws off its cloak to reveal a glittery, shimmery disco suit as you move resolutely to discussing swag. Great post, my friend. Great blog. So glad you could be there (HATED we put it in the middle of Art of Wine last year!) – and can't wait to see you continue to trample these things next year. Well written!!

  13. That's a wonderful idea, Stephanie! But don't let my introspection detract from the awesomeness of the conference. I've been to a lot of conferences, and you all did it up right, for sure. 🙂 Thanks!

  14. Oh, Beth. You just make me smile, no matter what you write. I was thinking more of the cute flowery country frock with the sassy boots, but a disco suit is WAY better. 🙂 Thanks again for convincing me to come.

  15. "…how does she make a meaningful life?" I love that they had you at boots, but you also scored some bonus introspection (and swag. Lots of awesome swaggg).

  16. Love your post, and I didn't realize you were from NWA also! Lots of amazing bloggers up here in the corner. I love your comment about the Ziploc. I came home and shared lots of ziploc, and cleaned out my drawer to find room for it all!

  17. I've really enjoyed reading your blog. We thoroughly enjoy Crystal Bridges whenever we can get there. We have a place on Beaver and try to get up here most weekends. Come visit! I would love to explore New Hampshire – have never been there, but I would certainly love to go. I am posting links to book giveaways on my blogs whenever they occur. If you will let me know your dates, I'll be happy to spread the word.

  18. Thanks, Debbie! Once I get the date figured out I'll be sure to let you know. And if you ever get to NH, I can tell you all kinds of good places to visit.

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