This weekend I had the immense pleasure of attending Blogher ’14.
I can’t even begin to decompress and describe the mind bomb that is this conference. 4,000 bloggers, most of them women, in scenic California, partying it up, networking, and honoring each others’ voices.
I arrived in San Jose, CA on Thursday afternoon and was greeted by cupcakes (made out of lentils???) in a beautiful city. I ask you, does it get any better than that?
Who was on the list?
Jenny Lawson - who you may know as The Bloggess, and author of the hilarious memoir, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. I met her, and we talked about funny female authors, and we both just finished reading Nora Ephron for the first time, and she signed my book “Knock Knock, Mofo”. Isn’t she great?
Tig Notaro - the comedian best known for her stand up show discussing the humor and heft of having breast cancer. You can download free tracks of her stand up at her site here, including clips from her famous show, Live.
Arianna Huffington - as in the founder of The Huffington Post! Best speech of the keynotes; she was inspiring, charming, funny, and flawless. And you know what? I met her too, and I spoke to her in Greek! *seriously might faint just thinking how awesome that was*
Kerry Washington - the actor and activist. She shared behind the scenes stories from her show, Scandal, as well as why civil rights and philanthropy are so important.
BlogHer is drastically different than writers conferences, in my opinion. When you go to a writers conference, there’s a pretty strict schedule of classes to attend. It’s more about learning, networking, and deciding about indie vs. traditional publishing routes. It’s awesome and definitely motivating, but different.
1. BlogHer is basically a giant party.
No I’m not kidding. That’s how it feels. Everyone is smiling. Everyone wants to meet people. Everyone wants to know what you blog about and which classes you attended, and which yogurt you picked in the Yoplait #tasteoff challenge!
Shocker! We picked Yoplait.
That’s me and the illustrious August McLaughlin
hanging out with a giant spoon. #GoodTimes
The Expo room with all the vendors is fun to bum around. And for those looking to write sponsored posts, the connections are yours for the making!
2. The Keynotes
See above. Then wipe the drool from your chin. I can’t wait to see who’s on board for next year’s keynotes.
3. Voices of the Year Community Keynote
If you want to hear the voices that are groundbreaking in the blogosphere, attend the VOTY celebration. I was in awe of these women. And I want to share them all with you. Here are the 12 Voices of the Year that spoke at the conference. (All were phenomenal, but I starred the ones that spoke the most to me personally.)
*Parri Sontag ~ Her Royal Thighness ~ Leisure Suits, Braces, and Beanies: My Life as a Dodgeball Target
Kristin Vanderhey Shaw ~ Two Cannoli ~ More Than Words
Tammy Soong ~ World’s Worst Moms ~ First Reason Not to Get a Tattoo: Your Mom Probably Has One
*A’driane Nieves ~ Butterfly Confessions ~ America’s Not Here For Us
*Meredith Bland ~ Pile of Babies ~ 9 Awesome Things About Having a Physical Disability
*Janelle Hanchett ~ Renegade Mothering ~ We Don’t Start With Needles in Our Arms
Phyllis Myung ~ The Napkin Hoarder ~ Sometimes I Still Wish I Was White
Ashley Garrett ~ Baddest Mother Ever ~ It’s All One Life
*August McLaughlin ~ August McLaughlin’s Blog ~ My Big Brindle Heart: A Love Story
*Grace Sandra ~ Grace Sandra’s Blog ~ Letting The Stupid Little Ni**er Go
Jenna Hatfield ~ Stop, Drop, & Blog ~ The Bridge That is Any Bridge
Lisa Page Rosenberg ~ Smacksy ~ The View From Here
4. Networking and Friendships
There are 4,000 bloggers in one building and you get to hang out with them!!! I actually ran out of business cards.
Also, meet bloggers you follow online.
After using Twitter as a ginger beacon homing device, I met up with Aussa Lorens from Hacker. Ninja. Hooker. Spy.
You know who else I Twitter stalked?
Hege and Cotille from StitchFix! Photo coming soon as it’s on Cotille’s phone, but the girls will be sharing their photos from BlogHer and all the StitchFix fashionistas at the conference using the hashtag #StitchFixInTheWild.
*double squeeee* I even went out to dinner with them! And we leisured on Santana Row, San Jose’s trendy hot spot for restaurants and clothing boutiques.
But best of all was meeting fellow blogger, longtime friend, and founder of #GirlBoner radio – August McLaughlin!
5. BlogHer is literally a giant party.
The end of the conference is a big, outdoor party. And Rev Run from Run DMC was the dj. #ILoveThe90s
Do you need any more reasons than that?
So, will I see you at BlogHer next year?
Wedding weekend extravaganza is officially over. Joe and I were married this weekend…
Or were we?
That’s right, we had a bit of a surprise during our ceremony.
But now the cat’s out of the bag, and you all can be in on it too! During the wedding, we showed a slideshow, and today I’d like to share it with all of you! (It’s 7 minutes long, so those wanting to jump to the really good part, should fast forward to 4:30ish.)
*All music composed and/or arranged by Joe Gantzer, except the Greek song, all vocals by Joe Gantzer and Jess Witkins. The Disney song has been rearranged by Joe Gantzer.
Kah-lee-MER-ah, Everyone! (That means ‘good morning’ in Greek! And yes, I wrote it phonetically, because I do not have the Greek alphabet on my keyboard, nor would most of you be able to read it if I did not do so.)
Thank you to Misty and Deanne for keeping you all company while I was away!
Greece was magnificent! We thoroughly enjoyed our pre-wedding honeymoon (yep, it’s backwards thanks to Joe’s gig schedule, but I’m just happy we got to get away).
We started in Santorini, which was breathtaking.
We stayed in one of the southern most cities, Akrotiri, which is the historical part of the island. It was quiet and scenic as our room overlooked the caldera, with Nea Kameni (the volano island) right in the middle.
This is what breakfast was like each day.
We rented ATV’s a couple times and cruised all around the island, checking out the northern most city Oia (pronounced Eeh-ah), relaxed in Perissa on the Perevolos black sand beaches, and headed down to the southern tip where we watched the sunset from the rocks around the lighthouse.
Our next stop was Athens. We left the beaches and wineries of Santorini for the Capital city. We got lost – in a good way – on the streets of the Plaka. We buzzed about Adrianou Street and ventured out to dine in street cafes where we listened to local musicians and stared up at the Acropolis.
On one of the hottest mornings of our trip, we trekked to the Acropolis. And it was totally worth the heat.
We visited the National Archeological Museum, the largest in the country. My favorite room showed the items and murals found in ancient Thira (Santorini) in the ruins of Akrotiri – an ancient trade port that was covered for centuries by volcanic ash and uncovered in the 1800’s. We walked the ruins in Akrotiri, and had to wait till we got to Athens to see the murals that were recovered there.
Famous Mural – The Boxing Boys
Did you all read Deanne’s guest post about the Greek Changing of the Guard? We did see the Evzones.
We had a date night at one of the most famous outdoor theaters, Cine Thissio, which was built in 1935.
And of course, the FOOD was amazing!!!
1.) Shockingly, I’m sure to you all, we only got kind of lost one and a half times. The first was after our ship docked in Piraeus and we had to find the metro to connect to Athens and check into our hotel. This was all after 9 o’clock at night, so it was dark out and there weren’t any signs for the metro that we could see.
We basically got there by meandering the city and following some other tourists for a bit, all while dragging our luggage along. We were hot, sweaty messes when we finally checked into our hotel. Oh…and I had what I thought was motion sickness, but ended up being vertigo, so I threw up a bunch that night!
2.) Yes, I got vertigo – actually still have vertigo – and that made touring Athens interesting. We had to take several breaks throughout the day for me to sit and cool down and start believing the walls and pavement were not in fact coming after me. For the record, vertigo sucks.
3.) The second time we got lost was our first full day in Athens. We had a map of the city, which was in English, but once you venture away from the main streets of the Plaka, most street signs are only in Greek, so the map didn’t help a ton. And it was also 99,000 degrees Celsius. Yes, Celsius!
We were literally wandering inside the very mouth of Hades!
4.) And this one is minor, truly. But, I did get me some sun poisoning in Santorini. As any good ginger knows, being in too much sun will cause one to self combust, and sauntering all over that beautiful island caused my arms to break out in some form of minor hive-age.
I paid a visit to a pharmacy in Fira where a very kind Greek woman helped me purchase what I hope was Grecian benadryl and anti-itch cream. The “Greek-adryl” box was entirely in Greek and her only counsel on the drug was to take it for 5-6 days. I didn’t know the dosage or whether the stuff was non-drowsy or what, so I resigned to only taking it at bedtime, wherein I seemed to conclude that it was in fact the drowsy version. It worked wonders on our final flight home in which Joe tells me there was some serious turbulence and a lightening storm that I completely missed. :D
The anti-itch cream made me laugh as it was in Greek and Grenglish? My favorite part of the tube is where it read that the cream helps with “the itch of elderly people” followed directly by “contact with jellyfish.” It was most comforting to know that if I came in contact with either an old person or a jellyfish, I was covered itch-wise.
That’s our story! All in all, a very happy honeymoon!
As they say in Greece, “Cheers” or “Yah-mas!”
By Misty’s Laws
Since Jess is about to embark on a journey of love and foreverness that many before her, including me, have taken (and somehow survived), I thought this might be a good time share my own wedding story, which might serve as a cautionary tale for her upcoming nuptials.
I was married on a rainy day in October, almost 12 years ago. Leading up to that wedding, I was what could best be described as a dragon breathing, hair-trigger, insane beast . . . better known as a Bridezilla. It happens to all of us. I’m sure not Jess, of course, but pretty much everyone else. I never thought in my life that I would be someone who stressed over details such as table
settings and flower arrangements, but there I was.
But a really strange and wonderful thing happened the day of the wedding. I woke up and I had the weirdest feeling . . . complete and utter calm. Today was the day and it was all over. The planning, the stress, the details… everything was finished. All that was left was to get married. It was incredible.
Although I seemed very calm and happy, the people around me were wary of my new state of being. They had experienced the monster I had become and were skeptical of my newfound peacefulness. Hence, when we arrived at the hair salon and I realized that we had left my headpiece back at the hotel and asked my dad to run back to fetch it, they expected some type of rant or fuming state because of this mishap, and I watched as my bridesmaids and mom exchanged wary glances. But
instead, I serenely sat and drank my mimosa, and patiently waited for it to arrive.
And despite the clouds and drizzle outside, I felt fine and knew it would be a beautiful day. Some people say that rain on your wedding day is good luck, and I was convinced at that time of the truth of
When we returned to the hotel room to get dressed and ready for the wedding, there were a million people in the hotel room and I was starting to feel a bit claustrophobic. It was the closest I got that
day to becoming annoyed. But, instead of yelling and throwing a childish fit, I just took a breath and focused on getting into my dress.
Once everyone was ready to go, and the photographer had snapped a few “getting ready” shots, we went downstairs to catch the limo to the chapel . . . but it wasn’t there. It was running late. My maid of honor had the company on the phone and was very firmly explaining that this was unacceptable and that we couldn’t be late, but I just spent the time getting some more beautiful shots taken in front of the hotel. I was still happy and calm.
The limo arrived soon after and we were off to the wedding. By the time we arrived, the sky had cleared up and it was a beautiful day with a gorgeous blue sky above us. The wedding itself went smoothly, but I later found out that as we were doing a final prep before I walked down the aisle, somehow we got lipstick on the wrap I was wearing around my shoulders. My bridesmaids wisely did not inform me of this, and instead just reconfigured the wrap to cover it up. They told me later and I found it pretty funny.
The reception was wonderful . . . mostly. However, all those little details that I had stressed over and meticulously planned? I didn’t care at all. People were eating, drinking, dancing, and having a great time. And so was I. Every once in a while, somebody would walk over and place a drink in my and my husband’s hands, but because we were always meeting and greeting with people, and then later dancing, we would usually set them down somewhere and forget about them, until someone brought us another. This is to say that we weren’t drinking very much . . . at first.
Here is where we face our greatest problem of the day, and where I finally lose that zen-like calm. It started the moment when my husband’s best buddies from high school realized that there was an
actual bar in the lobby of the hotel, directly outside our reception hall. And when they decided to forego the open bar we had paid for for our wedding guests, and instead decided that they would go across the lobby and buy shots. Mainly . . . mind-erasers. These shots were then fed to my new husband, who drank them out of a sense of fun and responsibility, not because he’s a huge drinker. A few of those bad boys, and it was all over. Luckily, this was at the tail end of the night, but our last dance was not pretty, let me tell you. I was holding him up as we clumsily swayed on the dance floor.
Once the festivities were over, and we went to the front desk to get the keys to our honeymoon suite, the night desk clerk was clueless as to what we were talking about. In attempting to explain to him that we were the couple who just had the 4 hour reception in the room directly beside his desk, and that there should be a room waiting for us (supposedly filled with flowers, champagne and strawberries, per our prior request), he just looked at us blankly. This was about the time when my extremely inebriated husband decided that he had had enough of this guy, and wanted to fight him. So, we then had to hold him back and firmly place him on a couch across the lobby to chill out. By the
time they found us a room (not the honeymoon suite, just a room), we were too tired to care. One of us was about to pass out, as well, so you can imagine how exciting my wedding night was!
So, that is the story of my magical wedding day. Mostly serene, until the very final moments. To avoid this, I would suggest not having your wedding where there is a real live bar close enough for shot
purchases. Either that, or put something in your wedding vows for Joe to recite, wherein he promises not to get wasted on your wedding night! Mazel Tov and good luck!
Misty is a lawyer by day, ninja by night. At least one of those things are true. Recently, she discovered that she is growing a baby ninja, and can’t wait until the baby starts training . . . inside her belly. Misty sometimes finds the time to write about various inane subjects at her blog: Misty’s Laws.
By Deanne M. Schultz, @DMSwriter
Now that Jess is gone for a couple weeks, it’s a good time to talk about pom-poms. Specifically the kind worn on the ends of shoes. If your grandma knitted her own slippers, she may have stuck pom-poms on the toes just for a sassy affectation, happy about the way they bobbled around as she did her housework.
For those of you who don’t know, Joe and Jess are on their honeymoon in Greece, and if they hit the right part of Athens, they’ll see men wearing pom-poms on their shoes. These guys goose-step around, too, which only adds to their allure. Thankfully there’s no ouzo involved.
When we were in Athens a few years ago, we spotted these guys at Syntagma Square. Our tour guide told us that they were Evzones, members of an elite force that guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And man, were they serious about their duty. They marched back and forth with such ramrod precision that I felt slouchy and undignified in their presence. When they met at the top of the stairs and executed an abrupt turn and marched down, a lady in our group grabbed her camera and started snapping away.
Woe be unto her, because the Evzones kept goose-stepping rigidly forward, plowing right past Camera Lady, who almost bit the dust in her zeal to get a good shot. I imagined her, limp and bloodied on the sidewalk, a fuzzy pom-pom sticking out of her nose.
Really, what was the deal with those things? They seemed frivolous and unnecessary, almost humorous when compared with the semi-automatics the Evzones carried. Now those babies I took seriously. They elevated the goose-stepping to a don’t-mess-with-me meanness that made me gulp.
And when I found out that the Evzones’ shoes weigh seven pounds and have nails under their soles?
Boy, Camera Lady was just lucky to be alive, is what I thought.
Our tour guide told us that in the 1800s, when the Evzones prepared for combat, they would hide knives under the pom-poms. If they were captured in battle – fwip! – out came the knife, ready for action.
Cool, I thought, mentally elevating the status of the lowly pom-pom to Fuzzy Defender of the Faith. Someone else in our group, a Mr. Historical Know-It-All, challenged our tour guide, saying he heard the pom-poms were used to keep water from leaking in the seams of the shoes. Sorry, buddy, I thought. Water leaking in?? What a yawner. Knives were much more interesting, and gave the soldiers a sinister presence. Water leaking in made them sound like practical gardeners.
So, Jess and Joe, if you’re reading this, head on over to Syntagma Square and check out the Evzones. Hoist an ouzo in their honor, and if you’re secure in your manhood, stick some pom-poms on your shoes when you get home.
Just don’t goose-step around the front yard.
Deanne M. Schultz is currently working on The Green Hornet Suit and Other Musings, a book that takes a wry look at life as she sees it. Her hope is that her writing inspires and helps others, moving them to connect with those around them. She blogs at dmswriter – witty weekly writing to inform and entertain.
This past weekend Joe and I went bumming around town for date night and happened upon an unusual sight.
A pirate ship.
If you can’t read the heading, it says Pirate Ship Hippies & Gypsies, No Bras or Squares.
As we walked by the bus, I snapped this photo, and the bus’s owner hopped up from a bench in the park and asked us if wanted a picture by his bus.
So he had us climb onto the back and told us to look “naughty.”
This is a true story, by the way. I think the guy really was a gypsy, and he most certainly wasn’t ‘square.’
“Now stick your butts out.”
Um…this is awkward. And hilarious.
So this Mississippi River bus pirate was snapping pictures with my phone, and when we finally did take off, this is what we had to show for such nonsense.
And oh yah… our butts sticking out!
Happy travels everyone!
Got some guest bloggers to keep you company while we’re off!
So give them a warm welcome, and maybe I’ll bring you all back some dolmades. Mmmm…
A few nights ago I had the craziest wedding dream yet!
You already know about my weird dream where I was on the road to interrogate a killer, but stopped to crash someone’s wedding reception just to take notes on what I liked and disliked about it. Note* I do NOT like Skittles as party favors.
But this last dream was far more outlandish!
First off, my dress started out as my real wedding gown, but somewhere in the dream it morphed into a gaudy black sequin and lace ensemble with layers of petticoats underneath and puff sleeves!
“How’s my hair look?” I asked.
She wouldn’t answer me. She just kept prattling on about other things! I begged her to go to the restroom with me so I could see my hair in the mirror. It had been styled by a team of professionals and I badly wanted to see how it turned out.
When we finally got to the bathroom, Cat tried to block me from the mirror. I managed to step around her and catch my reflection.
The top of my head was a beehive of curls, mounded in a great glump. The back of my hair was a mohawk, gelled straight out to a point!
That’s not even the worst part.
I didn’t know what to do. Where does one even begin to fix a headdress that dangles lady knickers?
I went in search of my family.
When I got to the reception hall, guests were milling about restlessly. A few were seated at tables with odd chairs and stained linens. The staff on hand were way behind cleaning up from a prior event, so nothing was ready for us! There were hardly any chairs for people to sit on, and there was nothing for them to eat or drink but a few water glasses one staff member was lazily dropping ice cubes into, one by one, with a tongs.
Someone had asked our entertainment for the night to start performing, so the side room was filled with Asian dancers moving melodically. But no one was watching them. Because there were no chairs to sit on, guests assumed they were not supposed to be in that room yet. Only a few people who stood in the doorway witnessed any of the dancers we invited.
I started looking for my family again and saw my father, who was carrying in the wedding cake. He was dressed in a Bill Cosby-esque sweater! For his daughter’s wedding?!
Apparently that was the last straw as I woke up right after that, but WOW! I mean, what a circus!
I sat up in bed, stupefied. I turned, looking at Joe, “I had a nightmare.”
Here’s hoping our wedding will include less crazy hair and more of this…
I’m making a confession today. I have a muffin top.
*phew* There, I said it.
I feel better now.
It started about a year ago when I quit my job. Don’t get me wrong, that is STILL the best decision I ever made. But I didn’t account for what would happen while transitioning from a 50-60 hour job where I was on my feet doing laps inside a mall…to sitting at a computer working, then coming home to…sit at a computer writing.
My diet habits changed drastically. While in retail, I worked so many hours and had interrupted breaks that I didn’t eat much at all for the 9-10 hour days I was there. But sitting at either my work desk or home desk, both conveniently right next to the kitchen…it’s a lot easier to snack throughout the day.
Without working out to balance my new lifestyle, my weight has fluctuated between 4-12 pounds in the past year. Now, I’m a rational person, and on a scale, that still has me at a perfectly normal and healthy weight for someone my size.
The problem is that it all sits on my middle.
I’m only 5’2″. I need all the length I can get, so adding width to my torso, not only isn’t working with my current wardrobe, but it’s affecting my self esteem.
I might have been able to nip the weight gain in the
butt tummy, if all I had to do this summer was lose a couple pounds. But I’m planning a wedding! And I’m on deadline to submit my book to potential agents.
My downfall has been that I want to go work out, but then I feel guilty that I’m not writing or working on wedding stuff, so I go home, but then I’m so stressed out I don’t know where to start and I end up moping around and wallowing the night away, making poor food choices on top it.
It’s tough to admit I’m still in transition. A whole year later and I haven’t magically “figured it all out.” As women, we grow up believing that on our wedding day we’re going to be the most beautiful woman in the room.
But I don’t feel beautiful.
All I see right now are my flaws. When I look in the mirror, I see my gut protruding over my pants and I see blemishes on my face.
And it makes me so sad and angry.
Sad, because I know deep down I’m pretty. And I hear my fiance tell me so. But I don’t listen, and worse, I’ve started countering him by pointing out my flaws.
Angry, because I have a degree in women’s gender and sexuality studies, so I know I’m suffering from body dysmorphia and yet, I don’t know how to turn that off.
But requiring two people to zip you into your wedding dress is a sure-fire way to put that doubt into hyperdrive.
I am a perfectly healthy and talented woman. But I’m struggling with doubt.
I am really struggling with doubt right now.
Is it just me? Is it the wedding? Is it the looming date of my 30th birthday and saying goodbye to the resilient body I had when things were good and I was still 25?
Is it potato chips? I have a hard time saying no to potato chips.
And what about society’s role in all this? My low body image issues have made me angry at society. Why have we invested so much energy into praising women for their looks rather than their brains? Why are more pages in women’s magazines filled with products for me to buy that will change my appearance “for the better” than there are articles about women making real strides for gender equality?
Aren’t we doing ourselves a disservice? Why does something as small as 4 pounds make a woman question her worth? Imagine if we spent half as much time renovating our education or health systems as we did staring in mirrors, avoiding mirrors, picking at our faces, being insulted by cat-calls, being insulted at our lack of cat calls, and only wearing open-toed shoes when our toenails are properly painted?!
We’d have solved the fucking issues by now! But instead, if you’re like me, or if you’ve been there before, we are too busy concealing that extra bit of weight we’ve gained.
~Sincerely, Miffed and Muffin-topped,
Have you tried or heard of Stitch Fix?
It’s a personal styling business for women based out of San Francisco, CA. I first heard about them on Twitter and started ogling all the cute pictures people were taking of the new clothes they received. I had to check this out.
Sign up for an account, which is free, and fill out your style profile. It’s an in depth assessment of what YOU want and like, but it’s not too time consuming. I promise. It shows you pictures and lets you enter your sizes and comfort level with showing off various body parts. You input budget guidelines. You can also link to your Twitter and Pinterest accounts so the stylists can better get to know you when they select items for your fix.
Which is honestly why I started a pinterest account…but there’s writing stuff on there too!
For $20 a personal stylist will select 5 items for you and mail them to your house.
That’s right. To your house. No driving in circles for a parking spot at the mall, clothes shopping in places where it smells like big pretzels. You get five items personally selected for you to try on in the comfort of your own home. No shipping fee.
If you buy the whole fix, you get 25% off everything, but otherwise keep what you want, and send the rest back. Again, no shipping. Stitch Fix boxes come with a prepaid envelope inside. And that $20? Goes towards your purchase!
Stitch Fix Founder and CEO, Katrina Lake, has always worked in some capacity with retail, but she always dreamed of starting up her own project. Her passion was in the potential for digital fashion sales. She partnered with tech wizards in Silicon Valley to create style algorithms based on people’s responses and worked with up and coming fashion designers to lower expenses of the clothes while still granting mass exposure of their labels.
Here’s a quick interview with Katrina – this woman knows her stuff.
A common thread she kept hearing from clients was how busy each woman was. Stitch Fix to the rescue! When you can try clothes on in your own home, you have your entire closet with you to see if that new top really does pair well those paisley gaucho pants you bought two years ago and have yet to match anything to. :D
Photo-ops! Take one look at the twitter hashtag #StitchFix, and you’ll see women all over the country gleefully unpacking their Stick Fix box, which by the way is packed adorably and professionally and comes with style cards for your new potential wardrobe items.
This is fun! And you should Stitch Fix with me. The most you have to lose is $20. But I’m betting you’re gonna like it!
Still curious? Try it yourself!
And, the winner of Roni Loren’s e-book, Still Into You, is… brickhousechick!!! Congratulations!
Your summer just got more sizzlin’!