I was just given a gift—the gift of being accepted and celebrated just for being who you are. I had tried to surround myself with the familiar at the BAM, Better at Midlife, blogging conference in Nashville. But the blogging friends I know well had other commitments and I was forced to go make new friends.

As soon as I arrived at this ginormous Gaylord Opryland hotel, I saw on Facebook that Candace was having a glass of medicinal wine. So leaving a trail of breadcrumbs from my room so I wouldn’t get lost, I made my way to the bar for my own medicine. Candace works for Cabot Cheese who was a conference sponser.  I met Elaine who was a speaker and whose first book is called Midlife Cabernet (such a great title). Other ladies joined us—wine, cheese, smart funny women, could it get any better?

Well, yes! Anne, one of the main conference organizers, took pity on me since I was the only attendee there not involved with putting on the conference (I guess others read the agenda—I was a day early) and invited me to dinner with all the speakers. It was at a fabulous restaurant and thank goodness I only had one glass of wine because when I got the bill it was a $23 glass of wine! But it paired deliciously with the crab cakes and conversation. I tried to eat healthy since I was sitting across from Julia, a personal trainer/fitness blogger.

All the women at the dinner had a compelling life story to tell. I met sassy Danyelle, who went from being a pregnant 17-year old to running a successful blog by 40. And Susan, who is a foodie blogger -what’s not to love about that. And Wendy who says she’s just a girl in a hat, but has over 38,000 Pinterest followers and was just back from Norway. The aurora borealis is one of my Pinterest pages and I like hats so we had plenty to talk about. And of course Anne and Sharon, the founders of Midlife Boulevard and the reason the conference were happening. Anne and Sharon have always been so supportive of me and I feel that instant rapport with both as if we have been childhood friends.

hotel room

My room was accidently upgraded and I had a beautiful balcony view of the atrium and could hear the sound of the waterfalls. The next morning I didn’t want to leave, so I spent a lazy morning reading, drinking coffee, writing and facebooking. I read that Krysta was driving down from Louisville and was looking for a room. I happily invited her to be my roomie for the night. I haven’t mentioned the weather, but it was a travel nightmare and her normal 2-½ hour drive to Nashville took 4.

I made a late lunch connection with Dorothy, a photographer who was taking professional headshots. Our late lunch lasted three hours! I’m an Art Director and I have sincere admiration for photographers. Dorothy and I had a deep conversation that ranged from hospice to food photography. Her work is beautiful and her tagline is “revealing the sacred in everyday life.”

We finished our lunch just in time for the Stouffer sponsored cocktail party. BTW a cold glass of Chardonnay pairs well with mac and cheese! I’ve put on events before and appreciate how hard it is to get sponsors and how wonderful it is when a brand exceeds your expectations. So here’s a shoutout to Stouffers.

I was so happy that the bad weather did not keep my two east coast friends, Cathy and Helene away. We met at Chicago Blogher and I have the best memory of a night of laughing and “helping” our friends discretely get their 4’ x 10’ Voices of the Year posters from the conference rooms while no one was looking.  Helene has just finished her first book, so kudos to her.  And Cathy is the sweetest and kindest person in a room of sweet and kind women. 

bless your heart

I’m from the south and say y’all and bless your heart a lot. However, within 5 minutes of meeting another Cathy, an elder lawyer from Pennsylvania, I was telling her the problems in Louisiana could be blamed on our fucking politicians. Bless my heart, I have such a potty mouth, but I think we became lifelong friends in that moment.

My roomie finally made it. Krysta is a beautiful woman and is the mother of 20-month-old triplets! This event was her first time away from them. Bless her heart (and I mean that in the good way) I will so enjoy following her blog as it chronicles their growing up. I also met Krysta’s friend Joy. Her backstory is that a whirlwind romance moved her from her native Philippines to this country! My ex is from Malaysia  and while I haven’t been to the Philippines, the two cultures have similarities. Blogging is such a fascinating and intimate way of connecting.

By the time the conference started, we were all BFFs. Sharon and Anne and Beth did a remarkable job of having a focused event with a solid lineup of speakers. The theme was what we all want to know; how to have a successful blog, and it was full of information that was accessible to both beginner and advanced bloggers. We went from how to create a media kit to how to create a brand.

And after all this long, information-packed day…the most remarkable part of the conference happened. The organizers threw out the question to the audience on what was our most popular posts. Someone shared how the story they wrote on their hard reality of never having an empty next because their son had autism. Another shared her breast cancer story. Women shared stories of living with handicaps and loneliness. Another shared her story how she got pregnant the first time she had sex and wrote about the abortion. Another spoke of the shocking racist trolls that live under the Internet that attacked after a sweet blog post about the first lady. The room filled with tears and compassion and support. That day everyone had a safe, sacred place to share their story.

It was a divine moment and everyone there shared the holiness.

What a beautiful gift. I am grateful that I am part of this sisterhood. Cheers to the midlife women who made it possible.