Wednesday, July 30, 2014

BlogHer14- Inspiration

Two years ago, I was at my 20th high school reunion telling people that I was a blogger.  

"Wow, there was just a huge conference  last week back in New York," said a friend's husband who lived in New York City.  "Were you there? I mean, my god there were bloggers everywhere!"

"Oh no, not me, I'm so small," I said sheepishly.  "That conference is BlogHer, it's huge. I don't know what I'd do there."

Then I carried on with reunion-ing.  I laughed and drank wine and danced and celebrated.

Over the next two years, I blogged, I wrote, I vlogged.  I wrote posts that no one read and a couple that quite a few people read.  I wrote my guts out.  I wrote about my kids, my crazy mother, my husband, product reviews, movies, politics and my dog.  I took pictures and made videos.  I learned how to be more social on social media.  I read blogs. I watched videos.  I submitted pieces of my writing, some were published and a lot were not.   I produced and directed a show.  I fell in love with the stage.  

But I still thought I was too small for BlogHer and didn't know what I'd do there.  Until this year, when one of my friends that I met through blogging nominated a post of mine for BlogHer Voices of the Year and that post was selected.  

When I read the email about the selection, I literally did the whole look behind and said "who me?" pointing to my chest.  Yeah, to the computer screen.  Because I mean...what, me?  I'm so small.

I found a way (via my generous big sister who bought my incredibly expensive plane ticket for my 40th birthday, again...what, for me?) to get to California for BlogHer 14.  My only plans for what I was going to do at the conference were to be present and not get too overwhelmed, meet people, learn something and dance, drink wine and celebrate.

The conference was more than I could have imagined.  The vibe was techie, intelligent, edgy.  It was a diverse group of women and some men--multicultural, young and old, punk rock and all business.  

The weekend was about making connections.  There were opportunities to connect with businesses in the expo hall, idols like Arianna Huffington and Jenny Lawson, bloggers and writers and designers and activists and advocates.  There were opportunities to reconnect with ourselves too. 

"Think about the message you have to offer," said one of the speakers, Francheska from  She spoke about emotional threads.  "We all have an emotional thread, what's yours?" she challenged the group.

Speaker after speaker spoke about getting through an illness or a scary diagnosis, getting over a divorce, recovering from heart break.  The women and men spoke about how blogging allowed them to express themselves, take control and find their voice, and a community that accepted it.

They weren't just stories of healing, they were stories of surviving and thriving.  They were stories that reaffirmed what I started learning the past two years.  The stories also inspired me to want more, do more, to keep writing, keep learning, keep connecting; to keep trying to make a difference through writing, through blogging, through getting involved, through my emotional thread, my voice. 

The Voices Of The Year were printed out on huge boards and displayed throughout the convention center during the reception on Friday night.  Posing in front of the display felt good.

My buddy Greta from who nominated my post. 

Then I laughed and drank wine and danced and celebrated.
And sang karaoke.

Yeah, that's RevRun.  He DJ'd the incredible closing party.  

BlogHer is for big and small bloggers and people that read blogs.  It is a party. It is political. It is educational.  It is networking.  It is a rally.  It is full of women who like to say "fuck" which I find incredibly fabulous and endearing.  It is part creative, part business and all kinds of emotional threads.  

BlogHer is inspiration.

My pledge in the Skype sponsor booth, inspired by the courageous storytellers/writers/people that I heard/met at BlogHer 14.
The sunrise all full of hope and you go home and say/write/shout/dance something outside my hotel room the morning I left California.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Getting Real at BlogHer

I'm getting ready to go to BlogHer in California.  It's a big-time conference for real bloggers and social media people.  I guess I'm one of those real blogger social media people now.   My flight leaves this Thursday and I'm nervous, like way nervous.  

I'm nervous to fly (my weird flight anxiety has gotten so bad over the last few years), to be away from my kids, to figure out what sessions to go to and how to get to my hotel from the airport.  I am not nervous however to be around so many real blogger social media people.  Will I be starstruck? Will I raise my hand in a session?  Am I a real enough real blogger to even be at the party?  I'm not one hundred percent sure about any of those things, but I know it will be okay.

A few years ago, I went to a smaller blogging conference and felt completely unprepared and out of place.  I was intimidated by the real bloggers.  I wore my insecurity around, on display like other bloggers wore cute flower pins (a lot of bloggers wore cute flower pins at this particular conference).   On the way home from that conference I cried and questioned why I even did this blogging thing.

But I kept on blogging, kept on searching for my voice and my confidence and myself.  Blogging, expressing myself, interacting with other creative types and noncreative types, producing a storytelling all led me to understanding that the more authentic I am, the more real I am, the more connected I am.  People respond to realness.  And it just feels good to be myself and honest.

It's been interesting the past few years, navigating writing sponsored posts without losing my voice, my authenticity.  When I was approached by Angel Soft® (BlogHer sponsor) to work with them to promote their #SheetOutOfLuck video campaign to discuss embarrassing #SheetHappens moments and how Angel Soft® can help prevent them, it just felt right.  

I mean you don't get much more real than talking about toilet paper and embarrasing moments in the bathroom.  Right?

The Angel Soft® videos are hilarious and as real as it gets.

Check this out...

And this one...

This one with teens and texting is my future, I just know it.

Knowing that we all have #sheethappens moments is the great equalizer.  Famous bloggers with a million Twitter followers have them.  My kids have them.  I have them.  We all have them.

I'm not afraid to get real and talk about them.  We all have had moments where we were stuck and vulnerable.  It gives finding our voice a whole new meaning.  When we run out of toilet paper and we have to ask someone in our family, or god forbid a stranger, to "get some toilet paper!!!!!!!!!! now, please!!!!!!!!!"

Angel Soft® wants to prevent you/me/all of us from having a #SheetHappens moment for an entire year.  They want to give someone a year's supply of Angel Soft® toilet paper.  I will be hosting a giveaway by Angel Soft® for a year's supply of toilet paper in the next couple weeks. Stay tuned.

Click here to check out more #SheetsAndGiggles videos.  Do you have a #SheetOutOfLuck moment?  You can share those moments with Angel Soft® on Twitter or Facebook, and follow the conversation using the official hashtags #SheetHappens and #SheetOutofLuck.

Check out the Angel Soft® web site.

And the Angel Soft® Facebook page and on Twitter.

These hashtags are priceless and those alone made me want to sign on to help with this campaign.  Because come on, let's get real--life is funny and it is so much better to be honest and laugh at ourselves and our #sheethappens moments.  

If you are going to BlogHer, head on over to the Angel Soft® booth (#201).  Stop by to participate in some fun booth activities and meet their team.  

So yeah, I'm nervous about getting to BlogHer, but I'm excited about being there.  I'm looking forward to meeting people that I've talked with only online but feel like they are some of my best friends.  I'm excited to meet bloggers/writers/YouTubers that I admire.  I'm excited to be real and vulnerable and honest and connect and laugh and learn.

I received financial compensation for this post from Angel Soft® however all opinions contained are my own.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

14 Years- A Deeper Love

Fourteen years of marriage.  I can't even wrap my head around how that's possible. How has it been so long?  How are we that old?  I mean, come on.  Life is kind of crazy like that, it's all blink of an eye, while you're making other plans, it's happening.  
Lucy took this picture of us this past weekend.  We were talking about how we so needed our recent family vacation to reconnect and make memories together.  I love seeing us being natural/happy/in love through her eyes.  I so wish I had captured moments like this between my parents.

Fourteen years ago today, I married Tim.  We had no idea what were doing.  We were very into the right now, not the long term.  I was worried about wedding dress details and he was worried about getting through the ceremony with his severe hangover from partying with his friends and brothers the night before.  We laughed our way through the ceremony and I danced the night away at our reception.  It was all wonderful and fun and funny.

"Make sure you enjoy it," several people advised me about the wedding.  "It goes by so fast, it's a blur and you don't want to forget it, enjoy it."

That was the single best piece of wedding-day advice I got from anybody.  The day was a blur of family members and activity. I felt like a politician holding babies, hugging old ladies and smiling at everyone.  But in all the happy chaos, I remembered the advice.  I remembered to look around several times and take it all in, storing it away in the "You Must Remember This" file in my mind.  My littlest brother who was the ring bearer dancing with his mom, who was married to my dad at the time (they aren't married anymore and my littlest brother is all grown up).  Laughing with my cousin whose feet hurt because she was dancing and so very pregnant with her first child (who is now a teenager! whaaat?).  

Oh my gosh, that's my little brother/ring bearer who is all grown up now. 

I filed away the fact that these people would never be together in a room uncles and aunts who drove/flew in from everywhere, my step-relatives, Tim's grandfather, our friends.  

Over the past 14 years, I have remembered the wedding advice and sort of made it my marriage/parenting/life advice.  

There have been so many more moments stored away in the "You Must Remember This" file it's overflowing.  But my god, those people were right--it goes by so fast, it's a blur and you don't want to forget it, enjoy it.

We are not skipping through life holding hands and remembering our perfectly perfect happy life. Nope.  We are raising a family, paying bills, making mistakes every day.  We are growing up together and learning to change with each other.  We still have no idea what we are doing, but we've been through things and when you go through things together, when your "You Must Remember This" file is overflowing with happy things and hard things and sad things and important things that have happened to both of you, it can make you stronger and more in love.  

A deeper love that we are celebrating, enjoying and never want to forget.

Here's the story of how we met more than 14 years ago...

Monday, July 21, 2014

What We Do

We hit the road last week to go on another road trip.  This time we upped our game, we brought along Tim and the dog, the whole family.  All seven of us hopped in the minivan after Peyton's baseball game on Thursday and left town.  

We left town to reconnect.  We left town to make memories.  
This trip marked the very first time in the history of our family that we have been on a vacation that didn't involve visiting other family or going on trips with other family members or traveling to a baseball tournament.  This trip was something I've wanted to do for years--just us.

Up North was our destination, actually Big Lake in Gaylord, Michigan.  If you live in Michigan you understand that going "up north" means going anywhere north of where you live and it involves a lake. In the land of great lakes, that phrase covers a lot of ground.  But it really could have been "out west" "down south" "across the river"...I only cared that we were going to be together for a few days.  Together to make memories that we would talk about forever.  

I tried to keep expectations low, but we were all really excited about this trip.  Especially Tim and me.  Even though the pressure was on, the trip worked out, it actually exceeded our lofty expectations.

It was the kind of trip that reminds you about all the good there is in growing up and summertime and family and S'mores and simple pleasures and being together and laughing from your gut and soaking up sunsets.

We jumped off the dock, skipped rocks, caught fish, kayaked, went on boat rides, sat by the fire, roasted marshmallows, played cards, told stories and more.  It was like summer camp.  It was buggy and un-fancy and familiar and comforting and relaxed and happy.

We left the cabin to do a few tourist-y things.  We found a festival in town.  There were rides and caricature artists and flower crowns.


Tim was terrified of the Ferris Wheel.

We took a ferry to Mackinac Island.  The island is car-less, everyone rides bikes and horses.  And everyone eats fudge, the island is famous for making delicious fudge.  

The whole island was picturesque and sort of perfect.  Well, until we showed up.
 We brought a gluten-free picnic lunch and ate it on the lawn of Fort Mackinac overlooking the boats and the town.  It was perfect until JT threw a potato chip to a seagull.  Yup, then a million seagulls surrounded us and we grabbed our food and took cover.

After our hilarious picnic fail, we did a little sight-seeing.  The island is also famous for a hotel, the Grand Hotel.  

So, I thought we should go take a look at it.  We marched our way across the island laughing and bickering and people watching.  We were stopped right before we got to the hotel.  "Excuse me, are you guests of the hotel," the woman asked looking my motley crew up and down already knowing our answer.  

Maybe it was the holes in Tim's shirt, the bird poop on Peyton's neck or Wade and JT wrestling on the sidewalk, I'm not sure what exactly gave away the fact that we were way too un-fancy to be guests of her hotel.

"Well, just to let you know there is a charge for non guests going any further," she smiled.

I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman except I'm not a hooker and I have a gaggle of children always following me--remember the scene in the clothing store. Ahhhhhh!  "Come on guys, let's get out of here," I informed my family who looked confused.  As we walked back to wear the common folk gathered, I might have muttered "who needs your dumb fancy hotel anyway, even if I had extra money I wouldn't pay you to stand on the porch."  

Down by the ferry dock, we found an outdoor, free graffiti art board. Creative self-expression, color, messy, un-fancy...right up our alley.

This trip reinforced who we are as a family.  That wasn't my plan, it just kind of happened. When one of us tried kayaking for the first time, we cheered each other on and when we got the hang of it we raced each other because that's what some of us do.  When one of us only wanted to fish the entire time and didn't particularly enjoy scary ghost stories at the bon fire we said "that's cool" because that's what we do.  When birds pooped on our picnic, we ran and squealed and laughed our heads off because that's what we do.  When we couldn't afford a million souvenirs or walking around the fancy hotel porch some of us got dissapointed but we got over it because that's what we do.  When all of us were sitting on the boat together not racing to a practice or a game or work or a friend's house, we had fun because that's what we do.

I don't think the children understood how precious this whole weekend away was the way Tim and I understood it.  I doubt they were looking at each other and wanting to hold onto the moment forever like I was.  But maybe they will remember it, maybe they will be stronger for it and know that we are an un-fancy family that loves big, accepts, supports and encourages each other, gets on each other's nerves like all families but gets over it quickly and that we love a sunsets and road trips.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Wow and What I Know For Sure

My kids can be a rowdy bunch.  They are boisterous and funny and a little bit nuts, but almost always having a good time.  They are not mean, they don't swear or steal.  I love my rowdy bunch, even when I take them places like the grocery store. Even when they bicker or do normal kid stuff.  Even when not everyone gets how wonderful they are.
"If you keep bugging your brother, I am going to pick you up and put you in this baby seat," I said channeling my best Claire Huxtable-I-mean-business-mister face. I said this to Peyton who is three inches taller than me.

"Ooooh, I'd like to see you do that," an older gentleman said as he walked by us in the fresh produce section.  

"I'm not afraid, I'll do it," I said.

"Oh, I know that's true," the man replied laughing.  "Boy, I remember those days."

We continued shopping and my kids continued to be a bit um, boisterous.  

"Stay here, I'll be right back," I told them as I walked over to pick out the cheapest chicken breasts.

"Wow," said a mother next to me nudging her teenage daughter and pointing.  "I mean, just wow."

She was pointing at my kids.  Her "wow" wasn't a nice "wow."  It was a "wow" filled with judgement and annoyance and superiority.  Her "wow" was mean.  It wasn't even a "wow" that meant she'd been there and remembers when her kids were little and got restless running errands.  Nope, it was a "wow" just meant to be rude and suck-y and teach her teenage daughter to be that way.

I looked at my kids and felt a new sense of pride.  "Wow," I thought.  My "wow" was filled with love and pride and happiness.  Those loud, rowdy kids were interesting and fun and so alive.  

I love being their mom and having the most non-boring trips to the grocery store ever.  I am grateful for opportunities to teach them to support people and laugh with people like the nice man in the fresh produce section. And when I "wow" someone, it is going to be to lift them up, not weigh them down with judgement or ridicule, I know this for sure.  

We are our own little parade in the grocery store parking lot!

Here's what else I know for sure this week, right now:

  • Summer is my favorite time of year for so many reasons, like the fact that we can all take the dog for a walk together in the middle of the day.

  • This movie, Boyhood, looks ahhhhhmazing. 

  • My kids made up a great new game at the beach the other day.  They bury my feet in the sand and they tell me I have to sit down and not move. They think they are being mean making me sit. Ha!

  • There's nothing better than fresh peaches and sweet tea in the summer.

  • My Listen To Your Mother reading is up on YouTube!  Check me & the rest of the Metro Detroit cast out.

What do you know for sure this week, right now?  Share it here or on my Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Cat, The Sewing Machine and My Mom

She moved and left the cat behind.  I knew she was in a hurry to start her new life, ready to move on, get away, run away.  But it still surprised me that she left the cat.

"Well, she never liked me anyway," she said.  It was the same thing she said about me when she told me she was getting married and moving to California.  She was right, I didn't like her that much but I thought it was normal for most 16-year-olds to not like their mothers that much.  

I can't remember the final good-bye with my mother all those years ago.  But I do remember going back to the house and looking for the cat every day after school.  The new owners hadn't moved into the house yet, it was empty.  "Kitty, kitty," I called.  That's what we called her, even though her name was Furry Socks.  A dumb name my sister and I had given her a decade earlier.  My sister, the smart responsible one, wanted to name her Socks because she had white spots on her paws, yeah, like socks.  I wanted to name her furry because yeah, she had fur.

The cat really didn't like my mother, or me.  The cat liked my sister, but she left for college several years earlier.  The cat liked my brother, but he moved to Nebraska to live with our father a few months earlier.  My memories of the cat included moments of terror.  She used to pounce on my legs as I came down the stairs, clinging to my jeans with her sharp claws.  My mom would run and get the broom and hit her until she finally released my leg.  

Even though I hated the cat and she hated me, I went back every day for her after my mom moved.  Nobody should be left behind, not even a really mean cat.

She finally showed up and I swear she looked at me like "you? really? you are the one to save me?"  I picked her up and found her a home.  The family I was living with didn't want a cat, so one of my mom's old friends took her.


I don't write about my mother as much anymore because well, it is complicated.  Mental illness is complicated, addiction is complicated.  Being the daughter of someone suffering is complicated and frustrating and sad and upsetting and confusing.

My mother moved to California when I was 16.  It's a long story.  One that I understand with such deeper compassion and empathy now that I am an adult.  But at 16, I felt deserted, rejected, left behind, unwanted. My father moved away.  My sister moved away.  My brother moved away.  And finally my mother moved away.  I was the one that was left behind. 

Being rejected, being left behind brands you.  The scar fades but it never totally goes away.  

Over 20 years later, I have so much love in my life. I have not let the scars on my heart ruin me or make me a victim.  I have worked hard (and had a shit load of therapy) to use my pain as a tool for more empathy, more compassion.  In the last few years especially, I have learned to embrace my emotionality rather than be afraid or ashamed of it.

I have also tried to have a relationship with my mother.  She moved back to Michigan after being away for 15 years.  We weren't in the same town, but close enough that I could help her a little or at least try to help her.

The doctors called, I went.  When I showed up in her hospital room, she often gave me the same look that our old cat did "you? really? you are the one to save me?"  I felt like I could take her insults, her misplaced pain--the result of her addictions, her mental illness and her plain old meanness.  I tried to help her through several episodes of withdrawal from the million prescription drugs she took like candy, surgeries, tried to help her quit her addiction to the Home Shopping Network, make peace with her neighbors, find the right doctors, clean her house and find her a driving service.  I stopped going to her house alone with my kids because she would either pass out in front of them too much or be rather mean to one of them.  I took a break when she accused me of stealing things from her home and called the Better Business Bureau (again) on the service I hired to help take care of her.  

It was all kinds of complicated.  But I wanted to do it because it was the right thing to do.  Because she had no one else.    And maybe just maybe, if I am really honest about it all, I thought there might someday be this moment of clarity, a moment of real mother/daughter connection.  It seems so silly and ridiculous to even write that, but it's true.  It's sad and upsetting and confusing.

I thought it was going to be like this until she outlived us all.  But a few weeks ago, she informed my sister and me that she was moving.  She'd found an "Over-55" apartment complex that had an activities director, access to an emergency button and people that checked in on her.  It was cheap and in Alabama and she was leaving.  When she told me my heart raced and I instantly felt 16.  I felt like I hadn't done enough, been there enough, helped her enough.  but 40-year-old me knew it was never enough for her. 


"If you don't want this old sewing machine, I'm going to give it to Good Will," my mother told me last week as she was getting ready to move. 
There is a more modern sewing machine built inside of my great-grandmother's original foot-pedal sewing machine.

She was leaving the sewing machine behind.  The sewing machine that belonged to my great-grandmother.  The sewing machine that my mother used to sew all of my Halloween costumes when I was a kid and so many of my clothes.  I remembered playing at her feet while she made matching sundresses for my sister and me.  Years before any complicated-ness.  

How could she just leave the sewing machine behind?  Nothing that important should be left behind for just anyone.  I decided I had to go get it, even though I don't know how to sew.


Last week, the movers packed up my mother's things in a truck.  My sister got ready to drive her down to Alabama.  And I loaded up the sewing machine in my minivan and said good-bye.

All the feelings of being the person a mother can't wait to get away from came back.  It overwhelmed me.  There would be no more caring for my mother.  There would be no more real hope of a moment of mother/daughter connection.  

It's complicated and sad and frustrating and confusing.  

While my sister and I helped pack up my mother's things, two of my children laughed and played in the back yard.  They had no idea that anything was heavy or weird or sad or complicated.  They  laughed and chased and played make believe and distracted my sister and me.  And reminded me to get out of the past.

I got back on the highway after the good-byes and headed back to my very full life of busy, laughing children and so much love.  A life I never want to leave behind.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pom Poms, A Pinterest Poser Challenge

I've seen some cool places this summer, but nothing beats my front porch.  I love my front porch.  It's not fancy.  It's the front porch of our not-so-nice, plain, brown rental house.  It may not be fancy, but it's really my favorite place in the world.  

We eat breakfast, lunch and dinner on our front porch starting in late spring until it gets too cold in late fall.  We have family meetings and games on our front porch.  We read, we talk, we hang out, we celebrate on our front porch.
Last week we celebrated the first day of the last year of Tim's third decade. 

I love when I find them just hanging out together talking.
It is simply the best.

Reading with my girl.

Last year, we made our beloved door table.  This year, I added a few very cheap decorations which happen to be this week's Pinterest Poser Challenge.*

In an attempt at not being a Pinterest Poser,** every week I attempt and detail a project/idea/recipe inspired by Pinterest.
**My definition of a Pinterest Poser is someone who is all pins and no substance.  

Inspired by the folks over on the blog A Beautiful Mess, I made a tissue pom pom garland.  

I already had the tissue paper and the twine.  So, I put the Gypsy Kings Pandora channel on and started making my decoration.   

We had all kinds of craft projects going on on the porch that day.

I simply cut out small-ish squares of tissue paper (approximately 10-15 squares), stacked them and tied a piece of twine around the middle.  I then spread out the tissue paper and formed it into a ball.  I tied each tissue paper ball to a long piece of twine and then hung it above my windows with two pieces of completely un-fancy silver duct tape.

I love the pop of color it brings and how it makes every day feel like a party.

Have you made anything inspired by Pinterest lately? Share it here or on my Facebook page.  

A Delightfully Simple Birthday Party--click here
Make An Awesome Omelette--click here
Outdoor Lights Inspired by the show Parenthood- click here
Herb Garden with Chalboard Pots- click here
Backyard Graffiti Art with kids- click here
Happiness Notecards- click here
Gluten Free Rainbow Cake- click here
Fruit Roll-Up Fortune Cookies- click here
Make Your Own Magnets- click here
DIY Painted Clay Necklace- click here
Dixie Cup Lights- click here
DIY Ornaments-click here
Gluten Free Clay- click here
Make Your Own Stamps- click here
Birthday Shirt- click here

Gluten Free Pop Tarts- click here
Front Porch Kid Art Display- click here
Door turned into Table- click here
Summer Wish List Chalkboard-click here
Peanut Butter Nutella Cookie Sandwiches-click here
Painted Mason Jar Vases-click here
Cinco de Mayo Paper Flowers- click here
Earth Day Cupcakes- Click here
Nail Art-click here
Homemade Photo Booth Fun- click here
Fake Bangs- click here
DIY Subway Art- click here
Furniture Painting and Bench/Chest Makeover- click here
Thanksgiving-y Project/Gratitude/Holiday Countdown- click here
The Smoothie-click here
The Free Printable Turned Artwork in a Boring Hallway- click here
The chalk board-click here
Seven Layer Dip in Individual Cups (my favorite so far!)-click here
The pumpkin address-click here
The Kitchen Dancing Sign--click here

  Head on over and follow my Pinterest boards-click here!

Oh yeah, and come follow me on Twitter @AngelaYBlood and subscribe to my YouTube channel here.