We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!

That’s pretty much how I would sum up the Blissdom Conference.

This was my third year attending, and over the years I’ve watched the conference evolve, as well as the blogosphere. These days there are a lot more sponsors, a lot more new faces, and a lot more opportunities. Even though I sometimes miss the simplicity and the intimacy of those early blogging days, I can’t help but be excited about where things are going.

Like I did after BlogHer, I am going to write one mega post on Blissdom and then I promise not to speak of it again for at least six months, or when it’s time to purchase my plane ticket for next year!

It was surreal landing in the Nashville airport last week.  It was starting to feel like my second home there for a while. I arrived at the Opryland Hotel under the dark veil of drizzle that soon turned to snow and checked in like an old pro. They handed me the familiar map and showed me the path to my room.

I literally had to walk as far as a person can possibly walk in this mammoth hotel to find my room.

Look.

Opryland Hotel

See what I mean?

I joked with the bellman that this ought to be some room for that walk, but alas, it is just an ordinary room with 2 queen beds and barely enough room to walk between them. But it sufficed, and I got my exercise without having to darken the door of the gym.

The week was full of hugs and squeals, speakers and panel sessions, parties and pictures and late-night pow-wows with my 3 roommates. Okay, well it wasn’t that late. I think we were in bed by 11:00 every night. I guess that’s what motherhood will do to ya.

While the parties were fun and the sessions were informative, my favorite times were those spent with small groups of the people that are most important to me.

shelly jordana jolynne

Hanging out with my roommate, Shelly, and long-time friend, Jordana

Photo credit: AngryJulieMonday

christina and romy

Christina and Romy

jill robin jolynne

Jill and Robin and me

Amanda and me

Shelly and me

Melanie, Jill and Robin

so bummed this is blurry

friends

Sarah, Katie, Hillary, Donielle, Emily

All those ladies up there? They are why I go to Blissdom.

I had dinner one night with a big group of women, and we were asked to go around the room and tell what we think “real beauty” is. I was pretty sure that it was going to bomb. I mean, how many different answers could there possibly be? I only hoped that I could take my turn towards the beginning, before there was nothing original left to say.

Fortunately, I was able to have my say in the first group and get my 2 cents in early, but imagine my surprise when we went around the room and every single woman had a slightly different take on “real beauty.” It never got old, it never felt contrived, everyone shared from the heart, and I couldn’t help but think, THIS is why I return to Blissdom year after year.

Sure, we all like to put our best foot forward, especially at events like this. We take extra time in the morning to put on makeup and fix our hair, we plan outfits with accessories and pack our cutest shoes. I won’t deny that appearance matters. But this is what I tell my daughters, and I truly believe this:

No matter how pretty you are on the outside, and no matter how cute your purse is or how stylish your haircut is, a real beauty is the woman who is kind and gracious, the one who makes everyone feel welcome and loved. That is the kind woman I want to be, and those are the women I try to surround myself with. It’s not hard to do at Blissdom.

Friends

One new thing that Blissdom did this year was form tribes.  The point was for everyone to feel like they had a place to belong.

I was asked to be one of the Fashion Tribe leaders, but going in, only one other person had come forth and claimed our tribe.  Allison and I sat alone at our Fashion Tribe table during the opening keynote, assuming that we might be a tribe of two. But afterwards, when everyone was encouraged to join their tribe for a time of networking, we ended up with a table that was overflowing with women who share our love of style. We had a great time meeting and greeting and I even made a few new friends and possibly a new contributor for All Things Chic!

Tribe leaders were encouraged to plan an event for their tribes on Saturday morning, so the fashion tribe went…

shopping in franklin

Shopping!

It was only four of us because most people were traveling home on Saturday, but we had a blast. It was definitely a highlight of my trip.

fashion tribe at blissdom

Jo-Lynne, Romy, Jamie, Valerie

shopping at blissdom

Valerie fell in love with these knitted boots

We ate at 55 South, where they describe their food as “a rustic take on down-home Southern comfort food.” That pretty much sums it up.

Valerie presented us with these adorable friendship bracelets at lunch cause she’s sweet like that.

friendship bracelets

friendship bracelets

Finally, I can’t finish this post without giving a shout out to my HYPER LOCO panel!

Sarah, Laura and me

We had a great time, although we could have used another hour.

Blissdom 2011 Wisdom Workshops

Hyper Local Blogging Panel

Photo credit: Emmie’s_Mommy

I truly appreciate everyone who came to hear us, and hopefully next year we will have a hyper local tribe!

Big shout out to Barbara, Alli and Paula for another huge success. And I particularly want to thank Therapon for sponsoring my ticket.

Till next year…

I linked up to my own Blissdom Recap Link Up as well as Melissa’s at The Inspired Room.