BlogHer 16 – A Photo Story From Los Angeles

Last week I pushed myself out of my introverted comfort zone and went to BlogHer 16 in Los Angeles.

It’s not easy for me to go to a huge conference, share a room with women I don’t know, and spend four days surrounded by thousands of people with very little alone time; you can imagine how awesome BlogHer must be if I manage to make it there!

Last year was my first BlogHer- and I went big- flying all the way from California to New York City  I wrote about my BlogHer 15 experience last year, and I have to say that not being a “newbie” for this year’s conference made it much, much less overwhelming and far more enjoyable overall.

A bit of background about BlogHer- it was founded in 2008 as a publishing company created by women for women to write and share content- the kind of company the founders always wanted to work with but couldn’t find. BlogHer has helped thousands of women writers and entrepreneurs  become empowered and successful, and with last year’s alignment with SheKnows Media, is certain to help thousands more women reach their dreams and live their passions.

So much happens at BlogHer- I thought I’d offer a BlogHer16- A Photo Story of Los Angeles to help you have a sneak peek, and hopefully motivate you to join me next year!

BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
I’m not a big city girl – so I always head out into nature. Santa Monica beach is full of all sorts of interesting creatures, and great views, too!
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
I wanted my BlogHer 16 roommate from North Carolina to have the ultimate L.A. beach experience – doesn’t get more beautiful than palm trees in the sunset.
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
After walking nearly 8 miles along the beach, we headed for Third Street Promenade – a gorgeous outdoor shopping mall in Santa Monica. Thank goodness for our Lyft ride home – we were exhausted!
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
BlogHer and SheKnows Media always choose beautiful locations for the BlogHer annual conference. The downtown JW Marriott was top notch, and our view from our room on the top floor was awesome – and I could constantly check the freeway traffic!
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
Los Angeles always has cool stuff to look at – our hotel was right around the corner from the Grammy Museum. Grammy Awards 2016!
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
BlogHer does a fantastic job making us feel welcome, and showing us how to get around the hotel…so many experts among us! (I’m called a ‘middle school’ expert!)
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
A big part of the BlogHer 16 conferences is the Expo – a chance for bloggers to connect with brands and check out all the trending products heading out into the marketplace. Thursday night is dubbed “Evening at the Expo”, so if you’re there early, you can get the first glance at the products, hosts, and have some drinks and appetizers . I’m a huge HGTV nerd, so meeting Sabrina Soto (Velcro ambassador) was great fun – and she helped me figure out how to hang Lily’s apartment curtains with their new HANGables product – fingers crossed it works! And yes, she’s as sweet in person as she is on TV…
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
The days and nights of the conference are jam packed – I love the Staples event each year (I’m a teacher and secret-stationery-supply-hoarder, you know!), and this year’s hosts Lori Loughlin (remember Aunt Becky from Full House?) and Gabby Reece (Olympic volleyball star) offered their ‘celebrity mom’ perspective on back to school. I left with a fab new backpack and gift card for school supplies! Win-win!
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
Loved Gabby’s super down-to-earth thoughts on mothering.
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
And I can’t forget the speakers…I stay mostly on the “Publishing and Writing” strand, and this talk on content by Lain Ehmann, Rachel Holis (The Chic Site), Susan Kaplow and Jadah Sellner (Super Green Smoothies) really made me think about building a community with love and consistently offering honest, helpful information. It was powerful.
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
BlogHer 16 did have its share of celebrity keynotes – Buffy the Vampire Slayer, anyone? I LOVED Sarah Michelle Gellar’s message about living life, tackling challenges, and remembering that failure is our first attempt at learning. She’s launching a new product line called Foodstir- look for it in Whole Foods soon. And maybe a Buffy reboot in the works???
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
I popped into a Business strand – talking about being an expert, and the ‘imposter syndrome’ with Julie Ross Godar and Tiffany Pham. I just love some of their points about being ‘smart’ to see your faults, and being OK with talking about what scares us. I had to LOL when I read the ‘fake it til you make it’ part – I tell my students that all the time!
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
Lunchtime keynote at BlogHer 16 –  Kim K. Make your own judgment – I’m not going to hate on my blog. She has beautiful hair.
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
Another spotlight moment – meeting Jessica Leahy, author of “The Gift of Failure” and writer for the New York Times. Teachers really are kindred spirits. When she saw me fan-girl with her book (and yes, she jumped down from the podium to sign it), she made my day. Love her brain. And the rest of the panel – Kathy Cano-Murillo (CraftyChica.com), Ayinde Howell (ieatgrass.com) and Penny Sansevieri were pretty cool, too!
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
I haven’t gotten my official AARP card – yet – but I was nevertheless invited to their #DisruptAging talk. I’m so glad I went – besides the delish bubbly and the free book, I was surrounded by the wisdom that comes with having lived for 50+ decades, and the beauty that comes with it.
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
Can you believe they’re all over 50? Successful, smart, strong women. Surround yourself with who you want to be.
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
I volunteered as a mic wrangler this year, offering me the chance to meet speakers and run around the room like I’ve got my own talk show! This session was about writing a memoir – these four women have each published their stories ranging from college advice (Christine Glascoe Crowder) , living in a harem (Jillian Lauren), grieving the loss of parents (Claire Bidwell Smith) and living in India (Jenny Feldon). I’ve got their books on my to-read list for sure!
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
Lunchtime speaker at BlogHer 16 Lucy McBath – mom of Jordan Davis and Faith and Outreach Leader for Everytown for Gun Safety – brought tears to my eyes.
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
Saturday’s lunch ended with keynote Mayim Bialik (Blossom, Big Bang Theory) sharing her thoughts on being a ‘hippie-crunchy-chewy-mom’ and how to live an authentic life in and out of the spotlight of celebrity. The had the crowd mesmerized! Have you checked out her website, GrokNation.com? So cool!
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
Another fun BlogHer event was watching the screening of Tig Nataro’s new pilot TV show, “One Mississippi” – and she entertained us with a Q and A right after.
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Feet up, last speaker of BlogHer 16. Comfy shoes and clothing is a must!
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
One thing BlogHer knows how to do is have fun – the closing party at The Conga Room (owned by Jimmy Smits, Jennifer Lopez, will.i.am) was hoppin’ thanks to child-prodigy DJ Fulano. He’s only 13!
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
Is this my tired face, or my “I love Whiskey Sours” face?
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
Saturday night, packing up…one of my favorite free swag items from the conference was this tee from the TNT #GoodBehavior TV show (and yes, we had a choice!).
BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
Just some free swag…great booths at the Expo this year! I’m telling you…that bai Cocofusion is like a pina colada in a bottle!

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BlogHer 16 - A Photo Story From Los Angeles
Sunday morning slog through LAX with 51 pounds of swag hiding in my bag – be sure to always bring a BIG, empty duffel to BlogHer!

BlogHer is definitely the place for writers and bloggers and women who want to surround themselves with others who want to work hard to reach their dreams. Have you been to a BlogHer conference? Come with me next year!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Rose Colored Memories

Point Lobos
Point Lobos, CA

The first time you took me there I couldn’t have been more than 12. My brown hair was cut shoulder length, signifying my emerging teenage angst. It was the 1970s, and stripes were all the rage. I remember that sweater, the pale yellow, rose and powder blue horizontals didn’t do anything for my pudgy frame, but it was comforting and soft against my skin as we walked along the shoreline.

Mom really looks like you, you know. I never realized it when I was little, or course, as children so often forget to notice the details. I remember your tiny, tiny feet, almost doll-like – I guess I thought everyone’s grandma shopped for shoes in the kid’s section. Visiting with you almost always involved a quick trip to Macy’s, and almost always resulted in a special addition to my wardrobe. Today I sometimes wear that heavy rose colored cardigan you made – the one flecked with gray and big enough to wrap around me like a warm hug from you when I’m freezing cold. My family teases me when I have it on, but I’ll never give it up.

Double Delight beauty
Double Delight rose

We always had to detour to say hi to Father Serra when we rolled into town, even though it was you I couldn’t wait to see. The last time we visited – a few months before you died – you held my boy on your lap in that rose armchair in your kitchen and smiled right into the camera. I’m sure he knows you loved him, even if he can’t remember. Lily was old enough to delight in the hidden treasures of your garden, skipping along the path, exclaiming with glee with each cement bunny or seashell treasure she uncovered. It was fairyland for her. Remember how she stood on tip-toe to smell your roses?

My son loves shortbread, you know. I wish you were here; you’d love feeding his lanky teenage body. You always had something delicious ready when his dad and I were dating; I’ve heard stories about Mom’s boyfriends always wanting to eat at your house, and now I realize why.   I know the shortbread recipe was really grandpa’s secret claim to fame – it was nice of you to let him have that little part of your world. You stacked the flaky, buttery shortbread squares right next to your dainty strawberry jam thumbprints. Oh, the cookies that came out of your kitchen. When we’d sit down for tea there was never a lack of sweets, always hiding in some sort of British tin you pulled out of the pantry. It made me feel like you baked them just for me, but I suspect that, like most everything in your life, you baked them just because you loved to.

Even today, when I walk into Mom’s house, I know you’re there. I can just feel you inside the adobe walls, I can hear your dainty feet pattering around the garden and your twig broom brushing the sand from the bricks, just like she still does today. You’re in the little kitchen when we eat – you know, the gas stove continues to  make it the warmest place in the house. Mom doesn’t make cookies like you did – but don’t worry, I use the shortbread recipe when I want to let my boy know how much he’s loved.

And just last week, right after I turned off the highway and whispered hi to Father Serra, I curled up in that rose colored armchair and thought of you.

This post was inspired by Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes, a memoir of her return to her roots in the South. Join From Left to Write on April 30th as we discuss Under Magnolia. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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My Eccentric Grandma Grace

One of Grandma Grace's dress designs.
One of Grandma Grace’s dress designs.

My mom lives in an old adobe cottage originally  purchased by my great-grandparents. For three generations this tiny home has been the place people go to live when they’re done with the big city, or just need a change. I’ve been told that Grandma Grace loved stone houses; maybe it was their solidity that drew her to them, or the way one feels so anchored to that place when sitting by the fire on a cool summer afternoon. Maybe it was just her opinionated spirit, a woman who knew what she wanted-I’ll never really know for sure.

Grandma Grace has always been a sort of eccentric shadow in my life. Although she and Pops moved to California in the 1940s, the adobe wasn’t the first house she bought on the California coast; legend has it that she was a huge fan of log cabins, and chose one as a summer vacation spot long before she made the move from St. Louis. Some people say it’s still haunted; personally, I believe them. Spirits like hers don’t just leave easily.

She was a small woman, with a huge personality. Not many women in the early 1900s had the courage to start their own business and employ their husbands in their dress designing company, but Grandma Grace did. She was the original entrepreneur, starting off by sewing her own clothes, then churning that home business into a successful design company. I still have boxes of lace and buttons she left behind, lingering like shadows of a world I never knew.

When I think of women in the 1940s, I think about a culture which required civility, meekness, and a certain sort of knowing one’s place in the world. I’m not sure I would have survived. At that time, women were unlikely to be the head of a household, own businesses or be divorced – and my Grandma Grace was all three. Of course, she ultimately remarried my great-grandfather, with my grandmother as her maid-of-honor; just another example of eccentric Grandma Grace.

I can just imagine Grandma Grace and her ladies together, teacups in front, maybe a flask to their side, discussing their desire to be themselves despite what conventional stereotypes might have dictated for women at the time. A sort of modern-day book group – without the book, but with the drinking.  I like to think she would have agreed with people like Bertrand Russell who said, “Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.”

I have to believe a bit of her eccentric spirit lives on in me today. I think she would have liked that.

This post was inspired by writealm.com’s word of the day, |eccentric|.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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reading with mamawolfe: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Like many avid readers, my bookshelf overflows with piles of ‘to-read’ or ‘in progress’ titles.  Being one who cannot part with a favorite, volumes of old friends mingle with the new, making for quite a commotion in space.  I peruse, sort, and even dust the titles carefully, always wishing for more time, for those moments when no one needs me and I can cuddle up with someone else’s thoughts for a little while.
It is rare that I finish reading multiple chapters of a book in one sitting, let alone the entire book in the course of a weekend.  Moms and teachers just don’t have that kind of time.
Recently I found a book that wouldn’t let me ignore it.  I’d heard about Wild, by Cheryl Strayed – everyone seemed to be talking about if after Oprah announced it as her first pick for her revised “Oprah Book Club 2.0” last year.  The problem for me, aside from a disconcerting lack of time for myself, was that I always bristle at the mainstream.  When something becomes a big seller, it makes me nervous.  Not because I think I’m somehow more “ivory tower” than anyone else is, but because I’m really, really choosy about how I spend my time.
So when I cracked the cover of Wild, I was ready to be unimpressed.  I was surprisingly disappointed – not in the writing, but that I could not put it down.
After the first few pages, I grabbed my writing notebook and began jotting down quotes.  Like this one on page 51: “Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told.”  Ok, Cheryl, you’re speaking to me now.  To the woman who kissed a Komodo dragon in Indonesia last summer.  To the one who is trying to write and hoping someone is listening.  To the mom of two teenagers.  I’m hooked.
Wild tells the autobiographical story of Cheryl’s early twenties, when her life had absolutely spiraled down into a place where many of us would simply give up.  From an unorthodox, meager childhood, to the early, tragic death of her mother, to a young marriage and eventually hitting rock-bottom abusing heroin, Cheryl’s story was not unbelievable.  I could feel the absolute plausibility of her words, seeing many women who could have easily fallen into the choices she made.
What I could not believe is her courage.  And independence.  And her somewhat reckless decision to hike the Pacific Crest trail, alone, without any experience.
But I admired her courage, her independence, and reckless decisions.  I felt connected to her.  I, myself, have hiked day trips on the Pacific Crest trail, but never would I have considered going all the way from the Mojave Desert to Oregon.  That takes some guts.  I understood how she made her decision, “how few choices (she) had, and how often (she) had to do the thing (she) least wanted to do.”  I’ve been there-as a mom, an educator, and a woman.  Sometimes, it seems like I’m there on a daily basis.
Cheryl’s journey reminded me of the power of the human spirit, the struggle so many of us go through to find ourselves, and the power of mind over body.  While some might mock her for her reckless unpreparedness, none could fault her for her determination.  When Cheryl could have simply escaped into the depths of an anonymous life, blaming everyone and everything for her problems, she instead set out.  “I asked for the shelter of my tent, for the smallest sense that something was shielding me from the entire rest of the world…”
Through her journey, she discovered the shelter of the world, the gifts that the universe has for those of us courageous enough to listen.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed, overworked, or out of time for yourself, please stop and crack open the cover of Wild.  You’ll be glad you did.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time there was a young girl growing up in an old, small town.  She had long, straight chocolate colored hair and deep brown eyes.  Her oval face held a blank expression most times, as she was the type to watch and listen more than express what she was thinking or feeling.

One autumn day this young girl arrived at school.  She loved her school-it was clean, quiet, and full of places to play.  She loved her teachers, and was a quiet and obedient student.  Unlike most kids her age, what she enjoyed most about school was reading.  She was happiest when she was working alone in her books, learning about new people and places and things.  Also unlike most kids her age, what she disliked most about school was PE.  It wasn’t that she disliked exercise-actually, she loved playing softball, hopscotch and four square.  For her, PE was terrifying for one reason: DODGE BALL.

In her little old town dodge ball was the favored sport for PE class.  Students begged and pleaded each day to play dodge ball during their treasured exercise time.  And as convincing as the students were, the teacher almost always agreed. Dodge ball it would be.

From beginning to end, dodge ball was excruciating.  The two manly boys who were always captains lined the other children up to select teams.  First chosen were always the other ‘sports boys’.  Next came the ‘tom boys’, and then the cute, outgoing girls.  Last was always the oval faced, brown eyed girl.

After that exercise in taxonomy, the game began.  Circling around their prey, the ‘sports boys’ would throw the ball at each other, eager to show off their quick reflexes and agility.  The prey would scurry from one side to the next, not wanting to be hit yet not quite wanting to back down, either.  Then the ‘tom boys’ jumped in, dodging with grace and flexibility.  The cute, outgoing girls giggled, admiring the prowess of the young, manly hunters. 

The young girl trembled, knowing it was just a matter of time before she became the victim.  Eyes wide, she tried to avoid the flaming red sphere, but every time SPLAT! she took it in the stomach. On the back.  At the ankles.  Tears welled up in her big, dirt colored eyes. 

Not sure which was more painful, the sting of the ball or the burn of the humiliation, she attempted to survive.  The predators became more confident.  The giggling girls pumped their testosterone.  SLAP!  TWANG! Over and over the ball would smash the young girl down, the laughter of her classmates growing louder and louder and LOUDER.  Paralyzed with pain and fear and humiliation she froze, absorbing one sting after another after another.

And in that moment, relived thirty-five years over and over, she realized something.  The young chocolate haired, dirt eyed oval faced girl learned that she owed her classmates a thank you.  For what she realized is that those ‘sports boys’ and ‘tom boys’ and laughing spectators had taught her a very important lesson: dodge ball is the way the world works.   

And in that moment, decades later, she realized that like dodge ball, it’s easy to run away from what’s coming at you.  She realized that it’s painless to punch someone in the gut, slap them on the back, ding them at the ankles and go back for more.  Because of dodge ball, she learned that it’s hard to stand strong, take the hit, stay upright, and confront each obstacle hurled by others.  She understood that life really is about survival of the fittest.  And because of dodge ball, she survived and lived happily ever after.

The End.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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