“Be All Of Who You Are” & 24 Other Great Quotes from #BlogHer14

 

#BlogHer14 words

The words that mattered most at BlogHer14

I don’t have time to write a full recap about all that made BlogHer14 an amazing and thought provoking experience. Besides, so many of you have already written recaps that mirror much of what’s in my head and heart. So instead, I’m perusing the notes I took and the tweets I tweeted or retweeted – and listed below are the statements that impacted me most. Apologies in advance for not being able to attribute them or bungling them a tad — but know that your words were heard and felt.

Be all of who you are

What people think of me is not my problem

I an unable to can

Be a conduit not a vessel

Don’t fear the stories that make you uncomfortable and make you think

I try not to tell other people’s stories but I’m very committed to telling my own

The best networkers are givers

No is a complete sentence

Sometimes the words burn hot and I just have to get them out

Live life as though everything is rigged in your favor

Being tired is the new norm and we have to change that

We need to listen even harder

Make connections that map to your values and your soul

Find the moments when you can enter the conversation and have something meaningful to say

Be additive

If you don’t have a seat at the table, bring your own chair

You don’t need permission: you’re you

Just give a crap

Good intuitive poignant writing will always be relevant

Comparison is the thief of joy

I want my blog to be a love letter to my kids

Value the slow

We are creating culture with every blog post we publish

Writers write. Always. Everywhere.

Words make the world.

#BlogHer14

P.S. I write about the key takeaways from BlogHer for brands for my company’s blog. You can find it here.

P.P.S. I also pulled together a Storify to highlight the tweets and images from BlogHer – it’s over here.

The Words That Mattered Most at #BlogHer14

#BlogHer14  words

The words that mattered most at BlogHer14

The Understudy

Guest post by Tarah Cammett

Writing for me has always been simple.  A therapy of the mind.  A way to release my past.  Process breakups and major life changes.  Throw it out there in the Universe and remove it from my spirit.  What I have realized as I have tried to write about my experiences so far of being a ‘Stepmother’ – or ‘Understudy’ as I so often refer to it, is that I’m struggling.  Greatly.  It’s easy to write about the past; things that no longer exist or serve me anymore.  It is however, extremely difficult to write about something deeply personal and ever present in my day to day life.  More so, how do I possibly encapsulate all that I have experienced?  How this has changed me?  How wonderful and frightening it’s all been.  I can’t.  Not in a simple blog post but I have to start somewhere.  So consider this a Preface.  An introduction.  Perhaps this will be a breakthrough and a journey into a new place as a writer.  Perhaps it will be an utter disaster.  You’ll have to be the judge.

About a year and a half ago I was coming off the tail end of my own version of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and unwinding from an incredible spiritual journey of the soul.  I had spent months traveling, talking, seeking.  Hours on therapy couches and a lot of time spent with an overly priced Shaman (which by the way was worth every penny).  My mind was at peace.  I finally felt at rest, that I had let these ‘things’ that had followed me around, plaguing me, go.  I had discovered acceptance in the not knowing and in the just being.  I was fiercely content or more so adamant about being alone and savoring every moment of it.  It was of course, in that moment, that my now husband walked into my life and brought with him his wee 1-yr old baby girl.

My life for all of its chaos has always been very controlled.  Well, because I have controlled it.  Controlled chaos.  Maybe even on some levels planned chaos.  But I didn’t plan them.  I didn’t plan on him regardless of the secret hope of one day finding someone who my soul sort of melted into but I most certainly did not plan her.

He was easy.  Every day that we spent together I fell more and more.  He became funnier.  Smarter.  Sexier. The boy that I had assured would never be anything more than a ‘buddy’ and/or ‘lover’, I found myself wanting to rush home from work to see.  He was just there, and never left and it was as if we had always been.  It just made sense.  And then, well, then I was introduced to his daughter.  She wasn’t what got me – regardless of how beautiful she was, it was the way he was with her.  So hyper conscious.  So madly in love.  So gentle and patient.  Nail in the coffin.  I was a goner.  There is nothing sexier than a good father.

She and I weren’t so easy at first.  It wasn’t that children made me uncomfortable.  I love kids.  I have god babies and nephews and until I met the Peanut they were the center of my Universe.  It was that upon meeting her I realized that I had to shift what I understood of love.  I knew in an instant that I would have to accept my place in my husband’s heart.  I would never be first.  And that was something that I had never experienced.  There would always be someone ahead of me.  It was something my ego wasn’t accustomed to.  Maybe in the beginning I was weary of her because of that.  Or because she was so painfully shy she didn’t immediately come running into my arms.  Perhaps it was the horrible relationship he had with her mother that I internally projected distaste for on to her.  All I can express, if I was to be completely truthful was that it wasn’t love at first sight.  For either of us.

It was ultimately a slow evolution of learning about unconditional love in a way that I had not yet known.  Getting to know a person, who is older and has sort of worked out their idiosyncrasies is one thing.  Getting to know an infant who’s changing every instant is another.  It was like navigating a mine field.  Ok.  It still is.  As a parent, it’s your choice and there’s a sort of genetic bond that prods you through.  As a ‘stepparent’ it’s a bit different.  This little intruder kind of appears and you’re supposed to just love them.  I guess in writing that, I just realized it is the same for any type of parent – genetic or not.  Perhaps it’s just that as a ‘stepparent’ I found myself being hyper cautious, and hyper positive.  Both of which made me feel off kilter.

Not long into it I found this weird ‘instinct’ I wasn’t aware existed.  I knew what her cries meant.  I knew what we should do for her.  I would always wake up 5 minutes before I would hear her on the monitor and wait knowing that she was about to wake as well.  As we adjusted to each other we began to play and laugh and every time I got her to smile or giggle my heart melted as my internal ego high fived herself at the minor accomplishment.  I found myself personalizing her whims less.  It’s ok if she wanted Daddy instead of me. It just makes the times that she does ask for me all the more sweet.  She became my first thought in the morning.  My last thought at night.  Her well-being.  Her future.  Loving her made me feel closer to him.  We had a shared goal.  Her existence.

Well, and then I became the cliché.  Poopy diapers, booger filled noses.  Singing weird made up random songs that made her laugh uncontrollably.  Reading books in funny accents and making silly faces to combat hers.  We became a couple.  The same way that two stranger’s sort of fall in love I guess.  Losing inhibitions, slowly being yourself.  Getting to know one another and then finally just realizing that everything weird about them is something great about you.

It’s not to say that this love isn’t without struggle.  I despise the word ‘stepmother’ or ‘stepchild’.  I don’t think of her as something in lieu of.  She’s part of my soul circle.  Souls travel in circles throughout lifetimes to find each other again and I believe she found me early on in this one because I’m supposed to teach her something.  But what?  Sometimes that thought plagues me.  I have no creepy notions that I’m her ‘true’ mother.  She has a mother.   I respect her mother’s genetic and emotional role.  I have no desire to replace it, circumvent it, or trump it.  I just want to be a positive force in her Universe as well.  Someone that she believes in.  Yes, when we’re at the grocery and the cashier wants to recap the perils of childbirth and gives me the, “Well you remember what that was like…” line, do I nod in vaginal unity?  Of course.  It’s easier.  But I am not her mother.  Maybe that does hurt on some level given my affinity for her but maybe what hurts more is that I don’t know how to ‘label’ our relationship.  To find a word, or a phrase that encapsulates it so that when it’s said people nod knowingly – that’s what I would like.    A word that means more than ‘step’ anything.

There was a moment a couple months back.  She and I had been dancing in the kitchen (we do that often).  It had just been one of those fantastic weekends where we laughed and played all weekend, everything was just happy.  We were packing her up to return her to mother’s.  It’s always a shit feeling that sweeps over hubs and I.  We don’t want it to end, but it is what it is and in essence the only way the Peanut has ever known.  I digress.  I was on my knees giving her kisses, telling her how much I loved her and that I would miss her and how proud I was of her and she began stroking my hair, then my cheeks.  “Mama” she said.  “Yes, you’re going to see Mama in a few minutes and you’re going to have so much fun with her” I responded.  She shook her head no.  She again stroked my cheeks and said, “Mama” and she stared intently into my eyes.  I knew what she meant.  It was her way of acknowledging my presence as a maternal figure in her life, she of course wasn’t calling me her mother. It was the only way at two years old she knew how to express herself.  I cried for pretty much a solid three hours after she left, just out of love, and wonder, and maybe a twinge of sadness.  I’m quite sure when I saw her a few days later she put out her hand and told me to, “Go!” so that she could be alone with Daddy but that’s how it works.  The ebb and flow.

I can’t possibly write about all of this in any succinct logical way.  One day I was wild and single and the next day I was picking out a crib and baby proofing a house.  I could create 80 chapters on each moment, emotion, phase, understanding, point of being, crushing moment of sadness, elation….you name it.  For now, I know this.  You are always exactly where you are supposed to be.  My husband brought me a beautiful gift.  A dowry if you will.  He brought me a teacher.  Someone who will challenge all that I have and will come to know and see of this world and myself every single day.  She might not be mine but god dammit she is part of my tribe and I will do whatever I can to protect her and to give her light.  My compass broke a long time ago so I’m navigating by moon phases, toddler emotions, laughter and levels of exhaustion but somehow, I still wake up every morning excited at what the sounds of the monitor will bring.  So I’m going with it.

Thanks for listening.

Tarah is a hippie corporate sell-out Marketing Director by day and a soul seeking Moon follower by night, hiding away in a tiny town by the ocean.

tarah

Guest Post: Searching

by Ben Jackson

As most of us who blog discover from our analytics, people put some strange search phrases together to find things on the internet. Aside from the stomach-churning searches for nocturnal activities (of which there are many), I also often find queries for advice on dadding (“single dad blog. too busy to eat breakfast”), searches for quotes and things to say on fatherhood (“dad eulogy” often appears), and queries for which I simply can’t understand how my blog could possibly be relevant (“waiter with dreadlocks” and “she said prison barber hair shorn”).

And then there are the searches for “teratoma,” and variants thereof.  It’s these people, anonymous through the internet, I want to find, and hug and do whatever else I can to offer some small measure of comfort.

My daughter Emma was born in 2001 with a cervical teratoma – a tumor on her neck which was larger than her head.  It protruded from her mouth, it extended down into her chest and attached from her heart, and it sat like a grapefruit underneath her chin.  It nearly killed her, and she spent almost her entire first year hospitalized as a result.

These search queries in my stats page are small digital prayers.  They represent some terrified stranger, who has just received news that is far beyond their comprehension, and they are pleading into the information ether for salvation or information. They are suffering in a way I can understand more deeply than almost anyone else on the planet, and most of the time I feel powerless to do anything to help.  I hope my writing provides some factual information and a lot of hope, but because of the anonymity of the internet, these deeply personal cries for help are beyond my reach to personally answer.

Last week, I received an email from a mother of a girl who also has a tumor similar to the one Emma had. She talked about being isolated, and was largely reaching out for a connection from a very lonely and scary place—and it knocked me for a loop for a bit.  It reminded me that what we write is read by actual people; that those search phrases bandied about have an individual behind a screen, looking for something to connect with.  That, beyond the creeps searching for their jollies, there are stories, and there is pain, and hope, and love and loneliness yearning for something that maybe we can touch.

It reminded me that we who write have a responsibility to those people behind the queries, that our words matter to someone, and that we had damn well better get what we’re trying to say right—and it reminded me that from my readers I can gain the connection that I seek as a writer, and as a dad.

Here’s hoping that your queries find you the connections you seek in 2014!

Ben Jackson is a father, blogger, publishing professional, creative writing student, and majestically bearded. From time to time, he has conned otherwise sensible editors into publishing his short fiction and essays. As an avid martial artist, one can often find Ben writing through bruises, slings and casts. You can read more of his writing at www.benfjackson.com or www.dadofthedecade.com

ben xmas sweater

Guest Post: On The Bright Side … of Depression?

by Spencer Bruford

I’m @AdadcalledSpen. Not a journalist or a writer, just a dad to 2 amazing children. I was a SAHD for 3 years and now I’m not. I’m divorced, love cheese and got the moves like Jagger. I blog at http://adadcalledspen.wordpress.com/, have had written stuff published in books, and recently won an award for blogging.

I’m honoured to be asked to write a guest post for Samantha’s blog.

Well, I kinda volunteered myself but let’s gloss over that. The point is I’m writing for this blog, and I’ve been asked to write something about the brighter side of Life.

And so I’m going to write about depression.

No. Don’t run away. I’m going to attempt to write a positive and uplifting post about depression. About this thing that can cripple and debilitate people, and bring them to their lowest points. I’m no expert on the subject. I’m no guru or plastic philosopher, sending out inspirational tweets or posting inspirational quotes on my FB feed, I can only speak from my experience, and so it is from this standpoint that I’m writing this post.

First positive thing.

You see, I’m writing this post.

Me.

I’m writing it.

This means something.

It means I’ve suffered from depression, and may well have a moment or two in the future where something knocks me for six, but the thing is I am writing it.

I’m not dead. I’m here.

Hello. *Waves*

My gran always said, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. She also said never eat anything bigger than your own head, so she wasn’t always Yoda. But she was right. Man alive I’ve felt ABJECT in the past. Low, suicidal, and I’ve attempted that twice, but I AM here. I’m alive.

Guess what? It didn’t kill me. I sought the help I needed, got the counselling I had to have, took the meds for a bit, changed my way of thinking and, while that Black Dog does lurk round the corner sometimes I now feel able to look it straight in the eyes and tell it, BAD DOG. Go away.

Some recent counselling has taken me out of a funk I was in due to circumstances beyond my control. Did I do my best? Yes. Was I honest? Yes. Did it work out how I wanted it to?

Sometimes things DON’T work out but I did my damned best and really, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s something to be proud of so, why feel down?

Good point. But by feeling down I got the help I needed. The weapons in my armoury to be able to deal with this and any future disappointments in a positive way. This is good. This is positive.

Positive thing number two.

I’ve written a lot about my depression, and I know others have too. Encouraging people to talk about this subject is a good thing. Many feel ashamed to do so or maybe feel that, if they do, others will see them as wallowing. Ach, we all have a wallow from time to time but we’re allowed to.

For me, writing is a release. I was recently talking to someone who went through an episode of self-harming, wishing to cut out and let out the physical PAIN the depression was causing them. Very brave of them to tell me that and, while some may frown upon this, the fact that they were talking about it, and we were conversing in this way, and the fact that they said they got help and won’t feel like that ever again is a GOOD and positive thing. I have so much respect for this person it’s untrue, for their bravery, honesty and strength.

So, by talking about it, communicating about depression we can see a side to people we never saw before, and people can get to understand us, and perhaps take the stigma away from this bastard of a disease so perhaps WE win the battle. We know more, and we can be there for them in the future when times get rough.

This is good, right? This is positive thing number three?

And back to me writing about it. Guess what? Depression makes me very creative. I blog sometimes to get it out of me. Put the feelings into words and then… wow. People respond. And always in a supportive and caring way. This I never expected. This I never thought would happen but it does because SO many people know what you’re talking about, have been through similar, know people who’ve been through similar and are willing to hold out a hand of friendship and say ‘It’ll be okay. We’re here for you.’

So this is good too. This is positive thing number four. These are the bright sides of depression.

I can never, and would never say that depression is a good thing. Whatever causes it, be it bad times or something more physical and long lasting, it ain’t good. It kills people and can affect people around you. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. On them I’d wish trenchfoot, Tropical Monkey Ooga Booga virus and a plague of inspirational tweets and pictures on the Twitter and FB timelines.

But being depressed can make you makes those changes in your life, reach out for friends, allow you to see it in others and be there for THEM,

And so, really, through the dark clouds, and although it may not feel like it at the time, there can be a glimpse of the brighter side.

Go forth, be strong my friends. Much love.

And thanks for reading.

adadcalledspen

When Sleeping & Working Get in the Way of Blogging

When I started this blog back in December 2011, I promised myself that to make it entertaining, shareable and fulfilling, I would write a new blog post at least once a week, if not more.

And for the most part, I’ve been able to do that. It’s never been a chore; at any given moment, I usually have a gazillion ideas for posts swimming in my head. I can usually find a quiet 15-20 mins over the weekend to write. Fortunately, I write fast, the words tumbling out of my head and onto the page.

But it’s been over a week since my last post and I started kicking myself about this. I have decent excuses – several nights of insomnia sucking the creativity out of me, house guests for the weekend, and work is crazy busy. But when I thought about it, I realized that there’s plenty of stuff I already do that sustains interest in and traffic to my blog, even when I’m not writing new posts. Namely:

  • I pre-schedule tweets about popular, already published posts 
  • I frequently comment on other blogs and articles, especially where the topic is complementary to one of my posts and I can link back to it.
  • I maintain a pipeline of potential guest bloggers who can provide good content that syncs well with my stuff
  • I retweet and share other bloggers’ posts – spreading the blog love around

Most of all, I’m not going to sweat it. I’m a working Mom and having it all is unrealistic. So if y’all have to wait another week or so for an awesomely witty or pithy or entertaining or educational or controversial post from me, then so be it!

A Letter to Dr Seuss

Dear Dr Seuss,

Allow me to introduce myself: I am Sam. Yes, Sam I Am. For the last eight years, I’ve spent LOTS of time with your books and I’ve some things I need to get off my chest.

I have to confess that the first four years were torturous, truth be told. You see, my little ones were at that stage when they wanted to be read the same book over and over. And over and over. And over. I became sick and tired of Green Eggs & Ham, the Cat in the Hat, There’s a Wocket in my Pocket and others. I mean there’s only so many times you can read, and re-read and then read again, those rhythmic lines and words without wanting to tear your hair out or bang you head against something hard. Fortunately, these were also the years when my kids couldn’t yet read and were blithely oblivious to my skipping lines and even pages, which I would do a LOT just to expedite matters.

Then my kids become early readers. And I gradually realized the genius of your books, especially ones like Go Dog Go and Hop on Pop. Words cleverly assembled, rhymed, reversed and scrambled, forcing their developing brains to focus, sound out words, take their time. As my kids started to be able to read these books for themselves, I could see their pride forming and reading confidence grow.

Naturally, they started bringing home more of your books every week from the school library. Books they wanted me to read to them because they were complex, long, filled with ridiculously non-sensical words, creatures and situations. Find me a parent who, weary at the end of the day, really wants to put themselves through such tongue calisthenics? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE fan of silliness, creativity and all that is good and goofy but really, these book were too much for this tired, working mama.

And then we watched the movie, The Lorax. And a light bulb went off and my whole relationship with you changed! I saw your genius. More than just a wrangler of words, I realized you’re a philosopher, a commentator on society and, most importantly, a voice of inspiration. Your simple phrases make profound statements—better-sounding to me, quite frankly, than any catechism or sermon I’ve ever heard. (Here’s 30 of your finest quotes.) Your books are life lessons to the young and old, inspiring us to be who we are, think for ourselves, take chances (try new foods!), read, boldly forge our way in the world—and to care for others, no matter how small.

So, dear Dr Seuss, on this day, March 2, 2013, your birthday, I say thank you, thank you, thank you!

Love,

Sam I Am

How I Blog

Quickly

In the moment

Authentically

Passionately

Interactively

Respectfully

Entertainingly

Colorfully

Economically

Relevantly

A Month of Gratitude: Part Two

Last week, I started the process of taking stock of everything for which I am grateful. It’s an important exercise, stepping back from the daily grind and considering all that is good in your life. We should all do this much more often. It’s both sobering and uplifting.

Where did the last week go? Somehow, among the hustle and bustle, I was able to stop each day, if only for a few minutes, and mentally note the moment or moments that resounded in my heart and head. During the last seven days, these were the things for which I am truly grateful:

  • The teachers who taught my son to read. We spent five hours this weekend at Boston’s Museum of Science and my son’s new-found skill opened the experience up to him like I’d never imagined. It was fantastic to watch.
  • My husband. Because he’s away on business and of course, it’s when he’s gone, I truly appreciate all that he does for me. Warms my cold feet in bed. Brings me coffee in the morning. Puts the trash out. Cooks dinner. Makes me laugh. Most of all, I love to step back and watch him interact with our kids in his unique, special way and miss that most when he’s away.
  • My Mom friends. Thank heavens for other Moms. They just get it. Once a month, I get to hang out with a bunch of them and it’s like the best medicine for the soul.
  • Humor: I was sent this video this week and it actually made me cry with laughter. Everyone needs a tear-inducing laugh every so often. Watch this and you’ll get yours for the week.
  • Charity: This week I read about all the good works being done by so many to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy. When the rest of the world and news media had moved on, these people were still knee-deep in the collections and clean-ups. We should all be grateful for the work they are doing and the compassion in their hearts.
  • Words and writing: this blog started out as an experiment, a fancy and has turned into a much more powerful vehicle for me. Somewhere I can write for me (as opposed to my writing for clients) and share my thoughts and words with you. This week I published my 100th blog post and crossed the threshold of 11,000 views, just shy of my one year blogging anniversary. Wow! Thank you all for indulging me.

Five Genius Inventions That Could Save The World

My brain is a crazy place filled, at any given moment, with hundreds of swirling thoughts competing for the shrinking available capacity within my cranial region. I read somewhere that if you think too hard, your brain juice will come out of your ears. (Note to self: buy ear plugs to ensure that my precious brain juice remains within. Or maybe I should let it out, bottle it and sell it for some outrageous price. Any takers? Sam’s Special Brain Juice.) But I digress ….

Anyway, what I was wanting to write about here was some of the brilliant ideas I’ve had of late. Why no-one has already conceived these innovations and made millions amazes me. These are simple yet genius inventions that could improve our very existence, save the icebergs, bring about peace for all mankind, and so on.

My first amazing invention is all about solar energy. Enough with fixed solar panels. Surely it would make more sense if the roof of every car was made of collectors which gather up rays, whether the car is stationary in the drive or out and about? If there was a way to immediately funnel those rays directly into the engine, the car could even be self-propelling, using solar energy in real-time.Brilliant, no? I must tell Google and quick! Not only would they have self-driving cars but also self-energizing cars.

Second, also renewable energy-themed. It’s the fart detector/recycler. After all, everyone emits methane (some more than others, naturally.) To make this feasible, first we’d need to be able to see these smelly wafts (which could be extremely useful for identifying whodunnit scenarios.) So we’d need some natural chemical that, when encountering methane vapors, turned them brown. Or maybe neon pink just for fun. Then we need some kind of device for sucking all that neon pink gas out of the atmosphere and into some lab environment which would then process the methane into something way more useful and sweet-smelling.

Next up for the Samantha treatment: feet. In case you weren’t aware of my feelings, I profoundly believe that feet are overrated and, in fact, utterly useless. I think it would make so much more sense – in addition to reducing ugliness, stinkiness, bunions, scratchy toenails and blisters – if we didn’t have feet at all! Instead, we should all be able to buy a variety of filled, weighted shoes that would simply slot onto our ankles. Admittedly, this would put pedicurists and podiatrists out of business but I do think the world would be a far better place without feet. Just sayin’

I was delighted when I found Aqua Notes – waterproof post-it notes – because I do all my best thinking and writing in the shower. But you can bet your bottom dollar that the second I step out, they evaporate, never to be recaptured. At least now I can write them down but wouldn’t it be even “awesomer ” (to quote my son), if it were possible to digitally transfer those scribbles directly to my email, to list, calendar – or to WordPress (I come up with a lot of my blog content in the shower) or into Word (for press releases.) Now that would be incredibly productive. I could even start billing clients for time spent in the shower.

Lastly, I think you’ll all agree that our brains need some kind of USB port. That way, not only could we plug ourselves in for some much-needed recharging but we could also capture short-term content and transfer it to a far more stable environment for storage and access on-demand.

If any of you feel inspired and entrepreneurial enough to run with my ideas and generate billions, let it be known that now that they are out of my head and into my blog, their source is now documented, on this day Sunday September 30, 2012. I’m too busy being a working Mom to do anything other than dream up such geniosity.

I know that is not a real word but it really feels like it should be.

You’re welcome.

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