Talking to Strangers: BlogHer13 Random Shtuff I Learned

Well it has been over a month now since I attended BlogHer13 and this post is ohhhhh about a week late and I missed one of my four blog posts I had planned…but oh man life just took off and I was treading water…akaNoTimeToWrite.  Things have settled down now and I am not exactly floating along with a mini umbrella, fruit embellished drink in hand but I’m not gasping for air as my arms flail like a mad women just trying to keep from sinking.

So lets do this!

The last of my Talking to Strangers BlogHer 13 posts number three in a four three part series!


I had no expectations and no real goals for what I was going to accomplish when I headed to BlogHer13.  I was happy that way.  Going into a hugmongous conference I didn’t want any pressure on myself.  I knew the size of the conference, the number of bloggers there and the experience would be enough pressure.   As usual, I had no idea how much I would learn about myself!

Besides being knocked over the head by life with amazing lessons about myself and even with those two very moving experiences…Talking to Strangers: BlogHer13 A New Inner Beauty and Talking to Strangers: BlogHer13 Table of One (one would think that those would be enough) I found my days…and nights (BlogHer seriously is NON-stop) filled with fantastic random lessons from old friends and new ones too.

I give you…


I learned that now that I have met Kirsten from the Kir Corner and Mel from According to Mags I can not longer read their blog posts without  reading them in a strong Boston / New York accent.  Also, Mel texts with an accent too!

I learned I could just sit on a couch, on a beach, on a park bench and just…be with Kirsten.  Her warmth and genuineness and heart is as wonderful as you would expect!  Just being with her makes you happy!

I learned you never know who you are going to meet or what they are going to teach you.  Joanne from Tiniest Tiger  and Rachel from Preston Speaks  taught me that no matter how much you know or how successful you are people are willing to take time to talk to you,  get to know you and share what they know with you.

I learned to never underestimate where your greatest lessons are going to come from… one of my BIGGEST lessons came from Joanne  and Rachel.  I never in a gazillion years would have guessed or predicted that I would learn so very much from two amazingly fantastic bloggers who share their stories about their pets.

I learned that lessons can come from girl talk and a couch in the middle of the Verizon section at the Expo.  Jackie from a With Just a Little Bit of Magic laid back style and years of motherhood experience taught me that I need to keep embracing Olivia for exactly who she is and there are many different ways and activities that our children can do to teach them what we want them to learn.  Sometimes our way is not the only way…just go with it!

I learned that I can run farther then I thought I could.  Running the 5k along the Chicago lake front gave me a pace I never knew I had.  The pace to take me farther then just a 5k.  A pace that didn’t leave me sucking wind or doubled over with wobbly legs.  A pace that would take me on more and more runs, farther and farther, that would make running…fun!

I learned that friends I have met through blogging are just as amazing  as a I thought they would be.  The journeys I have taken with many of these woman on their blogs has all been worth it.  That the relationships we have built in this space are just as important to them as they are to me.  That the connections in this space can become in real life friendships.

I learned that I am a vault of Random SHtuff… from facts and tidbits (TONS of facts and tidbits) about people I have chatted with on twitter to random bits of information about bloggers to ooohhh she writes “this or that” blog  to ooo ooo ooo have you seen this new app or this new piece of technology that will do this or this or that on social media. Kim was never left moment that wasn’t filled with random information awesomeness overload (Think Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada when she is at the big event dishing facts about people Meryl Streep is meeting….yeah!)

FFFWWWEEEFFFF!!! I learned a lot!

BlogHer13 was an amazing event full of amazing strangers.  Some of them were strangers I had met through blogging that were friends.   Some of them were strangers I knew through twitter that I now got to meet in real life and some of them were strangers I had never known before.  Each moment of this event filled me with lessons and reminders about myself and this amazing place we call the blogosphere!




Talking To Strangers: BlogHer2013 Table of One

The hall where we were going to eat the first day was HUGE. So HUGE the energy fills you up, but too many tables to scan to find a familiar face or even new friends we had met and it leaves you linking…oh my lawrdy!

“There’s a table,” Kim said “Let’s go sit there!”

“Ok,” I smile and breath in deep summoning bravery to meet another new person.

We were trying to stretch out our comfort zones so we each sat on one side of her, not able to rely only on each other. We introduced ourselves. We made small talk. She was just finishing up her lunch and waiting for an appointment. Her gaze into the empty space in front of her told me her mind was somewhere else, preparing for what was to come. Soon two lovely women with big warm, smiles and a midwestern vibe sat next to us. Their smiles invited us into the conversation. It really was impossible not to talk to them. Then as quickly as they could share where they were from blogging worked it’s magic in just the way it it does unveiling that Kim, Dawn and Cathy were from exactly the same area, minutes away from each other to be exact.

“Can I sit here?” a voice comes from my left.

I look up to see young woman with a friendly and a laid back warmth.

“Sure” “Yes!” “Sit”, come from all the ladies at the table.

She sat.

We ate.

I checked to see what Kim was doing and smiled as she as she laughed and talked with the two women she had connected with.

“So how do you like BlogHer so far,”the young woman asked.

I told her about the two sessions I had been to, the energy and all the wonderful people we had met so far.

“What about you?” I asked hoping to learn more about her.

“I’m here representing a company, Find & Save. I don’t actually have a blog but after all these amazing stories I’ve heard here, it makes me want to start one,” she finishes with a smile and a long pause.

“Blogging is one of the most amazing things I have done. It has giving me a voice I never knew I had. It allowed me to meet and get to know the most fantastic woman. It’s incredible!”

“Oh I don’t know,” she answered looking down her food.

I pause and think maybe you overdid it. My passion is thick…or maybe just maybe that isn’t a look of no, but look I don’t know.

I smile at her and softly say, “You know you can be whoever you want online (and I shared my story). You can be and talk about whatever you want.”

“I don’t know,” she says.

“Start by writing about something simple… a trip to the park and then keep writing until you find your stories, your own voice.”.

We finish our food and it is time for Kim and me to leave.

My thoughts pause for a second…I wonder?! Should I?? So I take a deep breath and smile at her again, get up from my chair and walk over to her.

Kneeling down next to where she is sitting I look up to her and say, “Email me if you have any questions at all. How to get started, how to set up things, anything. I would love to help you with any questions you have. I mean it!” I smile again.

Taking the escalator down to the buses I smile at Kim.

“I’m ready. I’m going to do it! I was talking to that woman about starting a blog. It energizes me. It reminded me…again…. how much I love creating for others, talking to and working with someone until I am able to take their vision, mold it, bring the best out of them and make it oozz and shout who they are. I love it!!” I tell Kim (she listens, smiles and nods with a familiar duh! Laverne…I already knew that. Happy you could finally join me).

From that table of one a brand new confidence was found (I know…another…I can’t help it!). With a portfolio I am proud of, experience that makes me confident in what I can create, the nudge (who am I kidding it a full on shove) of several dear friends and that single conversation I am finally going to do it! I am going to open my very own Estys shop and really make my graphic designing a business. So with another reason to hold my head a little higher and my shoulders back a little stronger I am slowly working toward the goal of having the shop up and running by the beginning of the year.

Watch out Estys here comes Heck Awesome!!!!



There is more to come….


Talking To Strangers: 57 Flavors of Amazingness

TalkingtoStrangers2I have spent three weeks working on this post.  Starting and stopping, revising, restarting, deleting, retyping…I just could not find the right word to share with and to tell you about Mel from According to Mags.  I simply could not find the words to share with you in true Talking to Strangers style why Mel is so fantastically inspiring and amazing to me. To tell you why I am so over the moon happy I met her and why my blogging, mommy, friend and teacher world.

…and then like ketchup plopping onto a burger the words found me.
On the 1st and 15th of every month Mel and her friend Michele host a link up called Ketchup With Us.  The rules are no rule, just guidelines: In 57 words or less, tell us about…

So in pure Ketchup With Us style, today I give you not just 57 words but 57 tid bits, facts and reasons why I think she is pretty damn amazing…

1. We first met over beer
2. Mel introduced me to Sam Adams Chocolate lager…seriously delicious and Chocolate Beer PEOPLE!!
3. Mel is a writer
4. Mel is the kind of writer the kind of writer that can paint a picture with words, take you to another place, stand and look around and you can feel the breeze blowing and taste the salt on your lips from the margarita as your skin warms in the heat of the sun as the sand tickles your toes kind of writer.
5. Mel’s introduction of Chocolate Lager led to the Blueberry lager…oh my lawrdy make your mouth water deliciousness
6. Mel has written a children’s book
7. Mel and her hubs write original children’s stories
8. Mel is one of the narrators on the Night Light stories Poscast
9. Mel’s podcasts make my daughters shout from the backseat of the car, ” MMMMOOOOOMMMMMM turn off the music!!!! We want the Nightlight stories!!!”
10. My daughter’s swoon over Mrs. Mel and Mr. Chris
11. I swoon over Mrs. Mel’s and Mr. Chris’s stories!!!
12. Mel is supportive
13. Mel has shown me the power of my teacher voice
14.  Mel has shown me and reminded me the power of social media to connect teachers and resources
15. Mel is energetic and contagiously giddy
16. Mel plays a mean Rock Band guitar
17. Mel joins a book club and doesn’t read the book…been there!
18.  Mel has two kids… with wickdly awesome smiles.  The kind that just make you want to smile too
19. Mel has cheered me on just when I needed it most
20. Mel is a special education teacher too
21. Mel is one of those people you meet on social media and the more you get to know them the more you find you have in common, the luckier you feel that you have met and the smaller the world feels
22. Mel’s words have encouraged me
23. Mel’s words have given me confidence.
24.  Connecting with Mel (and her husband Chris…also in education) as a teacher gave me confiedence I never thought I’d have as an educator in this space
25. Connecting with Mel showed me the power of my voice…I never thought I would find it any other place but here
26. Mel dresses in a Ketchup bottle
27. Mel is a hoot… not the owl kind either.  The make you laugh until you have a stitch kind of a hoot
28. Mel is a fan of the Walking Dead…instant bonus points!
29.  Mel is crazy goofy (in a totally awesomesauce great way… I’ll explain more later)
30. MM1
ok… I explained it faster then I thought!!!
31.  Mel is a math tutor
32.  Mel  is a University Supervisor for student teachers…how lucky are those student teachers
33.  Mel aspires to be a professional napper…I have a napping habit too. I aspire to someday be a professional at it!
34.  Mel adores every ounce of her children’s imaginations
35.  Mel’s smile makes you want to smile too
36.  Mel writes some super fun vs. posts.  My favorite…Grover vs Evil Dead (she may have ruined Grover just a smidge for me but oh the post it is!!!)
37. Mel is an origional song writer…Nose Picking Song.  I know!  Serious talent there, right?!
38. MM3
39.  Mel is a runner
40.  Mel ran in a Zombie 5k… I envy her so.  I want to be chased by Zombies!  Well the fake kind because the real ones OMGAWD that would be terrifying!
41. Mel has a SERIOUS…SERIOUS Cadbury Egg addicitinfatuation…love
42. Mel brings an energy that warms your heart, makes you giggle and smile until your cheeks hurt
43. Mel’s an amazing mom
44.  Mel’s an absolute smiling beautiful goof!!
45. Mel’s a romantic


47. Mel goes to see death clutch your husbands arm while you burry your eyes in his shoulder horror movies because her husband loves them
48. Mel is a home bound teacher
49.  MM3
50. Mel can turn even the most common into the hysterical
51.  Mel came along right when I needed her, found value in what I had shared, validated my skills and knowledge and inspired me to share and create more
52.  Mel hides her Cadbury Eggs in a cabinet…smart woman!
53. Mel brings a giggle, smile embracement of all the fantasticlly fun creative, weird ,give you a side ache from giggling and make you crazy parts of motherhood
54. Mel has a great smile
55.  Mel plays a mean RockBand guitar…especially when at “Book Club”
56. Mel loves her family

57. Mel is amazing, creative, inspiring, supportive, crazy awesome imagination, a total goof, momma, wife, special education teacher, Cadbury Egg hider, beer conasueor, no longer a stranger.

So while some of the 57 may seem like they are kind of bland (no offense Mel) to me they are what make Mel so very special to me.  We have opportunities to connect with people everyday.  Whether it is here at this space, in social media or in real life.  Sometimes if we are lucky we meet people who inspire us and share their awesomeness.  If we are really lucky these people might also connect with us and support us.  And sometimes if we are really, really lucky we also find someon we not only have the little things in common with but these strangers maybe even become friends.  Sometimes the world just isn’t so small.  There are people out there just waiting to connect with and enrich and brighten our lives.


*All pictures and the video were used with Mel’s permission.  She is not alone in her Ketchup bottle wearing adventures.  Her partner in crime, the Heinz to her 57… Michele at Old Dogs New Tits {snort} {giggle} {giggle} (sorry her name always makes me feel like a 7yr old little girl…she said tits!) 

Abby and Her Key

I have been truly blessed by the people I have met blogging and tweeting. If you’ve known me long enough you know that when I first started blogging I was certain I was going to get stalked or my kids would get kidnapped if I shared too much about the real me.  I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined the wonderful friendships that would be formed.

I don’t remember the first time I “talked”.   I say talked but it really is tweeted with Abby or maybe I read one of her posts ( first and then tweeted with her… I guess I really don’t remember the first time I talked to her!   The first post I remember reading of Abby’s involved an bon fire, her brother, her mom and dad and a tree.

My cheeks hurt from smiling, my side ached from laughing but most of all I was left in awwww.  I was in awww of the fantastic family she had, the love they had for each other and how the hell they could all get each other in such a state.  Most of all I was in awwww of Abby’s ability to bring that moment to life in drawings,  her ability to embrace the hystericalness of it all and her comfort with putting it out there.

To say the least I was hooked!!

Each week I waited for the latest Abby post. What would she do next?!   What crazy fun perspective would she bring to life?  I couldn’t wait to see!

One average Saturday.  Well,  average if you call running from ballet recital to a princess party average.  I was sitting at the princess party, stuck because my daughter was a bit nervous and she really wanted me to stay, but oh my lordy was I board.  I sent out a tweet proclaiming by princess party boredom.  The moment that she tweeted back a sassy, giddy, excited totally Abby reply was the moment  Abby went from being a stranger and an absolutely cherished friendship began.  That and a very princess princess party of our own was had!

The more I chatted and got to know Abby, the more we started writing posts together.

Her enthusiasm,  creative perspective on life and discoverer of all things hilarity started to rub off on me!  Creating became more than writing a memoirs.  It became putting beautiful words together with stunning pictures.

It became finding the funny in the everyday and adding the sexy.

Then it became me picking up a pen and tapping into my long forgotten drawing skill…

note to reader…If you’re wondering what is up with all the Donnie Walhberg.  Yeah… that’s Abby.  She likes him just a smidge!!!

Then it happen.  Last week,  I sat at my desk at work,  writing a welcome back post to my parents.  I suddenly found myself adding more fun to it.  I found myself bringing in the funny.  It was a day I will never forget.  It was the day I knew I could never thank Abby enough.  Throughout all of this,  throughout the silliness, the photo shopped pictures and the drawings Abby did something.  She unlocked something deep inside of me.  Creating posts and teaming up with her pulled something out of me that had long been buried away.   Sure I knew I was a relatively creative person.  I knew I could draw OK.  I had a pretty good eye for making things.  Suddenly it was like I was given permission to pull out a long hidden skill.  Abby unlocked this amazingness inside of me.  She showed me it was OK to bring out the fun.  It was OK for me to draw (and actually show my drawings to other people) and push my creative limits.  She showed me that it’s fun to grab up all the silly life brings you and put my own twist on it.  Most of all she taught me it is totally OK for me to love being me,  for me to have fun being me and it was OK for me to look deep for long forgotten skills and create!  The moment I pushed the publish button of that classroom blog post I knew in that instant she had unlocked an energy, a fun, a zest and a creative freedom I had long forgotten.  For that, I am more grateful than she will ever know because she unlocked my fun!




Does She Know?

The girls splashed and played in the spray of the waterspouts springing up around them.  Their giggles filled the air as streams of water surprised them from the ground.  As I watched them play.  The fun and joy they experiencing made me smile.  “This was a good idea,” I thought.

A little boy in a white with blue and green Hawaiian flower decorated board shorts caught my eye.   He stood in the center of the spray park mesmorized by the spray of the yellow fountains spout.  “That’s cute,” I thought.  Minutes passed and he caught my eye again.  Still standing in the same spot.  Still staring.  A nagging voice in my head whispers, “That’s and awfully long time to watch a fountain.”  I scan the park wondering who his mom was, simply wanting to connect parent with child.  My girls run to me still giggling in happiness and looking for snacks to reenergize them.

Time passes and the same crew cut little boy continues to grab my attention.  He moves from standing and watching to playing in and interacting with the water.  He giggles in excitement as the water splashes him.  The touch of the cool water causes him to sqweel at the sky and express his happiness shaking his hands, jumping and smiling to himself. My mind pauses and I have to snap myself out of a long stare.

“What is it about this little boy?” I ask myself.

“He has Autism,” the nagging voice whispers.

I scan the spray park for the mom again.  I find her.  Beautiful in her black bathing suit and brunette hair pulled back into the perfect ponytail.

“Does she know?”

“Am I right?”

“Does she know?”

A lump grows in my throat.

“Does she know?”

Does she know she is not alone? Does she know there are supportive, caring, wonderful supports and groups out there to embrace her and let her know she is not alone?

As my mind races an other thought pops in my head…

Shit! Sunday Stilwell needs a business card!

I can not remember the first time I “met”  Sunday.  When I think back to the first moment, the very first moment, it isn’t a moment I can recall.  It is an emotion.  Sunday is this amazing force.  She is a woman full of sass, humor, passion and an effortless ability to pull you into her community,  fuel your with a desire to be a part of it and make you want to give back.  Sunday makes me want to be a part of something, use my knowledge and skills to reach out and empower others.

While the warmth of the memories I have of Sunday make me smile, tears begin to stream down my cheeks.  I can not help but wonder.  Do you know the extent of your impact? Do you know the effect of your embrace? Others know they are no longer alone.  Others know they have a place to share without fear of judgement or shame.  Do you know you inspire us?  You inspire us to reach out and help others.  To be there, hold each other up and get through the tough together.  Do you know you make us laugh?  Life is serious enough.  Having a disability is serious enough, but beyond the disability are gifts that enrich our lives, teach us things and amaze us with their awe.  Did you know you have shown us how to unwrap it all?  Wrapped up in all of this is the fun life gives us!

Thank  you Sunday!