I just got home from the grandmommy of all blogging conferences, BlogHer14. I could say a million things, but I’ll limit myself to just these few words.

I’m $till Standing

Unlike years past–Blogher11, BlogHer12, BlogHer13–where I sort of wondered what the hell I was doing going to BlogHer, I absolutely had an agenda this year. A very personal agenda.

I’ve been blogging since 2008, and I’ll be damned if some silly “business” (and I use that term loosely) fallout will destroy me, or keep me from blogging. In fact, since the demise of Generation Fabulous, my readership is at an all-time high. And I’ve already made more money in the past six months than I’ve ever made before in a whole year. I just didn’t make that money from blogging. Which is fine by me. I prefer it that way. And apparently so does my growing audience of readers.

Despite some stomach flutters on my way to San Jose, I was happy every single minute of the entire conference. Besides looking and feeling more fabulous than a 52-year old woman has a right to—it’s incredible what working out and eating right can do for you as opposed to sitting on your ass all day jerking everybody off in the daisy chain that is today’s social media–I loved seeing so many old friends again.

Maybe “old” isn’t the right word when you consider friends like Alexandra Williams from fitandfun.org who can still do this.

Alexandra

And having my dance card freed up recently made room for so many new friends.

On my first night in San Jose, I met Dawn Quyle Landau from Tales from the Motherland. We had a great time getting to know one another. (That empty nest can be a mean bitch, can’t she, Dawn?) And I adored finally meeting Molley Mills from A Mother Life—she and I are fitbit aficionados, and Linda Roy and Lance Burton from Lefty Pop.

Linda Roy

Aussa Lorens (photobomber), Me, Linda Roy

There are so many others, most of whom I can’t remember right this moment. This is why I HATE mentioning anyone on my blog. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by excluding them. Just know that if we met and shared a story or a laugh together my old, addled brain is thinking warm thoughts about you right now.

Never Say Never. Except This Time.

It’s probably a bit premature to say this, but unless I have a real and present financial reason, I don’t think I’ll ever go to another BlogHer again. This isn’t because I didn’t have a great time–I did–I had a spectacularly great time–but because it’s one pretty damned expensive girls’ weekend that just doesn’t live up to its hype anymore. Not for me, anyway. Don’t get me wrong. I am very grateful to the founders of BlogHer for putting on this party, year after year. And I hope and pray that my comments don’t make me seem ungrateful. It’s just that I think I’m over it.

The Recap

Going a couple of days early and hanging out with Julie Chenell DeNeen from Fabulous Blogging was the best part of the whole damned week. Next time, I’ll just plan on a little trip with her, and skip the conference.

Julie and Chloe

When I found out she’d never been to San Francisco, we ventured into the city together to see the sights. She wrote about our adventures here.

Once the conference started, it was obvious that her community, The Bloppy Bloggers, was the group to belong to this year. That girl has got it going on. Plus, she doesn’t snore. And she understands when you ask her to get out of bed in the middle of the night, after a long day of networking and conferencing, to take pictures for your “How to Make Jello Shots in a Hotel Room” tutorial. It was a win-win-win!

Jello shots

Thursday, July 24th

The Pathfinder Day session I attended on Thursday was a complete waste of time and money. I wish I could get a refund. The authors that spoke on how to get your book published were pretty awful. Why bother having these sessions at all when the panelists don’t know anything about how to find an agent? (They both shared with us how “lucky” they were and how agents just found them. That’s helpful!) And do I really need to spend two hours of my life listening to what two adult people who aren’t my kids did in junior high? Seriously?

The Pathfinder Day lunch was great. The prime rib was perfect. But I couldn’t bring myself to go back and listen to those two yahoos talk about their sophomore year in college, and how they are just so fantastic that agents and publishers are tripping over themselves to publish them, so I cut out and went to lunch with Nancy Hill from Reason Creek, Carol Cassara from CarolCassara.com, and Kim Tackett from Fifty-Fifty Vision. Now, that was time well-spent!

On a sad note, I did lose my water bottle that I got from my trip in March to the UNFoundation in Washington, D.C. It was bound to happen eventually, but I’m going to mourn the loss of that water bottle for a long, long time, may it R.I.P.

Friday, July 25th

Friday morning’s keynote speaker, The Bloggess, was delightful. It’s obvious why she’s so successful. She’s charming and funny. And she makes mental illness look like something we should all aspire to. I loved her.

As usual, I’m lame as hell when it comes to getting pictures at these things of myself standing next to celebrities, but Dawn Landau got one.

Dawn Quyle Landau and The Bloggess

I’m pretty upset now that I didn’t stand in line and get The Bloggess to sign my boob like she did for so many of my friends.

I was going to tell you about the morning session I attended on Friday, except I can’t remember what it was. I could go refresh my memory by looking it up, but I think the fact that I don’t remember anything about the session, or what I learned there, or who the speakers were, is the review that matters. Take from that what you will.

The other session I attended was about how one goes about joining a non-profit Board of Directors. The moderator, Cherylyn Harley Lebon, of harleylebon.com, and speakers, Martha Rebour, Shot@Life, Morra Aarons-Mele, of Women Online, and Shivani Garg Patel, from Samahope were all very well-informed and engaging. I learned a ton. My takeaway? I’ll never have enough money to join a non-profit Board of Directors.

But it was fascinating hearing about how the other half lives. And I learned a lot about how the world actually words, which is nothing like what my poor parents, who were raised in the housing projects in Louisville, Kentucky, taught me.

Partay!

Last year, after feeling like I’d missed the entire damned conference whoring myself around to get party invites that—except for one that resulted in a now infamous pair of Louboutins—turned out to be a big, fat waste of my dwindling life, I vowed that this year I would not attend one outboarding event. BlogHer made it easy-peasy for me to keep my promise by doing whatever it was they did to make sure there weren’t any (that I knew about, anyway).

Sadly, the parties that did happen this year were kinda lame compared to previous years. It is obvious that things are seriously changing for Blogher. What this means for bloggers and the future of BlogHer remains to be seen, but I suspect that the days of football field-sized vendor halls, and the ginormous bags of swag, are over. The once-famous room drops this year consisted of two mirror stickers, and one tiny cupcake made out of lentils. Take from that what you will.

I did like the mirror sticker though. Here’s the selfie I was supposed to take with it.

I am Enough

This sticker and picture are meant to promote a self-esteem project being done by a band called The Mrs.  Here’s the song they performed for us. I like it.

Saturday, July 26th

Saturday, I slept in. What can I say? I’m old, and I was tired.

This meant I missed Arianna Huffington’s keynote breakfast speech. The irony of this is that later I heard that Huffington’s #1 piece of advice for women on how to be successful was to get more sleep. As always, I’m ahead of the curve.

So now I’m just going to say out loud what everyone else was saying in whispers. Having Arianna Huffington speak at BlogHer is like having Darth Vadar give the pre-battle motivational pep-talk to the Federation on the eve of the battle of Endor.

Thank you, Arianna Huffington, for making your millions off of the work of writers who you don’t pay. Brava! Well done!

Huffington spoke about the future of something called the social web, or some such thing. Even without a crystal ball, or hearing her speak, I predict a future where millions of writers from here on out can expect more non-payment for their work. Excellent job, Arianna! How about a standing ovation?

Can you see me rolling my eyes from where you’re sitting?

But Enough About Ariana Huffington

I attended TWO sessions on Saturday, BOTH of which I remember. YAY!

The first was a session about what to do when it is time to change the direction of your blog. This was informative and helpful. I definitely enjoyed the speakers, Ana Flores, Latina Bloggers Connect, August MacLaughlin, Girl Boner, Carrie Forrest, Carrie on Living, and Melanie Feehan, Melanie in the Middle.

Cha-cha-changes

Changes are coming for me and my blog. In light of my piece on labor pain that I wrote for Scary Mommy, which was shared almost 42 THOUSAND times on Facebook, it is obvious that I’ll be writing more about that topic in the future.

Scary Mommy Stats

The Future of Personal Blogging

The most important session I attended during the entire conference was on the future of personal blogging. The discussion leaders for this 2.5 hour session, billed as a “Mini-Conference,” were A’Driane Nieves, from Butterfly Confessions, Elan Morgan, better known as Schmutzie, and Kristen Howerton from Rage Against the Minivan.

I know people keep saying that personal blogging is dead, but they are dead wrong. The standing-room only crowd that showed up for this session proves that personal blogging is very alive, if maybe not quite so well now that it is infected with Ponzi-scheme-ism and Amway-itis.

But with any luck, maybe the fact that brands have finally figured out that throwing huge sums of money at bloggers at blog conferences is a pig in a poke will mean that crappy ad-copy masquerading as blogging will die the death it so richly deserves. At least one can hope.

Jello Shots

On Saturday night, after the last official party, Julie and I hosted a little party of our own. No brands sponsored us, although Jello should send us a check, I suppose. Lots of people showed up. Jello shots were slurped. A good time was had by all.

Here’s Tammy Bleck, from Witty Woman Writing, Me, Julie, and Aussa Lorens, famous hacker, ninja, hooker, spy, bidding you adieu from our FABULOUS hotel room bathroom on the 7th floor of The Fairmont in San Jose.

Good times, BlogHer! I’m going to miss you.

Jello shot party

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Road Less TraveledIn my 20s, I believed that by the time I was in my 50s I’d have my life all figured out.

So color me surprised to find myself 52, and not only haven’t I arrived at a destination, I still don’t exactly know where I’m going!

Who Hid the Road Signs?

I’m not alone in my confusion. Many others in my midlife cohort are experiencing this same unexpected uncertainty.

With the economy the way it is, our kids aren’t launching with the greatest of ease. Our own careers are being blindsided by personal dissatisfaction or downsizing due to obsolescence and foreign outsourcing. Many of us are weighed down with concerns about our parents’ health problems, not to mention our own health problems we never planned on having. And some of our marriages aren’t as satisfying–or as permanent–as we thought they’d be when we said our I dos.

Most frightening of all, the blissful, carefree retirement we’ve been promised if only we work hard and play by the rules may not ever happen, especially for those of us on the tail end of the Boomer generation and after.

Turns out that middle-age–a time where many of us thought we’d be done struggling with confusion and uncertainty–is far more complicated than we expected.

Where can we turn for help?

AARP

AARP-Real-PossibilitiesBut, Chloe, isn’t AARP for old people?

Nope. Myth busted!

Today’s AARP is for people like you and me looking for help as we navigate these turbulent waters of modern middle-age. In fact, AARP has a project created just for people like you and me. It’s called Life Reimagined®.

What is Life Reimagined®?

Life-Reimagined-CycleLife Reimagined® is a website, a book, and an active community on Facebook. But most of all, Life Reimagined® is a practical process developed to help users map out midlife’s real possibilities.

In April, I wrote a post about being selected as a participant in a social media project to get the word out to my audience about AARP’s Life Reimagined®.

That post was written during a time of great personal sadness and loss. I hope my post ended on a hopeful note–because I was hopeful at the time–but it’s naïve at best, and dishonest at worst, to make it seem like creating a life worth living is cake.

It’s not cake.

Creating a life worth living demands courage and a willingness to take risks. It isn’t easy. If it were easy then everybody would be doing it. And you and I both know everybody isn’t doing it. Lots of folks out there are living lives of quiet desperation just biding their time until they take the long dirt nap.

Make Sure You Live Before You Die

In their book, Life Reimagined, authors Richard Leider and Alan Webber call this quiet desperation “Inner Kill”.

Leider and Webber describe inner kill this way:

You have inner kill when you’ve stopped growing, when you’ve given up on yourself, or when you find yourself always taking the easy, safe way. …Ultimately, inner kill is the death of self-respect.

I’m sure you know people who live their entire lives in a perpetual state of inner kill. I sure do! These are the miserable folks who give aging a bad name.

We didn’t know it, but after our kids left home, both my husband and I were experiencing inner kill. Living the “American Dream,” we weren’t exactly sure why we were miserable. We had it all. Weren’t we supposed to be happy? But we weren’t.

We didn’t even have the vocabulary to talk about it. So we didn’t. We just kept on carrying on, not dealing with mounting anxiety and frustration; living lives that weren’t bringing either of us the joy and contentment we longed for.

Pulling the Trigger

Leider and Webber also write about triggers. Triggers are those potentially life-altering moments of truth in our lives when we become conscious of our inner kill.

My trigger was pulled twice in 2012. First, in January, with a marriage crisis that turned our lives inside out, and then, in September, during an Advanced Cardiac Life Support class I have to take every two years as a requirement for my job as an RN.

For lunch, I went out with one of the other nurses from the hospital where I worked. As we were chomping on our salads and talking about our jobs, she remarked, offhandedly, “You are such a good nurse.”

A normal person would have smiled and thanked her or modestly brushed off the compliment. Me? I burst into tears.

See, for five years I’d worked under a manager who doesn’t believe in positive feedback. With her, it’s all stick, and no carrot.

No matter what I did, no matter how how hard I worked, according to her, I was always failing.

I remember one morning having two emergency cesarean sections within two hours (this was a tiny facility, and I was the ONLY RN in our department on duty that day). It was a crazy day, and I’d really given my patients 1000%.

My manager’s feedback the next day? A terse, handwritten note taped to the outside of a cupboard in the nurse’s station that I’d forgotten to check some box in my charting.

Nothing about the two babies who’d come out alive and healthy. No mention about the mothers and fathers who had expressed such gratitude over my excellent care under difficult circumstances. No thank you for skipping all of my meal breaks for 12+ hours(!) in order to care for these patients. Nothing positive whatsoever.

And I’d been living this way for FIVE YEARS! No wonder I was miserable and demoralized.

Living a Life that Defeats Inner Kill

That day at lunch I knew that I was done with that soul-sucking, inner-killing job. But it wasn’t just a matter of quitting.

Despite my awareness that I couldn’t go on like that, all the reasons I’d stayed in a state of inner kill for five years weren’t just going to magically disappear. I had to face my fears about my financial future, and the very real problem of the lack of other job opportunities for RNs in my rural community.

What it did mean though is that I was done letting my fears limit the solutions I was willing to consider.

Now I’m going to ask you:

Are you done letting your fears limit the solutions you are willing to consider? #LifeReimagined Tweet This!

There’s a great book discussion happening on Facebook where other readers and leaders in the Life Reimagined community discuss inner kill, triggers, and other topics Leider and Webber address in their book, Life Reimagined: Discovering Your New Life Possibilities. I encourage you to buy the book, and invite you to join in the discussion happening on Facebook.

You are worthy of a life worth living.

Disclaimer: This post is supported by Life Reimagined (www.lifereimagined.org): your guide to rethinking what’s possible and seizing your “what’s next” in work, relationships, health, personal finance and more. All opinions are my own.

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Bellman, there’s a naked man in the hallway.

 “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” -Tennessee Williams, Author Thanks to some accumulated United Airlines frequent flier miles, Jeff and I flew off to New Orleans this past February to celebrate Mardi Gras in style. Mardi Gras literally means ‘Fat Tuesday’ in French, but the party starts […]

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Why I Kicked God Out of My Sex Life

I’m sending this one out to all my Christian sisters. I can hear you already. “That Chloe!” “She’s leading all the nice Christian women astray! Again.” No, I’m not. I’m here to help a sister (and my brothers in Christ) out. I could just as easily have titled this post, “Why I politely asked God […]

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My Writing Process: How the Magic is Made

There’s this thing going around Bloggertown where bloggers are writing about their writing processes, and Carol Cassara from carolcassara.com invited me to participate. Carol is a rock solid blogger who has been a writer all of her life. She brings a discipline to her blog that I envy. Carol posts nearly every day. Her posts […]

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5 Things You Can Do About Your Husband’s Midlife Crisis

Not every man has a male midlife crisis, but enough of them do–wreaking havoc on their lives and the lives of those who love them–that it’s become a cultural cliché. Since Boomers are the ones who invented the notion that nobody over 30 should be trusted, can we honestly be surprised that people become a […]

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Burning for You

There you are. I knew I’d find you here. Waiting for me. Like you know I could never stay away. I don’t want to come here, you know. I never do. I don’t want to need you this badly. But I do. No more excuses. I am here. And so are you. The war that […]

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Never Let Her Smell Your Fear

My current employer must have read my last post because I’ve enjoyed ALL of my meal breaks this past week. Hal-la-freaking-luja! Now I might survive these 13 weeks as a traveling nurse, seeing as I’m a living, breathing human being who needs food and water at some point during my twelve and a half hour […]

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The Pain of Not Being Wanted

I’ve spent the last three days doing nothing else but working my ass off as a travel nurse for a company that treats its nurses like shit, and reading Julie Deneen’s book, wanted: a memoir. The work situation has been a bit disheartening considering it’s Nurses’ Week. Sure they gave us cheap, nylon backpacks with […]

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Creating the Life You Want

Sitting in the Atlanta airport after the Mom 2.0 Summit waiting for my plane, I’m doing what I do a lot these days: pondering the meaning of life, and what it means–and what it takes—and what it has taken so far–to create a life worth living. No. Really. I’m fine. After the umpteenth person approached […]

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