Gone with the Wine

The view of Atlanta from our room

Early Thursday morning, the birds were barely awake, sending their tentative chirps out into the air when Husband rolled my suitcases out of the house, while I followed, checking off for the tenth time the items written on the list I held firmly in my hand. Excited and anxious, I could not stop talking all the way to Los Angeles International airport, eagerly anticipating the BlogHer Food conference in Atlanta.

We departed right at 7.00am, and after valiantly trying to read Water for Elephants I brought along, I succumbed and took a nap, my head resting against the window, the book clutched firmly in my hands. I finished packing really late the previous night, and a few hours of restless sleep were not enough to keep me afloat.

The plane arrived about thirty minutes ahead of schedule, and as I made plans days ahead to meet my roommate Beth from OMG!YUMMY and several other bloggers arriving from the Bay Area at the airport, I was biding my time, walking through the Atlanta airport, and enjoying the Exhibit of African art rather then taking the speedy train. I needed to stretch my legs anyway. But at one point I decided to check my messages, and there were several informing me that the Delta flight everybody was on had been delayed for several hours.

Suddenly deflated, I gathered my luggage and sat down despondently. Sure, I had my reservation and I  could find my way to the Westin Peachtree Hotel, but roaming the streets of Atlanta by myself was not the most exhilarating thought. I send a text message into the ether, and seconds later, Sabrina of The Tomato Tart responded, informing me that she was a few meters away wearing a leopard head band. My spirits rose, my heart accelerated, and I rushed towards the baggage claim area to embrace my new friend.

And this pattern followed me throughout the conference: a few moments of an awkward silence were annihilated by hours  of laughs with new friends. The anxiety of approaching strangers and engaging them in conversation was immediately soothed by friendly smiles and words of support. Whenever I felt lost, I encountered a kindred spirit, and the world seemed at peace.

Beth and me at Sweet Auburn Market

At moments, I felt as if I did not belong, and the ghosts of middle school appeared, mocking and leering, threatening to bring me down and make me hide, cowering in the corner. But in no time I would be overwhelmed by a glint in someone’s eye, an unequivocal invitation to share a meal, a tentative “hello”, and the anxiety demons would retreat, defeated and vanquished by the forces of good that rule the community of food bloggers.

Most of the time I felt as if were flickering from person to person, trying to meet as many people as I could that I recognized from Twitter, leaving my seat in the middle of breakfast to hug a virtual friend, gathering courage to approach a veteran blogger whose posts inspired me to start my own blog, and shake hands with people as panic-stricken as I was.

I kept in mind the directive of Patti Londre from Camp Blogaway and tried to mingle and meet new people at every meal, every break, and every session. It was challenging and exciting at the same time, made easier by a glass of wine once the afternoon rolled slowly into the night. I felt empowered, and I felt brave, completely immersed in the Cinderella world of glitter and parties.

I barely took any photos, finding my Canon Rebel too cumbersome to tote around, and definitely not matching any of my Bohemian outfits. I decided not to let my blood pressure rise after not receiving any signal on my iPhone, and deserted my Twitter friends for the duration of the conference ( I only connected to my family at night in my room, after battling the inconsistent WiFi). I used my laptop only to get in touch with my new buddies, to get the right address of the restaurant we were meeting at, or to get the right time for our after-party soiree at the hotel lounge.

I have to admit that my escapades into the adventurous world of food blogging were made much smoother by my friend Beth, who graciously shared her room with me, after I promised I did not snore. We did not meet at the airport as we planned because her Delta flight was delayed by several hours. We met at Terrace Restaurant on Thursday night, along with a dozen other bloggers. We shared cocktails, appetizers, and dinners, gluttonous in our desire to taste as much as we could, satisfied in the end by the quality of food and sense of community.

Jane from Always Ravenous and me at Sweet Auburn Market

Beth and I talked about our families, our jobs, our blogs, and every day we delved further and deeper, comparing our experiences, questioning out motives, trying to figure out the best approach. We connected from the beginning and we stayed together for many hours of the conference, finding solace in each other’s company. I introduced my friends to her, she in turn shared her friends with me. We both enjoyed wine and organized a little get-together on Friday night.

I bought the ticket for BlogHer Food conference way back in January. I don’t know what I exactly expected from the conference, but I know what I received: a Eureka! moment from Sabrina and Irvin during their Design and Branding panel on Friday morning; an inspiration from Aran, Tami, and Stephanie after their insightful presentation; a boost of energy following funny and informational Photography on the Cheap session by Sarah and Alice. I felt motivated, energetic, and empowered.

I learned something about myself, too. I assumed a lot, I projected a lot, and I lost a lot. My middle school ghosts emerged and I averted my eyes on many occasions, avoiding contact, afraid that any attempt I made would be met with ridicule and a cold shoulder. But any time I engaged in the conversation, I realized that my assumptions were wrong, and that most of the cool kids were as introverted and shy as I was. I am usually a fast learner, but in this instance it took some time for me to realize that it was only my perception that prevented me from meeting anyone and everyone at the conference.

I can continue to kick myself in the butt for ages, but the truth is that I benefited immensely from BlogHer Food conference. I know that Beth and I are going to make our friendship stronger. I know that I have a wonderful connection with Jane and Sabrina. I am happy to count among my friends Lydia and Kelly, Megan and Susan, Pam and Andrew, Christianna and Rene. Some of them are veteran bloggers, some are journalists, and some are fairly new, just like I am. Even if I did not learn anything at the sessions organized by the women of BlogHer Food, I would have departed satisfied, smiling all the way to the airport, basking in the afterglow of the energy, love, and support I received in Atlanta.

My roommate had to leave really early on Sunday morning, and I stayed in the room until checkout time. Unable to connect with anyone, I left my suitcases at the hotel and took MARTA to the High Museum. I spent hours entranced by history, art, and stories, interrupted only by my lunch at Table 1280, a fabulous little restaurant just across the museum. That was truly an unforgettable day.

Our flight left the Atlanta airport around 8.00 p.m. I was comfortably seated against the window in the crowded airplane when a women and her three year old child appeared, their seats separated, one of them sitting next to me, another in a row across the aisle and ahead. While everybody was looking away, consciously hiding their glance, I volunteered to switch places and moved into the middle seat a row ahead. I did not expect a reward for being a good Samaritan – I travel every summer with three girls and being separated on a Transatlantic flight is major downer – but the steward brought me not one, but two bottles of Caberenet Sauvignon as soon as the plane gained velocity.

I did not do it for the wine. I did it because I could relate to the mother’s plight. The wine was a welcome bonus, though:) In  retrospect, everything worth saving and savoring from BlogHer Food conference in Atlanta could be summed up in a few words: pay it forward.

I think that this post could be useful to future blog conference atendees and I am linking it to Feed Me, Tweet Me, Follow Me Home blog hop, hosted by Alex of A Moderate Life and April of 21st Century Housewife.

30 Responses to Gone with the Wine

  1. Wow – two bottles of wine just for doing what any decent person would do! That’s nice though because I have seen so many people not be so accomodating! I loved your writeup of Blogher and was so happy to connect face to blog, albeit briefly. The stupid wifi made it hard to cnnect once we were there and I kept being swept along in the plans I allowed others to make for me, being completly and utterly overwhelmed at how many peope there were – I mean I have been to big conferences before (much bigger – try 8000!) but never recovering from an illness and never with vertigo. That alone made it hard for me to be my usual outgoing self. I love that so many people reached out to you (not surprised, you’re lovely!) and helped you out when you were stuck. At the end of the day, yes there were definitely cliques (as there always will be) but people at these things are generally sweet and nice and I am glad you found this :) Here’s hoping our paths cross when I am “en pleine forme” and able to function normally.

    PS: This is beautifully written :)

  2. Lana says:

    Thanks, Mardi! I have to be happy for meeting you, even for such a short time. I am not superficial, and getting to know someone takes more than 13 seconds:) Let’s keep in touch through Twitter and our blogs, as I am sure that our paths will cross again!

  3. Mardi says:

    Well you’re in my reader and follow you on twitter so fingers crossed our paths cross sooner rather than later, and perhaps at a less manic event!

  4. Cher says:

    What a neat experience! It sounds like you were able to hook up with some pretty great people from the blogging community.

  5. Lovely recap. Still bummed we didn’t meet.

  6. Lana,
    Lovely, lovely post. Thanks for sharing. SO glad I could connect you and Sabrina. I really do love this community! I look forward to the time when I can have a nice long chat with you in person again.

  7. I was happy to read your tale that while acknowledging a real or perceived social structure (which really, either amazes me or makes me laugh) you didn’t let it ruin your experience.

    I’ve yet to attend a food blogger conference and the more I miss; the less I miss the experience.That doesn’t mean I don’t want to meet people…just not so sure I want it in conjunction with a conference of this nature.

    That being said…anyone who would not look the other way, who would see how someone could use just a hand in a difficult situation…well, I’m sure you are like that in more instances than just on that plane ride and I’m sure that spirit was instrumental in why you enjoyed yourself…which I’m so glad to hear you did.

    Now to plan my own conference. Women Who Wine. What do you think? :)

  8. Nice wrap up – I wish I could have gone… I’ve just been way too busy. I was wondering what your Eureka moment was… my curiosity is piqued.

  9. First of all, love the title. Wine was certainly threaded throughout your/our blogherfood experience, wasn’t it?

    I’m so glad I saw your tweet when you were looking for a roomie. How great to navigate the conference together, discuss blogging, become friends, and meet each other’s friends.

    I’m glad you came away with a positive outlook and I know that if we put our heads together, we can conquer the occasional middle-schoolish behaviors and the blogging world! (or at least have a great time trying)

    Cheers to a great blogger and great human being.

  10. So glad you went and had a great experience. We missed you at the FBLA meeting!

  11. rebecca says:

    oh sounds like a neat experience i have never attended a food blogging conference either good for you for going

  12. Lana, love this post! I wish I could have gone this year. Glad you had a most excellent time. :)

  13. Lana,
    Wish I could have gone this year. Soo glad you had a most excellent time!!


  14. Pilar says:

    Hi Lana,

    We met at the conference, I’m Pilar from Chile.
    I enjoyed your recap and was very nice to meet you!

  15. Yes. Paying it Forward is the way to go. The ghosts can be hard to shake off – but in that moment that you “tweet” out that you are here – you raise your hand to the possibilities. Glad you enjoyed ATL and BlogHerFood. I did as well.

  16. Lana says:

    @Cher, I met so many wonderful people! My only regret is not having enough time to meet more:)

    @Aimee, thanks! Next time I will definitely say hi! to you! Bummed, too:(

    @Stephanie, at least we are both in California, so everything is possible. Thanks for connecting me and Sabrina. I fly to Bay area several times a year to visit my daughter in Berkeley, and I would love to get together with you:)

    @Barb, you are so funny! Love Women Who Wine and cannot wait to attend – just make it speedy:) Thanks for the comment, I really appreciate it!

    @Sasha, I decided to treat myself to this conference a long time ago. But then, my girls are not 2yrs old like Ava:) Eureka moment for me is something that is probably old new to many, as I am technologically impaired: just seeing my blog from a web-designers POV threw me into a loop:)

    @Beth, you have no idea how happy I was when you answered that Tweet! We had a great time and if the conference was a total bust, I would have our friendship as a reward:) And love of wine is only one thing we have in common:)

    @Adair, I was really bummed that FBLA was on the same weekend! I hope you had a great time – I know that Erika was a wonderful hostess!

    @Rebecca, it was an amazing weekend! Meeting people who are similar to me was the best thing for me!

    @Jenny, I am glad I attended! We could not meet in Atlanta, but we can definitely get to know each other through our blogs!

    @Pilar, it was great meeting you! I am looking forward to cooking some of your family recipes – I love Southern American food!

    @Lynn, so true:) I am glad we agree. Cannot wait to read your blog and get to know you better!

  17. I think everyone, whether it’s their first conference or their fifth, feels shy in a room full of 500 people. I was so glad to meet you and put a face to the name, and that’s really the best part of conferences. For me, an “experienced” blogger, the sessions were not as valuable as the time spent hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones. It’s often something said in passing, in a random conversation, that ends up being the most important thing you learn at a conference.

  18. This sounds like such an amazing experience. I hope that one day I’m able to go to a blog-type conference. And I love that you did what any mother would (should) do…It still amazes me that people look away and pretend not to notice these things. Although I know the real reward was in your heart…the wine was definitely a great addition ;)

  19. bunkycooks says:

    Hi Lana,

    I am sorry that we only spoke for a few minutes at BHF. It was a bit overwhelming with so many people in attendance. I didn’t see several people at all that I was hoping to get together with. I am glad that you had an overall positive experience both at the conference and in Atlanta. I don’t think I will ever attend another large conference. I came away from it with a many negative feelings about lots of things and it’s been hard to get inspired this past week.

    I do hope that I see you at a smaller venue in the future and that we get to spend some time together! Congrats on the bottles of wine! :) What a nice way to end the trip.


  20. Hi Lana,
    I was fun meeting you, if only for a brief minute. I’m glad you were able to overcome the ghosts of middle school and meet new friends. It can be overwhelming, but every blogging conference I’ve attended I’ve met people whose blogs I’ve enjoyed even more once I knew the face behind the blog!

  21. […] Bibberche – BlogHer Food Conference 2011 […]

  22. SMITH BITES says:

    i simply could not love you any more than i already do Lana – you are as wonderful in person as you are right here on this blog!!! my only regret is that the conference was only 2 days long and that i did not get to sit with you, eat with you and spend quality time w/you – the time went by way too fast . . . i MUST make it to SoCal soon . . . too many friends there i want to spend time with . . . YOU being at the TOP of that list!!! (((hugs)))

  23. Just revisiting this and noticed my comment was gone. WTH? Methinks the ol’ iPad is not the best tool for blog commenting. Not the first time it’s happened. Oh well. So great meeting you in Atlanta — a very nice end to a late night Saturday. Fun to have a face behind the tweets I ready daily and a new blog to check in with. You have a warm, vibrant personality in life, and in your writing. So glad to know you!

  24. Valerie says:

    Lana, thanks so much for your post. Now that I see your photo, I recognize you from sessions! It is a shame that we did not have an oppotunity to meet. Unfortunately, while I did have a chance to connect with a few people, it wasn’t nearly as many as I had hoped to. I don’t normally feel like an outsider. My husband, and most anyone that knows me, knows me as the woman who never meets a stranger. That’s why it was so perplexing why I didn’t find people to be more “open” or accepting at the conference. I was certainly willing. A bit of a downer, yes, but it didn’t color my entire experience. I’m a go-getter so I got out there and, for lack of a better word, got! :-) What a wonderful post you have written. I’m going to follow you!!! No, not stalk you. ;-)


  25. Kim says:


    So happy you had a great experience! To be honest, I was a little worried (for) you, because you always tell me you’re so shy, and I knew this conference was… well… LARGE.

    Sounds like you did just fine. I’m sad I couldn’t go; it just wasn’t in the budget this year.

    Cute bohemian clothes, too! Way better than camp gear.


  26. I am so happy to hear you had such an amazing time! May be one day I will make it :)

  27. sippitysup says:

    I am just gonna say it. I love you and this post illustrates why so darn well. GREG

  28. You say you’re shy, but you fared wonderfully and reveal so much of yourself in your writing! I attended BlogHer Food in SF last October and felt many of the same feelings you express here – wish I could say I came away with the same feeling of exhilaration. I admire your positive outlook.

  29. Amelia Hewitt says:

    So glad to know you! I enjoyed your recap and was very nice to meet you! I’m a go-getter so I got out there and, for lack of a better word, got! I don’t normally feel like an outsider.

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