My BlogHer Sponsor {Giveaway}

*Update* Congrats to The Halbert Home! You won! 

I’m going to Chicago!
In July.
For BlogHer (the blogging conference).
I'm Going to BlogHer '09
We’ll talk about my nerves and fears and ohmygosh Ican’tbelieve I’mdoingthis feelings later.
But first, I’d like you to meet the people making it possible.
I owe all my fear and excitement to UPrinting, my BlogHer sponsor!
This company has really impressed me. (They also flatter me since I’m their first blogger to sponsor for a conference).
They have set themselves apart by becoming a friend to Mom blogs. They understand the needs of bloggers and are reaching out to them in an unprecedented way!
You can apply for their blog sponsorship program they recently created! There’s free products (have you seen what they made me?), giveaways, discounts, conference sponsorships and advertising for your blog.

They also sent me 500 custom business cards I created from scratch on their website (There are hundreds of templates or you can create your own). 
And today, they are offering one of you 1000 business cards too! Click over and look at the vast choices and tell me what you like!
You can make Mommy cards, blog cards, or create something really unique (ya know that helps get your laundry done).
Thanks UPrinting for supporting Mom blogs!
This giveaway will close on Thursday.

Have You Met So and So?

On a whim, I added The BlogFrog to my sidebar. I love the idea of a forum on my blog where we can talk. I answer a lot of the same emails and tell so and so what so and so said about a certain DIY project or a potty training resource.
So. Now all my so and so’s can get together in one place.
It’s all very high tech. 
But obviously easy enough for this Internet-wizard to figure out. If you link to my blog, you’re already a member. If not, it’s easy to join.
We are THAT family Community
Have a burning question about the yellow leaves on your strawberry and bean plants? (oh, wait, that’s me) or a plea for help in keeping your toddler in bed (again, me), then click on the We are THAT family Community link to start a discussion. You can also answer other people’s questions (like mine!!)
I’ll pop on regularly too, but I think it will be a fun place to dish. 
Ya know, with so and so.


The deeper I delve into this blogging community, the more I realize that I belong here. 

But I have also discovered that this online world is a powerful vortex that is enticing and time-consuming.   And as much it enhances my real life, I cannot let it become my life.    
I need to blog. I need to write. I need to use my voice. But I do not want my children to remember being raised from behind my computer.   
This is the work I want to pursue. I decided recently I need “work hours.” I wrote down a schedule for allotted computer time. I posted the hours near my laptop as a constant reminder of my goals. It’s going to take some discipline but I’m giving myself an E for effort. 
In my journey, I’ve learned that many others struggle with finding the same balance. Pampering Beki issued an Unplugged challenge encouraging bloggers and readers to unplug one day a week. I decided to join in and rearranged my blog posting schedule to six days a week instead of seven. I’m encouraging our entire family to unplug all the screens in our house one day a week! 
And on the heels of that decision, I learned that Kimba declared Friday (tomorrow) a day to unplug and catch up on life. I’ll be joining her and turning off my computer for 24 hours starting tonight. Look for my DIY post late Friday night (it’s a fun one!). 
I love the Internet. I think it is a valuable tool and it has taken this stay-at-home Mom on an amazing journey and I look forward to the future. But striking a balance is crucial to truly healthy living. 
How do you strike a balance? Do you ever feel the need to unplug?

When Bloggers Don’t Blog

I jumped into the blog community this time last year. 
My blog was unknown and mostly unread.
There were a few people who believed in me from the beginning:  my first commenters. 
Strangers, who made my day.
And nearly every one of the blogs who welcomed me into this community and made me feel loved, have stopped blogging. 
There are different reasons, some I know, others I don’t. I stay in contact with a couple through email, but others have deleted their blogs and I haven’t heard a word.
It’s like a friend moved away.
Which feels strange, just typing those words. How can I miss people I’ve never met in real life or spoken to in person? 
I just experienced my first blogging conference where I put faces with names. It makes it all more real. Because (news flash) REAL people write blogs!
I’ve been thinking about why bloggers stop blogging. Do they run out of words because they’ve said it all? Are they compromised in some way?  Too busy? Or just simply burned out from too much of an online life? There are probably a million different reasons.
If you blog, please remember that your words are powerful. They are read. The good and the bad. And when you leave this parallel world, you are missed.
I know many bloggers stop out of disappointment or because they don’t feel their blog is successful. 
I think this is why commenting is so important. It’s not about receiving a hundred comments a day, it’s about the affirmation, the companionship that you receive. I make it a point to comment on several new blogs every week. Someone I don’t know, never heard of, because I want to be someone’s first commenter. 
Why do you blog? Do you ever want to stop? 
I have to say, I hope I’m never done.
(I know many of my readers do not have a blog, but I’m still very glad you’re a part of my world. How would you feel if you clicked to your favorite blog and it was gone?)

Who Needs a Comfort Zone: Blissdom

I did it, y’all!

I packed my bags, boarded a tiny airplane (about the size of a Hot Wheels vehicle), steered clear of engine-loving geese and landed in Nashville for Blissdom.

My comfort zone was but a memory.
Now, I’ll be the first to tell you, it was hard.

And probably one of the most difficult social situations I’ve endured.
And I had some awkward moments, like having to stop for band-aids before I even registered for the conference and then having to return for my wallet.

Um, yeah. I carry all that class with me.

It’s a heavy burden.

But I was determined not to be THAT family among 300 bloggers.

I’ll admit that immediately after I walked into the conference, I turned around and dashed back to my room where I gave myself an excellent pep talk.

I’m glad I did because I learned so much. My brain is completely full. I can only mumble short sentences now. I’m really hoping that wears off soon.
Even more amazing than all the blogging info, was meeting so many other bloggers.
It was the highlight of Blissdom (well, besides the kiddie portion of chocolate chip pancakes I ordered from Room Service).
One word describes the experience: surreal.
There were a few rock star moments. I took this picture for my son, who thinks Rocks in My Dryer is a real rock star:

I respect Shannon so much and I see her as a mentor. And let me tell y’all, she is more lovely in person than on her amazing blog! So, yes, son, she is a real star!
I met dozens and dozens of others (I wish I had time to link to you all, but I’m afraid I’d leave some out).

It was very humbling when other bloggers sought me out and said they wanted to meet me because they saw me as their mentor.

Oh. My. Nothing makes you want to blog your best more than that. It was fabulous to chat with some of my readers and put names with faces.

Blissdom was a classy, fast-paced, well-planned blogging conference with awesome hosts. I was very impressed and hope to meet you the next time I leave my comfort zone!

Will you be there?
I feel like I grew as a blogger and as a person this weekend. Stretching to a point of discomfort is hard, but it’s good.

Plus, I only peed my pants once.

So, if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, (attend a blogging conference, start a blog, write a book, parachute from a plane) give it a try! Except for the parachuting thing. Think that one through.
Because really, who needs a comfort zone?