This past weekend I ran off into the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas to visit the new home of my dear bloggy friend, The Park Wife. Turns out about 70 other bloggers came to visit her too. It was the second annual Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged (AWBU) conference, and oh my goodness, it was a big deal. If you want to see pretty pictures and more recaps, go here.
Since I am no longer part of the Arkansas Women Bloggers leadership team, I totally skipped out on the ridiculously huge amount of planning, prep, and loss of sleep involved with planning a full-on conference for 70+ women (and a few good men). Nope, that was all 100% Stephanie, Beth, and Julie. And let’s not forget Lyndi, who planned and executed AWBU’s Foodie Friday.
But, when AWBU 2012 was announced, I registered for the conference and shot the ARWB gals an email: “I’m coming to the conference. Plan to put me to work when I get there.” Stephanie emailed me back: “You have to stay at my house then, so I can boss you around 24-7″. Ok, maybe that’s not exactly what she said, or did, but that’s what she was thinking…
So, I pilgrimaged my way down to Mountain View, Arkansas and through the adorable little town to the Ozark Folk Center state park. There was tons of talk of cowboy boots and cute summer dresses prior to the conference, but I wore my blue jeans and my Keen sandals. I was ready for a weekend of behind the scenes action.
And, so, just like I recently wrote about in my approach to PTA, I became the AWBU “Whatever”. Whatever needed done, I did it. I took direction from whoever would give it to me (except Jasmine). I enjoy being the Whatever. It not only gives me an inside track to what is going on, it positions me to do what I love best – helping others. It also allows me to be the missing link. A leaison. Not quite an attendee, but not quite a coordinator. Just the Whatever. Here are my unique experiences as the Whatever at AWBU 2012:
- Swag Management – I stuffed swag bags on a deadline while surrounded by mountains of Ziplock. I got to see what was in the swag bags before everyone else. Nahneenahnee. I also tricked Jody Dilday into thinking she was going to help me do the third round of stuffing, and then I left her to do it all herself. I spent a lot of time in the “war room”, which fellow type-a gal Beth and I reorganized about 42 times. I also delivered swag twice to each blogger’s cabin. Now I know which bloggers are the messiest. I drank Angie‘s vodka, ate Christie‘s snacks, and took a shower in Lela‘s bathroom. I also shook up the Cave City watermelon that Kat had stashed in her room.
- Guess that Blogger – I am blessed to know, in some way, shape, or form, a LOT of bloggers in Arkansas. At registration, my knowledge was tested as I attempted to check my peers in without letting on that I couldn’t remember their last name, or could ONLY remember their last name, or really just wanted to call them by their blog title. “Hello, Moody Mom. Welcome to the conference.” The test continued the next day while writing tips on a whiteboard from the “45 tips in 45 minutes” session, when I had to write the name of the blogger in the audience giving the tip. Actually, it was fun, and I liked doing both of these tasks.
- Making Folks Happy – Guess who was most pleased about the ARWB t-shirts at registration? That would be Lisa from Frenetic Fitness. You know, since she forgot to bring clothes and all. And while I had nothing to do with the coordination of it, I got to escort Thom from the back door and stand with him while we listened to Gina tell THE story. The anticipation for what would happen next was so exciting.
Lost and Found – Having been in charge of campus-wide lost and found back when I was in college, I try to stay on top of misplaced items at events like this. Late Saturday night after everyone had left from the big boot party, we found a nice DSLR camera on the food table. We figured out whose it was by timidly looking at the images on it. Ok, maybe not so timid. Everyone squealed in horror when I turned the camera on and started reviewing pictures. Luckily, Jacklyn from Ohbygollyhad not even missed her camera yet. AND, as a value added service, the ARWB gals and I added a few extra pictures so she wouldn’t forget us.
- Talking Head – Although my tired body was making my brain not work so well, and despite the fact that I am a newly converted introvert, as the Whatever, I tried to do my best to chat everyone up. I especially aim for the folks who look like they need someone to talk to. However, this weekend, I didn’t see much of that. It was great to see everyone meshing so well. I also got to run my mouth off on stage, and that is always fun. I co-presented with the beautiful and talented Natalie Ghidotti on the topic of monetizing your blog. I learned a ton from her in the process of putting our presentation together – added bonus!
- Watching Transformations – The absolute coolest thing about being a step removed is getting to stand back and watch people transform. In some folks I saw a big change from last year to this year, like Grippi Girl, who seemed really shy and reserved last year and super outgoing and bubbly this year. She told me that she gets away one weekend a year, and it’s been for AWBU the past two years. That makes my heart warm. And there was Jackie, who voiced her concern of coming out to join us in a pre-event blog post. When I saw her at the beginning of the first day, I could see that apprehension in her face. By Sunday morning, she was sending out tweets saying “I Get it!!” and reporting that her heart broke open in a blog post titled “I Found My Tribe at #AWBU” That’s what I’m talkin’ about. That’s what it’s for.
Even though I don’t live in Arkansas any more, when AWBU 2013 rolls around, I’ll be there, with my Whatever shoes on. I cannot wait.