Happy Birthday to Me!

I had a lot of plans for posting this week but when my parents asked if Abby and I wanted to join them for a week at the beach for my birthday it was hard to say no! The only things that could have made this week better would be my husband being able to join us and an unending supply of spoons!

This week there was some of this (thanks to unseasonably warmer temps):

Surfside Beach Trip

And some of this:

Surfside Beach

Can I say that I am officially in love with Charleston? We stayed in Surfside but Charleston was just a hop-skip-and-jump away and we drove down for the day and honestly it just wasn’t enough! We lived outside of Charleston when I was in elementary school for about two years but of course I didn’t appreciate the history and beauty then! It was great to be back and there will definitely be another post coming!

It has definitely been a great week to remember and I am so incredibly thankful for all that I have been blessed with in my life! May this year be as surgery-free as the last and may my disability appeal go through with flying colors! Oh the things we wish for as spoonies! 🙂

Now I am off to celebrate with the family and try out a new restaurant in Surfside that offers gluten-free pizza!

bloggingchronic illness

Tips For Attending A Conference When You Have A Chronic Illness

As you all know, I recently returned from my first trip to Type A Conference in the beautiful city of Atlanta! I wrote about my first trip to a conference when I shared tips on surviving a blog conference when you are an introvert but this was my first multi-day conference and it was a lot larger than my previous experience. Type A is bigger than Bloggy Bootcamp (my first conference experience) but still significantly smaller than BlogHer. This experience definitely proved my little introverted self would absolutely NEVER make it at BlogHer. I think the last BH conference surpassed 3000 attendees! Yikes! I only had to hide in the bathroom and cry once at Type A 🙂

While the trip definitely exhausted me and it took me nearly a week to recover, I still think that the trip was very worthwhile and I don’t think having a chronic illness can keep you from having a blast. You just need to modify your plans to accommodate your needs. Here are some things that I recommend paying attention to when you consider attending a blog conference (or any time of conference really):

1- Travel. I lucked out that Type A was only 3 hours away from home. There were conference attendants from all over the country who had a much heftier travel agenda than I had so for that I am thankful! If you are going to be traveling from a significant distance, be sure to add some buffer time in your schedule. Consider traveling in a day early and/or staying an extra day to allow yourself time to rest before the festivities.Type A kicked off Friday morning but I arrived in Atlanta around dinner time on Thursday so I was able to catch a quick dinner and spend the evening resting so I would be ready to go the next morning.Not only does driving wear me out but driving in Atlanta drives me absolutely batty which makes me more anxious which makes me stress which makes me more likely to flare. Because I knew this, I hooked up with some bloggers from the area to carpool down. I was glad to help pay gas and parking if it meant I didn’t have to drive! By the time time Sunday rolled around, I was so tired that I was twice as glad that I was not the one driving. Had I been driving, I would have definitely added in a rest day before traveling for safety.

2- Its ok to miss sessions and events. I know you want to soak in as much knowledge, networking, and good times as possible when you attend a conference but it is ok to take breaks. Your body needs breaks. Conference rooms chairs are not the most comfortable and walking back and forth for sessions and around the expo area can take a toll on your body and the last thing you want to do is push yourself too far and land in a strange ER. Conferences typically publish the schedule well in advance so pick out the sessions and events that are the most important to you and build your personal schedule around that. Allow yourself to be flexible and most importantly, don’t feel bad about making your health a priority. Would I have loved to been more involved in the night events and late night parties? Absolutely but I would rather leave early to get some rest in order to be able to fully enjoy the sessions and events I did go to. It is really important to listen to your body and go with the flow.

3- Dress comfortably. These days I am hardly out of yoga pants so I was really looking forward to wearing some real clothes and feeling cute and put together but I still had to take into consideration what I would also feel comfortable in. I have two large incisions that can make sitting for extended periods uncomfortable with certain waistbands so I had to take that into consideration when picking out my outfits. There would also be some walking around the expo area and between sessions that make comfortable shoes a must. Thankfully everything for Type A was in the same general area within the hotel but I know some conferences are more spread out. My go-to outfits for this conference where dark wash jeans, blazers, and fun accessories. I have decided that blazers are my secret weapon for feeling confident and put together!

4- Make sure you have the medications you need. While most hotels have a gift shop or convenience area where you can purchase Pepto and Tylenol, I am a strong believer in being a spoonie girl scout and being prepared. I also recommend traveling with your prescription medications in their original bottles. Heaven forbid something should happen but in case of an emergency, a doctor or responder would be able to know the medications you are taking versus having a pill case with a bigger variety than a bag of Skittles. You don’t necessarily need to bring a full bottle but I would bring enough for the days of your trip plus one as a spare. If you require prescription pain medications, I recommend traveling with a mini pill safe or keeping them on you just as a precaution. I also travel with a variety of OTC medicines as well as a precaution. I felt like a walking pharmacy as I had everything from Excedrin to Dramamine. I would also recommend wearing a medical alert (if needed) and installing an ICE app on your phone with your pertinent medical information in case of emergency (especially if you are not traveling with someone who knows your history).

5- Be yourself and HAVE FUN! I always worry about being known as the “sick blogger.” Many within the Type A community know my story, especially when I had to back out of last year’s conference at the last minute because of my bowel obstruction surgery. I was met with “How are you feeling?” on several occassions (versus the traditional “How are you?”) and at first I felt a little self-concious because I didn’t want to be known as that girl but I can to the realization that 1- while I am not defined by my illness, it is a part of who I am and shaped me into the strong woman that I am and given me the purpose for why I attend blogging events, and 2- these people are completely genuine, care about me as a person, and Type A really is a family of bloggers. Hopefully by knowing me and my story, they will be more aware of chronic illnesses and will be able to better support a friend or loved one who may be impacted by illness. I have to admit that I also loved being the blogger with purple hair! A tip if you have purple hair (or another unnatural hair color) – bring your own pillowcase to avoid color rub on the hotel sheets! I would hate to know what the Westin would have charged me for a pillowcase considering a bottle of water was $3!

Hopefully these tips will help if you decide to attend a blog conference (or any kind of conference) someday! If you have attended a similar event with chronic illness, what tips would you add to the list?

p.s. – if you notice over there on the sidebar, I have opened up A New Kind of Normal store on Zazzle! I am a very visual person and love having visual reminders to stay strong and keep up the hope especially when I am having a hard day! Let me know what you think!


5 Things I Learned At Type A Conference

I promise I didn’t mean to fall off the planet after the Type A Conference! All of the travel and sessions induced a flare (which I expected) and I had a visit with my endo doctor where we decided to start a new treatment as a last ditch effort before considering surgery #7 and the side effects of said treatment have been kicking my butt. Hopefully they will ease up as my body gets adjusted to the new medication.

Even though it wore me slap out, Type A Conference was definitely worth it! It was refreshing, inspiring, and educational. I not only learned a lot about blogging and my future aspirations for blogging but I learned about myself as a personal as well.

Here are the top 5 things I learned at Type A:

1- We are a collection of our experiences, for better or for worse. Its what makes us who we are. Amber Nasland kicked off the conference with an incredibly empowering keynote entitled, “The Other Side of Courage: Embracing Fear, Taking Risks, The One Truth You Need To Know.” For the longest time after being diagnosed with chronic illness, I kept waiting on life to return to “normal.” I was constantly telling myself “when I feel better I can to this” or “after this happens I can do that.” I was constantly putting my life on hold waiting on the next doctor, treatment, or surgery to allow me to return to the life I once knew. It has taken me a lot of time and a lot of wrestling to realize that I will never get that life back and that is ok. My illnesses have shaped me into who I am and not only helped me become a better person but a deeper and more enriched person because of my experiences. Do I grieve my last life and miss the things that I used to be able to do? Absolutely but I have realized that while the book has closed on that chapter of my life, a whole new book has been opened full of amazing experiences and opportunities and for that I am thankful.

2-Blend your passion with your actions and your voice. One of the sessions I was looking forward to the most at this conference was on Cause Blogging and The New Media Activist as obviously I am very interested in using blogging and social media as a way to bring awareness, resources, and education for important causes. I found it very empowering to be in a room full of fellow bloggers who had the same heart and passion as I do. One of the important points that was reinforced in my mind was taking our online passion offline. I am very passionate about the yearly Blogging for Endometriosis Awareness campaign (and this session definitely gave me some ideas on how to enhance the campaign for 2014) and now I feel empowered to find a way to get involved hands-on in the community through the Million Woman March for Endometriosis. While I am unsure at this point if I will be able to attend the march in Washington DC personally, I lend my voice and social media platforms to get involved.

3- Light is the essence of photography. Jenn Hethcoat put together an amazing session on “Blog Photography for the Photographically Challenged.” I was blessed with a great DSLR through a random act of blogging kindness and have been trying to figure it out ever since. Jenn made this session so practical that it just clicked in my mind and finally things started to make sense. I never knew that shade produces a much better picture that direct sunlight or using texture to make photos more interesting. As a result of this session, I was able to come home and catch the best photo I have ever taken!

4- In understanding SEO, the important thing to remember is relevance. It was tough to decide which hands-on session to try to get into because there were so many amazing options but in the end, I signed up for a SEO Basics session because in all my years of blogging SEO still makes my head spin. Dan Morris (who is also a part of Blogging Concentrated) led the session and once again it was the practicality of the information that made it so valuable to my blogging experience. Never in a million years would I have guessed that talking about a bathroom would help me understand how SEO functions which is working to build your credibility as being relevant to the topic you blog about. For example, I want to be known as relevant to endometriosis awareness so it is important that I build my credibility as an “expert” through using post titles, keywords, and meta descriptions. Now that I feel like I have a foundation to build upon, I am going to start working through Mom Blog SEO (which was written by Type A Con founder Kelby Carr).

5- Choose your own adventure. It is no secret that anything Disney makes my heart go pitter-patter and I was very stoked that Disney Parks was a conference sponsor and that Gary Buchanan, the social media managing editor from WDW, would be leading one of the keynote sessions. I will totally confess that Gary made me cry. Twice. Between this DJ Steve Porter Disney video and his description of the clouds in Toy Story, I totally reached for my tissues. Yes, I am completely a sap. I blame the first set of tears on exhaustion (though I agree that Disney is magical) but the second set of tears came from the creative spirit that is embodied in everything Disney. One of my favorite Walt Disney quotes is “It is kind of fun to do the impossible.” Sometimes in life we need to take that chance and step out on faith. Gary said, “It’s not where you take thing forms. It’s where you take them to.” I want to take A New Kind of Normal to bigger and better places. This is my passion and my purpose and I cannot wait to see what lies ahead!

Type A Conference was an amazing experience and I am so thankful I went! It was a bit scary diving into something completely new but it was definitely worth it!