Conversations with Strangers

Conversations with strangersForget everything you’ve heard about not talking to strangers. Okay, maybe not everything. Trust your instincts always, but from time to time the perspective a stranger can offer is exactly the view you’ve been seeking.

Conversations with Strangers

I’ve often been told my life plays out like a rom-com of the late 90’s. Truthfully, I’d love it if my role in life was anywhere near the adorable characters Meg Ryan played in You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle… I’d even settle for When Harry met Sally… but this isn’t that kind of story. No meet cute in the story I’m about to tell you. I don’t think the interactions I have are especially unique, I just think they happen because I tend to be pretty approachable in my day-to-day behavior. I smile at everyone, make direct eye contact, and use lots of pleasantries with my servers and I try to really listen when others speak. Basic manners and good human-ing, you know?  All of this typically leads to extended conversations with all kinds of interesting people and thanks to the internet I often stay in contact with them for years to come. It’s made for a very interesting life with LOTS of stories. Coming home from New York last week was no different.

I had arrived at my airport gate to discover my plane had been delayed. Sigh. Not a huge surprise when you travel frequently, you get use to plan B, and plan C, and even sometimes plan D. I’ve learned to be flexible and find that the most unexpected things are exactly what was supposed to happen.  This time my flight was not direct and I had a connection that I was a little concerned to be missing. I courteously walked up to the counter to inquire about the status. No luck. As I headed back to my seat I encountered a woman who was also traveling on my flight. She struck up a conversation and we began discussing where and why we were traveling. She was very pleasant. I was engaged immediately and thought to myself she was the type of woman I’d invite to coffee if we lived in the same city.

So, What do you do?

Then she asked the question that always trips me up in general spaces. “What do you do?” I think this question makes most of us who operate in multiple capacities hesitate. Not because we don’t know what we do but because we wear so many hats it’s not always easy to simplify. “I write”, I tell her “kind of freelance.” This is true, blogging is just kind  of hard to explain as a job.

Instead of taking the answer and moving on the woman replies,  “Do you blog? You seem like a blogger.” 

I am both flattered and taken aback. ( What exactly does blogger imply?)

I give credit to her still seeming nice and that blogger wasn’t being used derogatorily in this instance and ask her if she also blogs.  She tells me that while she isn’t a blogger herself she reads lots of them and has for years. She mentions several blogs that she has been following religiously and it was fun to hear the familiar blog names and knowing that several were people whose contact number was saved in my phone. She reminisced about when she was once introduced to one of these favorite bloggers. It was as though she was describing a meeting a celebrity. Ah, the rise of blogger to influencer…. micro-stardom.

She asked how long I had been blogging and who I followed. I recommended a few blogs I currently read on a regular basis and then the conversation got deeper.  She told me how she missed the days when she would get up in the morning, coffee in hand, open her computer to read what her favorite bloggers had done the day before. She loved following them just to know what happened from day-to-day. “They would share their favorite blogs and then you would follow their friends too. It made the world seem more connected.”

She went on to say that it was harder to find blogs like that these days and that bloggers aren’t sharing like that anymore. “Everything just looks like a magazine now”

She said she recognized it’s become a business but she missed the days of real connection.

Me too.

It made me wonder if we had forsaken our audiences for a paycheck. Had we sold out for money and impressions? Did we sell the very thing that made us special?

I told her I really appreciated her feedback and she asked for my card and said she would follow me. I hope she does. I want her to know that our connection mattered.

This conversation with a stranger is making me re-evaluate how I’m blogging today. I do think so much of it has become manufactured beautiful pictures, SEO and bigger social numbers. I wonder if we create projects to project an ideal that even we can’t fully obtain sometimes. I know I don’t want to do that for myself or for my audience. I’m not saying you won’t be seeing sponsored content from me but maybe it’s sparked a redirection to more of the way it was. It could be the best or worst thing that I’ve ever done… hopefully, y’all are along for the ride. Maybe if it’s good you’ll keep inviting your friends. More connection. More conversations with strangers.

I truly believe that the greatest thing in life is to love and be loved, to see and be seen in return.

There was once something very special about this place we created on the internet. These places where we allowed strangers see us, connect with us and we connected right back. Places where we knew we aren’t alone. They were places to connect and have the most meaningful conversations with strangers.

Working For Peanuts: From Field to Food #TXPeanutTour17

Texas peanut Tour 2017 Peanut Plant uncovered

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that until a few weeks ago the extent of my peanut farming knowledge was what I learned of George Washington Carver in elementary school history lectures. Given that peanut butter is a staple on our weekly grocery list, I was excited to receive an invitation by the Texas Peanut Producers Board to come visit several cities in west Texas to meet with current peanut farmers, tour their fields and expand my knowledge of the peanut plant.

Texas is the second largest peanut-producing state in the nation. Texas farmers produce hundreds of millions of peanuts every year and ship them around our state, the country and the world. The Texas Peanut Producers Board was founded in 1969 and has worked tirelessly since then to support research programs, provide education, develop markets and promote what they believe are the best peanuts in the world.

Day 1 : Welcome To Lubbock!

Upon arriving to the Lubbock airport, I was greeted by the shuttle driver to the Overton Hotel  who was waiting out front. I highly recommend staying here if you are in the Lubbock area. It’s the first and only four star AAA rated hotel in west Texas.

overton hotel room

I arrived early in the day so I met up with a friend to do a little sightseeing. We had a fabulous time touring the city and even though my first thought was “What’s in Lubbock?” I can TOTALLY recommend everything we did. It’s worth the trip! I’ll link up with everything we did and an itinerary of what do in Lubbock in a future post here.

That evening we were treated to a fabulous three course dinner of peanut inspired dishes at Las Brisas Steakhouse crafted by Chef Matt Lopez.

Las Brisas Texas Peanut Tour menu

Texas Peanut Tour Las Brisas

Texas Peanut Tour 2017 las brisas Tacos

Texas Peanut Tour Las Brisas Entree

Day 2: Out in the Fields and Vineyards

Texas Peanut Tour 2017 in the field

This day began early with a drive out to meet with the farmers in the field. We met up with Mason Becker, a multi-generational peanut farmer and advocate for agriculture and farming through his work with the West Texas Young Farmers Association. First it was time to really get to know the peanut plant. Did you know peanuts grow underground? If I’m being honest this was the first time I had ever seen them pulled right out of the ground before.

Texas Peanut Tour 2017 Peanut Plant

Texas Peanut Tour 2017 Virginia Peanuts

The variety you see above is the Virginia peanut. It’s one of the largest and most recognizable. Could you identify the 4 main types of peanuts? Well thanks to the Texas Peanut Board Tour, now I can. Here’s a chart so you’ll be up on your peanut name game too!

Types of Peanuts

 

Mason was open and honest with us about the current state of farming in America especially as it relates to peanut farming. We discussed the truths and myths of farming. He shared his personal story and what kind of commitment it takes to be out in the fields providing and nurturing the crops that will be harvested to stock store shelves. We learned just how important it is to support our local farmers and how difficult it can be to get into the business of farming. It takes a lot of financial backing, education and the ability to employ skilled workforce. As it turns out, finding labor with the skills required to farm in today’s fields isn’t as easy to come by as you may have thought.

Texas Peanut Tour 2017 Mason Becker

“My first tractor cost 3x the amount of my first house. Most years you’re just trying to break even.” If you haven’t gotten out in a field where your food is being grown or talked to the people who grow it recently, I highly recommend it putting that on your list. I know for me it had been too long between visits. It will give you a great appreciation for what you choose to put on your plate and they’ll be glad you came.

Our time in the fields was incredibly insightful and Mason was great to answer any questions we had. I learned a lot but there was still more to see on the tour. Following the life of the peanut, our next stop on the tour was the Birdsong Shelling facility. After the peanut is planted, grown, and harvested it comes here.

Texas Peanut Tour 2017 BirdSong

We saw the storage facilities, that house millions of tons of unshelled peanuts and geared up to walk through the loud shelling facility. It’s quite a process! Some areas were very loud, some extremely cold, and others quite dusty from all the shelling that was happening. We also met with the employees in quality control. They are checking around 1 million pounds of peanuts a day! It was truly amazing to think this location in Brownsville, TX provides peanuts for a majority of the national brands you and I enjoy. If you’ve ever eaten a Mars or Hershey bar with peanuts chances are you’ve eaten a peanut from this facility.

Time to Wine Down : Trilogy Cellars

Uncork and and Unwind Trilogy Cellars

It had been full day of learning, working and touring. While almost everyone can appreciate a glass of wine midday this location was well thought out. You see, most wine makers and grape growers are also peanut farmers. Peanuts are a fantastic rotation crop because of the nutrients they put back into the soil. Lots of crops take from the soil but peanuts give back.

We were scheduled to enjoy an outdoor patio lunch at Trilogy vineyards catered by Farm to Fork Gastro Truck. This is not your typical street foods. Farm to Fork is gourmet street food utilizing local sustainable ingredients. The Farm to Fork experience is crafted by Chef Antonio Pina and supplied by Pereira pastures dairy. They are all about supporting local farmers.

Farm to Fork Lunch

Korean Fried Chicken Farm To Fork

Trilogy Cellars

While we dined under the warm Texas sunshine and sipped on the wine that grew on the vines just feet away from us, Steve Newsome and Chace Hill retold the story of how Trilogy came to be. Trilogy Cellars, located in Levelland, Texas, is a family owned winery. In short Trilogy is three families, three vineyards united in one vision. That vision is more than just making great wine but after a tasting its easy to tell they excel at their craft. Each glass poured easily rivaled Napa. I joined the wine club on the spot. It was that good.

There is just something about hearing the stories of a person’s life and passion over a glass of wine. It was an honor to be there that day and even more so to have the opportunity to visit the vineyards right outside Steve’s personal home.

Trilogy vineyard tour

Grape growing 101 Texas Peanut Tour 2017

Grapes on the vine Trilogy Cellars

After visiting the fields, vineyards and dining establishments of West Texas it was time to return home. I had a wonderful visit and left with an open invitation to come back any time. Lubbock has given itself the moniker of “the friendliest city in Texas” and I think I’d have to agree. Everyone was incredibly welcoming. I’ll be sure to plan a trip back soon. Until then I won’t pick up a jar of peanut butter without thinking of the time spent here. I definitely won’t ever take for granted the farmers who work so diligently to produce these crops.

Attending Mom 2.0 Feels a Little Different in 2017

Mom 2.0 Summit 2017 location Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes

Mom 2.0 Summit is one of my favorite conferences of the year.  This week I’ll once again be making my way there to speak and attend as planned. Staying at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes makes for a pretty fabulous work week too.  I have attended Mom 2.0 in previous years as both attendee and speaker. I previous years I’ve described it feeling like a reunion. This year it feels so much different. This time packing my suitcase feels more like revisiting a milestone or anniversary of sorts. Probably not for any reasons you might assume.

When I first turned my attention to blogging as a career avenue several years ago, Mom 2.0 was the conference I aspired to attend. I had heard amazing things about the brands, attendees and the organizers there. Having background in conference organizing and event planning myself I am always critical of these things but Mom 2.0 summit is one of the very best. I have never once regretted investing my time and money here. If you are reading this and wondering if you should attend next year, just bookmark it on your calendar now. Growing my business was the goal and I’ve always achieved that here. That first year, my network grew both personally and professionally as a result but more importantly I left inspired to tell better stories and become a better writer. It sparked a desire to tell stories that resonated, to connect with the hearts and lives of my readers, not just acquire more pageviews or sell someone on a new product. Connection and community became a better focus. Attending Mom 2.0 that first year changed everything.

Last May was another, even more life changing year at Mom 2.0 Summit. The theme for 2016 was “Redefining Motherhood”. If only I had known just how prophetic that theme would become. That year, I would be moderating a panel on live streaming and social media with incredible women positioned in various areas of that field.

Three minutes before we took the stage I received a text from my oldest daughter who at the time was staying with my younger two children as my husband’s work trip had overlapped by 48 hours. The exchange went something like this:

Mom, can I call you?  

I can’t talk. Everything ok? If it’s an emergency please text. – was my quick auto text reply.

Everything is okay. I really need to talk to you when you’re free though. 

Then I knew. Something in my gut told me and I just knew. My eyes inadvertently closed for long blink and I took a deep breath as I text back….

Are you pregnant? 

Maybe. 

In that moment I don’t know how I knew, I just did. I’ve always had really impeccable discernment and there is something about a connection between mother and child. Maybe it was that? Or maybe it was God preparing my heart for the conversation that would come? Either way, it was now time to take the stage.

The next hour and a fifteen minutes flew by. Our panel was a success and I have never been more pleased at my skills in compartmentalizing my feelings. I hate bragging but as a Scorpio hiding emotions is a skill set we often pride ourselves on.

The room cleared and I decided my room would be the best place to return the call to my daughter. All kinds of emotions were circling in my mind as I smiled and nodded passing other attendees in the halls and lobby. I am forever grateful that the walk to my room was several minutes long. It gave me time to think of what I would say. I mean, What does one say? What in the world was I going to say? “How? When? What were you thinking? We’ve had so many talks….”

No. This was not the time for any of that.

As I approached the door to my room a revelation came to me. The next words I would say were “forever words”. The tone of my voice and words I chose to use would echo in my daughter’s mind and mine for as long as we would live. It felt like such a defining moment. I had the choice in how this would play out. This moment and  the words that came next had the potential to literally redefine our relationship and it did.

I don’t remember everything that was said in detail. Looking back it all feels a little like when the teacher from Charlie Brown was talking. I do remember that I made a conscious choice to put my daughter first in that moment. This call WAS NOT about me or how I felt. I determined not to be selfish with my thoughts or feelings. I thought about how scared she must be and what courage she must have had to muster to reach out to me that day. I put myself in her position and wondered about all the concerns she had about how her life would change as a young mother. I reminded myself that every life that comes into the world deserves to be celebrated and if that was the course we were on than we would celebrate.

Redefining Motherhood, indeed. 

My tone was calm and reassuring. I told her that no matter what I loved her and that everything was going to be alright. I reinforced that whatever she decided I was with her 100 percent and that she had no reason to worry about doing this alone. I encouraged her that motherhood was one of the best things that I had ever invested my life in and that even when it was difficult (i.e.that very moment) I’ve never regretted it.

We hung up the phone and I sat alone in my room for a few moments in my thoughts. I didn’t feel like crying but I was a little shocked at the thought of our whole world changing. I had no baseline for how this was supposed to go. Was I doing the right thing? Should I have been more upset? And “grandmother”? That wasn’t a term I was even ready to acknowledge. 

I left my room to resume the conference. I shared the news with one close confident and let it go knowing that no matter the outcome, it would be what it would be. I reassured my mind with the same tone and words that I shared with my daughter. Our lives would be changed and although we had a lot of unanswered questions, it would be an amazing adventure.

The months following were a roller coaster. We were excited. We were nervous. There were times where we were scared of the unknown. There were times where I felt like I had failed. As we all know from day one of parenting, there is no manual for motherhood. There is no “normal”. But you know what? The people who have been the most invested in this story and have uplifted me, made time to check in on us and who have CELEBRATED this time with me…. they were some of the very same ones from my Mom 2.0 community the year before. You guys have been amazing. If you’ve seen posts on our #OneTinyHuman, you know this last year has brought more joy and love into our lives than any of us ever imagined possible.

So, I try and pay a lot more attention to themes now. I find life has a way of echoing messages it wants us to grab hold of. This year the Mom 2.0 Summit is a verb: RISE. It’s explained best from the conference announcement:

“Rise” can refer to thousands of specific actions. We all rise in our own ways and in our own time, every day, through our stories, our endeavors, our promotions, our mediums. We have different backgrounds, goals, and pursuits, but we all rise together, and that is when we are at our best.

As I pack my suitcase and fly out to Orlando tomorrow, I made sure to set intentions and goals for my time there but I am prepared for wonderfully unexpected things to happen as well. I am looking forward to the things I will learn, the things I will share and all the ways we can rise together in business and in life.

If you’ll be attending Mom 2.0 Summit this week I’d love to see you sometime this week. Feel free to say “Hi!” and if you’d like to attend my panel mark your schedule Thursday 5/11 at 11:00 AM est Better Together: Effective Networking and Collaboration Strategies for Influencers and Brands.

It should be a great time and I’m looking forward to sharing the reacap of this year’s Mom 2.0 Summit with you in June! Until then be sure to follow along on IG/IG stories, Snapchat, Fb and Twitter for daily behind the scenes stories and updates along the way.

Why Mom 2.0 Summit ?

mom 2.0 summit

Whenever I am asked for recommendations for “must attend” professional events to invest or participate in, Mom 2.0 is ALWAYS at the top of the list. I was able to attend for the first time last spring as an attendee and it was a wonderful experience. This year I’m honored to be returning as a speaker discussing the impact of live video strategy. (check out the full speaker line up here) 

I'm Speaking At The Mom 2.0 Summit

My introduction to Mom 2.0 was much like what I’m doing with you now. You know,  “I heard it from a friend, who heard it from a friend…” that it was THE industry event to invest in. I did my research and checked out the website. It sounded amazing and the location… even better…but for me, the the best part wasn’t listed on the website.

Honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew only a handful of other attendees closely at that time. I ventured out in the facebook group and replied to a post for roommates. fyi… that was SO OUTSIDE MY COMFORT ZONE at the time. Rooming with strangers? Hmmmm…. BEST ROOMMATES EVER! That was just first notch in the collection of wonderful relationships that would be formed both in business and friendship through Mom 2.0 Summit.

If there is a description of the relationships you will make or the culture that is present,  I would offer these words- And I mean them from my very heart: “Come knowing that YOU are enough. Mom 2.0 is a safe place to be your authentic self. You will naturally find your people in this circle. Our differences are embraced. Our strengths are celebrated. Your win is my win and your struggle is my struggle.”  … & get ready to dance. 

As beautiful as that is, culture like this isn’t cultivated by accident.  It is important to me recognize and honor the founders and members of the Mom 2.0 team. SO much goes into every amazing moment. I am a detail person by nature and after organizing similar events, I can honestly say this group doesn’t miss a beat. Individually they are inspiring, together they are a force moving the needle on behalf of our collective voice. I truly believe they are THE top of this game. #Squadgoals would be an understatement.

The relationship/community culture of Mom 2.0 is one that also translates through the brands participating as well. Spend time with the ones that resonate with you and fit your story. You’ll know. Look for opportunities that are mutually beneficial and brands that connect with your story.

Last year I connected with Kia and got to share some of my story.  Here’s a little of what we created.

Since then I’ve partnered with Kia to add several more adventures to my story. I’m so excited that they will be returning once again as a presenting sponsor. There will be so many opportunities for you to connect too. You’ll be able to take part in the Ride and Drive and share your stories of motherhood and career. If you need professional headshots Kia Studio suite will have that opportunity available as well ( I actually have my Kia Mom headshot on my business cards and LinkedIn profile as we speak).  Take a moment to check out some of those that they partner with to get an idea of their heart in give back too : The Ecology CenterPacific Marine Mammal Center, B.R.A.K.E.S., Girls, inc .

When the conference comes to a close it’s always bittersweet. Besides having to depart from beautiful surroundings and having to cook your own meals again, it’s hard to leave the circle of people who “just get it”. The creatives, the introverts, extroverts, party people, …. it’s a virtual breakfast club. Your people are here and the best part….it’s not over after all.

These are REAL relationships in a real community that continues to deepen and strengthen over the year/years to come. There are so many relationships that continued to develop after Mom 2.0 summit last year that this year will feel like a reunion. People that have become not only colleagues, but friends.

I can’t wait to see you all whether it’s this year or next. I’ll be there every time. Keep building relationships wherever you are. We need each other.

Blogger Bash Made Me a Rockstar !! #BBNYC #SweetSuite15

Blogger Bash Logo 2015

Who remembers reading about my excitement after attending Blogger Bash last year? It was an amazing experience and the beginning of some fantastic relationships with so many bloggers and brands that continue today. In just a couple of weeks, I am headed back to NYC- This time as a Blogger Bash RockStar!!!

Blogger Bash BatMan Collage

BBAmbassadorBadgeNow before you get to thinking that I have an ego the size of the Empire State Building, Blogger Bash RockStars are ambassadors for the event. The selected ambassadors have an incredible amount of enthusiasm and genuine love for Blogger Bash. I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the other RockStars over the last few months and it’s way more than just a hype team. The RockStars that attended last year and can speak to any questions you may have. Feel free to reach out they are incredible! More than that these are professionals dedicated to the industry of blogging with experience and wisdom to share too.

blogger bash Collage 1
I absolutely loved attending Blogger Bash last year and have been waiting all year for it be here again!!! ( really though, you HAVE to read why I first fell in love with this event!)  Tickets are limited but there is still a window of opportunity for you to go – Get your ticket here.

Here’s a sneak peek into just a few of the awesome additions I am excited about this year!

Blue Man Group Blogger bash NYC

Blue Man Group Special Performance just for Blogger Bash!!!

Disney Infiniity Blogger Bash NYC

A breakfast hosted by Disney Infinity 3.0!! Star Wars  is joining the Disney Infinity toys-to-life universe. We will be among the first to play the new game and  learn how our kids can channel the force at home.

Peanuts Movie Blogger Bash NYC

The Peanuts Movie!! We will also get a sneak peek at the highly anticipated Peanuts movie, featuring Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and all the classic characters.

(For a full list of sponsors click here)

 

Sweet Suite Blogger Bash NYC

And of course, Sweet Suite! 

This will be the sixth annual Sweet Suite event, also known as the Biggest Night of Play. It’s hosted by the Toy Insider, a website dedicated to reviewing toys year round, providing kids, parents, grandparents, and other gift-givers with all of the information they need to choose the right toys. My kids are always excited to hear about this part of my trip the most!! I love getting to play with everything before my kids do!

More than all of the events, I’m excited that I will be surrounded by MY PEOPLE, some of most amazing bloggers in the industry. I do hope I will get to see you there!!! If you are attending look for me & all the Blogger Bash RockStars, the amazing Blogger Bash team and be sure to smile & say hi- I promise we will all be smiling back because that’s just the kind of event this is.

IMG_6362