I got back from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the site of Big Summer Potluck, Sunday night. I’ve delayed writing this post for a few days. I’d like to tell you that it’s because I wanted everything I experienced last weekend to soak in. Sure, that’s part of it, but the main reason I haven’t shared this yet has to do with fear. Fear that I won’t be able to adequately describe how I felt when I was there. Fear that posting pictures of Clara being held by other people will upset our family members that still have yet to meet her. Fear that this post will seem super cheesy (warning: it probably is).
Big Summer Potluck isn’t a conference. It didn’t take place in a hotel meeting room. Telling you what I didn’t do while I was there reveals just as much as telling you what I did. I didn’t talk about traffic or SEO. I didn’t find out the best way to get my pictures pinned. I didn’t feel like I was having sponsors shoved down my throat at every opportunity. I didn’t take my iPad so that I could take notes. I didn’t watch a bunch of bloggers fawn over the “bigger” bloggers or try to slip them a business card. I didn’t leave feeling like I needed to come home and change everything about my writing/design/recipes. If you’ve been to a blogging conference, you know what I’m talking about. (That’s not to say those conferences don’t have a place, but they’re not what I needed this year.) What I did at Big Summer Potluck was so much more meaningful.
I smiled watching Maggy and Pam hold and cuddle Clara as if we’ve been friends forever and this was their first time seeing us since she was born.
I teared up listening to Chris talk about how life comes first because, after all, “it’s just a blog.”
I related to Melissa as she talked about fear of not being good enough.
I ate awesome food.
I didn’t photograph any of it.
I drank way too much coffee.
I talked to Aimée and Laura Beth about baby stuff and watched our little ones play and laugh.
I ran in the rain.
I listened to Brooke talk about how to find stillness amidst the craziness of life.
I talked to Joy about Clara and was comforted by her incredibly kind words.
I confessed to Sabrina that, despite missing our families, Eric and I are so happy Clara will grow up in a place that exposes her to different people and philosophies.
I listened to bluegrass music with Clara in my arms and a glass of wine in my hand.
I felt at home.
Big Summer Potluck starts and ends at the home of Pam Anderson. I’ll admit, I felt a little awkward Friday night because I didn’t really know anyone (more than a Twitter conversation here and there). I’m a very outgoing person, but I was having a hard time breaking out of my shell that night. Clara was fussy when I left the hotel, and of course my phone didn’t want to send or receive texts for me to check in. So I was slightly anxious when the evening began but found that my anxiety dissipated the more I mingled. By Sunday morning, I walked into Pam’s house sad that I’d be saying goodbye to the friends I’d made over the weekend.
The entire weekend was full of wonderful food, demos and speakers. I’m not going to give you a play by play, and I obviously spent more time photographing Clara than I did food. I do want to share what stuck with me and weighed on my mind over the course of the weekend, and that’s community. The feeling that we’re not alone in whatever we’re going through. The reason I blog and stick with it even when I feel inadequate. The conversations that happened when the speakers opened up the floor for everyone to share their thoughts. These are the things that remain, and they couldn’t have been captured with a camera or as notes on my iPad.
Brooke spoke about being mindful in all we do, not just in blogging. She also talked about being vulnerable in life and in writing. I’ve done this once before, when I told all of you about Clara’s birth defect. I haven’t mentioned since then that I sometimes still cry (even as I write this behind tear-filled eyes) when I think about the decision that’s ahead of us. I want to share the good stuff with all of you, and there is a lot of it. If you follow me on Instagram, you can see that I get to spend my days with the most beautiful little girl. But there are still times that I’m scared – for her, for us – and most of you would never know that. I think sharing these pieces of my life with you, both good and bad, will make my writing more genuine. Brooke’s talk reminded me of this, and it was something that I needed to hear. The focus here will still be on the food, of course, but I hope I can let you guys in on other stuff that’s going on too.
The weekend wasn’t full of only deep thoughts and seriousness. There were plenty of laughs and fun stories shared. There was a photo booth, complete with kitchen related props like a giant whisk and giant wooden spoon. Judging from the few people I watched, the pictures are going to be hilarious. In our case, Clara was trying to eat the whisk, and we had our signature speech bubble quote “all we do is win” (because people expect “we are the champions”).
The whole thing went by far too quickly. Leading up to the event, I worried (needlessly, I might add) over how things would work logistically with Clara and Eric, but they were graciously welcomed by our hosts. Everything was so laid back, and I never had a problem sneaking away to feed our little girl. The attendees and speakers were open, raw and honest, and I left Big Summer Potluck feeling happy, refreshed and hopeful.