Advance warning: This post may seem like an awful lot of links to other people's blogs, but I just did not want to miss anyone who made my weekend so special!
It's Sunday morning, I've just spent the most hectic yet amazing Friday and Saturday in London at BritMums Live, and I cannot wait to blog about it all. Yet, I don't really know how to start explaining just how amazing this past weekend has been for me.
Except, I do. When I think about all the happened over the two days the overwhelming feeling I get is that I am part of a massively warm and welcoming community. I have been blogging since 2006 and though blogging has changed massively in that time, the community aspect does still exist.
So many bloggers now use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google+ and who knows what else I've forgotten, and it is hard to keep up. I have less time for blogging now than I ever have, because working part-time and raising a toddler is hard work. I couldn't help but wonder if blogging was growing beyond my ability to keep up, if I was losing the community because I was falling behind...
But I was wrong... oh so wonderfully wrong!
I went to the conference with a thought in my mind, "This is about community for me, not about blogging". And community is what I found.
At the welcome speech from Susanna and Jen, the BritMums founders, we were told to try and make 3 new friends over the weekend. I did a quick tally in my head and realised I had already spoken to 5 people I had never met before (some I had been briefly talking to online but not in person) and so I was well on track to finding my "3 new friends".
This in itself amazed me. I still think of myself as a shy and timid person, and going into a conference full of 500 bloggers you don't really know and striking up conversation with people can be a scary thing. Yet I was in my element. I chatted and hugged and just had a wonderful time hearing everyone's story and getting to know people. I truly am a social person and I need to remind myself of that sometimes.
My entire adult life has revolved around community: I studied languages at university because I loved learning how to communicate with people; I worked in childcare because I loved meeting the parents as much as I loved caring for the children; I worked in tourism because meeting people from all around the world was exciting; and I blog because I love to make connections.
I may not be able to keep up with the social media side of blogging right now, but the blogging comunity is still a wonderful place to be. One of the first people I met on Friday, MS Mummy of Two, reminded me of this when she told me how she had found my blog just recently and had spent some time looking through my posts. Even when you think no-one is reading your words, someone out there has read them and felt a connection with you. And that is an amazing thing, don't you think?
Another blogging friend, I'm Counting UFOs gave me a second reminder, when she very sincerely told me not to give up blogging (you may remember I mentioned not knowing whether to quit blogging here). I love Steph and was gutted I didn't get chance to speak to her at last year's BritMums so was incredibly excited to say hi this year. To have someone whose blog you love tell you they think you should keep blogging is a real boost. And to then have that blogger introduce you to one of the most "famous" bloggers there, Annie from Mammasaurus, well that just blows your mind (because we all get a little bit nervous of meeting the "big" bloggers, right?).
I met people I have seen around but never really talked to, like Penny from A Residence who is a truly delightful person to talk to and lives quite locally to me I discovered.
I met people from the lovely BritMums Butterflies Facebook Group, like Anya Harris who was so warm and welcoming to everyone, Marissa who I met at Moorgate station before the pre-event meet up, and @tinkypen who I spotted during one of the talks and tweeted so we could say hello once the session was over. And let's not forget Liska who organised the pre-event meet at Starbucks for us all :)
And I met people I have never really come across before, but loved chatting to anyway. People like Lisa from Mummy Whisperer and Ericka from Mum in the South, both of whom I met whilst we were all waiting to go in and have our sessions with the literary agents.
But however wonderful it is to meet new people (and it really is!) the greatest joy for me had to come from meeting people I already followed online. People whose lives I have seen being turned upside down and inside out and who have shared their hearts and welcomed us into their lives. People who I have wanted to meet for ages but didn't have the chance until now...
The first was Spencer of @ADadCalledSpen who is just as lovely and open and honest in real life as he is on his blog and twitter feed. I am glad I got to give him and hug and have a chat with him, as his blog is one I love to read.
The second, and possibly the biggest highlight of my weekend, was meeting Cherry Menlove. I came across Cherry during 2006 when I first started blogging and I fell in love with her blog immediately. I may not have been anywhere near as passionate about my home and garden as she is (let's face it, I was still in a house share at that time), but I still loved reading about the things she did. I followed her blog as she got engaged and married, as she moved out of London, as she became a mum to twins, as she began to grow professionally with articles in the mainstream media and now a book (which I have, and you should consider buying too!) and I read as her husband bravely fought cancer. You can't follow someone's life in that way for so many years and not be desperate to meet them!
I'll be honest, I was a tad nervous about finally meeting Cherry, but she was as delightfully warm and friendly as she is on her blog. She gave me a hug, signed a card for me to stick in my book (which was too heavy to carry to and from London in my backpack unfortunately) and had a photo with me. And through talking to her I got to meet another lovely blogger, Vintage Folly, whose blog I have just looked at and already adore!
I could, quite literally, carry on naming everyone I met but I am sure I would miss some and this blog post would end up being massive. So here are just a few more messages to some of you I met, and the rest of you I look forward to catching up on your blogs or twitter soon!
Luschka, it was so wonderful to see you again - you were a highlight of last year's BritMums Live for me and it just wouldn't have been the same had you not been there again this year!
Lynsey is was fab seeing you again, can't wait until next year!
Domestic Goddesque - your business card still smells lovely (who knew you could have scented business cards?) and the popping candy will be a huge hit with my husband!
Daddacool thanks for explaining Google Authorship to me, I must look into it...
A Pencil Skirt Good Luck with your new blog!
Pippa (A Mother's Ramblings) - I don't think I'll ever forget your awesome t-shirt :)
Erin (Silent Beauty Speaks) we didn't get to speak much, but being on your table during a couple of the sessions was so much fun!
I am sorry to all those I have forgotten, but as you can tell my weekend really was full of connections and community, I wasn't lying about that. And I want to thank each and every one of you for making my weekend so incredibly exciting, and I cannot wait until next year to do it all over again!
I have so much more I want to write about what I learned (about myself and blogging) over the weekend, but that will have to wait for another time. My Little Man is due home soon and I am ready for hugs with my boy. Did you miss your kids like mad too?