Four days in Toronto. It feels like I jump into a different existence, then trip back into real life Sunday night. It feels a world away from my everyday, and yet, I blink and it’s over.
Where to start? There is so much to try to share – it’s all swirling around in memory and snippets of conversations in my brain. Try as I might, it feels impossible to pull out the details. But try I will.
Well, by now you all know I was in Toronto for Blissdom Canada ’12. Yes, I’m a big fan of Blissdom Canada, and I don’t bother to hide it. I love it – the smart and savvy people behind it, the insightful participants who come to speak or lead sessions, and all the magic that happens when things get rolling.
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. I had actually been in town for a day or so beforehand, and so Thursday marks the beginning of the good times for me. I met with some of my favourite Calgary and Vancouver women for drinks and a bite to eat and we had a chance to catch up, chat about the weekend ahead and giggle over glasses of wine. No sooner had we finished our food than I started receiving texts from another friend. A moment or two of mystery and suddenly the lightbulb clicked on and the invitation was extended just as the next text arrived “In a cab, we’re coming to you.” Fantastic. Two more, from Ontario this time, to join our crew. Anyone planning to leave threw the idea out the window and we all stayed for more talk and laughter and silliness.
Friday I spent at She’s Connected 2012 (connecting, talking, learning, drinking coffee in the McDonald’s McCafe Lounge, meeting new people.) This was my first year at She’s Connected, and although I only snuck over for a day I have to admit I liked the extra time to connect with a few more people, and I enjoyed parts of the programming very much. Our keynote speaker was Kate White, author and former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine. She was sharp, funny and engaging as she spoke to our group. What a treat! I also spent some time in the sessions and was glad I did. I came away with new perspective, plenty to think about, and newly manicured nails also thanks to the McCafe Lounge.
I made sure to be back in time to register for Blissdom and be treated to a brand new pillow from Sleep Country Canada. We had a funny little moment as I politely declined the pillow at first: ”What? No free pillow?” “I’m from Calgary…” ”They don’t use pillows in Calgary?” So great. Shared a giggle with the girl behind the table and the company president Christine Magee (when the company president shows up from 3-6pm to connect with conference attendees, you have to be impressed.)
Mom Central Canada party:
From there I went to a party with Mom Central Canada – love this smart group of women so much. I work with Mom Central Canada to connect with a few special brands I work with, and am deeply thankful for our interaction. They attract good, and do even better. I know so many of the bloggers and publishers they work with, so had fun connecting with many favourites. It was a great way to catch people I wanted to be sure to see. Seeing their new office space was a treat as well.
Blissdom kickoff party:
I can’t always explain what it is that goes on when I head east. All I know is I walked into the Blissdom kickoff party Friday night and felt the same leap in my throat that I did the last two years. There was a vibe in the air of people, ideas, music and possibilities flung so wide open it almost hurt to think of them. I suppose it’s excitement to see so many people I like and respect, and deep faith that we will make the most of the weekend. It is always worth the trip. I caught up with favourite people, met a few new ones, met the lovely ladies who run UsedEverywhere.com and who I write for regularly.
Blissdom Canada (Saturday):
We had a great moment in the morning as we gathered together and watched scenes from Blissdoms past flicker across a large screen. Actually, I’ll give you a minute to get the music playing below – set to this song, it was hard not to feel moved by memories of how far we have come. Remembering the moments captured onscreen was a great way to kick off the day.
After the breakfast and opening presentation, we had the opportunity to choose three microsessions to sit with some of the people we admire or would love to learn from in this space. The offerings ranged from inspirational to practical nuts and bolts. I was pleased to make it to all three tables that I wanted, with no hassle, and came away with plenty of practical information. I also skulked around the Starbucks Canada booth sneaking lattes (ssh) and was amused at how easy it was to meet people there. I wasn’t the only one jonesing! I met Vicki from Starbucks Canada, who I’ve been tweeting with for over a year. So great. I also managed to steal moments with someone I really care for all weekend long – if that’s not the universe paying me back for something, I don’t know what is. Other people I had to work to find, or tweet with madly to connect with. It all works out in the end, doesn’t it? I was glad for whatever time we could steal, whatever hugs we could sneak in.
Afterwards, we were treated to the wise, the funny, the insightful as we listened to Jian Ghomeshi, Amber MacArthur, Susan Cain, Bonnie Stewart and Ami McKay speak. I can’t tell you how inspiring I find it to hear someone speak with passion and intelligence, but I was impressed by all I heard, and so glad to have the opportunity.
I bought Jian Ghomeshi’s new book “1982″ after enjoying hearing him read from it, and had a chance to get it autographed and grab a photo with him. He was funny and charmed us all. Great moment.
After our speakers were through, we all rushed to find a way to eat, find the people we needed to, and get ready for the costume parties ahead. For me, this meant finding some of my favourite women from Calgary to get all dolled up as the wives of Mad Men. We had too much fun with it: fifties’ style dresses, seamed stockings, pearls, gloves, red lipstick and even had our hair “done” like proper Mad Wives. Running through the streets of Toronto, with updos and beehives ready to wilt in the misty weather was almost more excitement than we needed, but we managed to make it back with hairdos intact and got ready for a night. So much fun seeing everyone all dolled up, and we laughed at each other’s falling hair, cracked martini glasses and wardrobe malfunctions. (Did you know you can’t tweet or text with long gloves on? I’d never have made it as a Mad Wife.)
To wind up the night, we escaped the noise of the party at the very end and snuck into the hotel bar for a drink and a bite before heading to bed. I’m not going to say we made a spectacle of ourselves, but seeing as we were ten days early for Halloween, our dresses and pearls and makeup attracted a fair bit of attention when we travelled in a group. (It could have also been the extra Sleep Country pillows we were handed as we left the party…honestly, we may as well have been waving flags and starting fires.)
Once back in the room, it was time to undo the costume, unpin about 50 pins from my hair, remove pearls and red lipstick and all other things girlie. I admit I stayed up late packing – an early alarm to be in the lobby by 8 a.m. had me scared straight. I slept in my fifties curls and wore them out the next day. I’m nothing if not resourceful – looking four hours of sleep in the eye, you’d have done the same.
It was a fabulous time, with so many high points. From the people I spoke with personally, to the speakers I listened to so intently, to the laughter and connection shared. I won’t ever get sick of coming out from behind the screen, the wires, to meet and shake hands, hug, laugh, tease and share time with others. And though my flight home was delayed, I was still home by 11pm and managed to get my act together in time for my son’s birthday the next day! (I feel sort of sorry for the lone gentleman sitting near us by our gate. As our group grew larger, seeking company and outlets to charge devices, we grew sillier and sillier. I referred to us once as “Sideshow Blog” and I wasn’t really kidding. But good company helped pass the time as we waited to board.)
Don’t forget to come back to read all about my Wine Country Ontario excursion to Flat Rock Cellars and Good Earth Food & Wine Company. Honestly, they were so amazing, and the escape so lovely I’ve decided they get their own post.
I will remember Blissdom Canada when I hear the song from the video we watched. I will remember the room I shared with others as we heard the question “What do I stand for?”
What do I stand for? What do we stand for?
What a great question to be left with…