I have finally updated my Bookworm site after letting it languish for far too long. I forgot how much fun it was to dig out my old favorites and then, also, for my opinionated self to describe current books I’m reading.
To bribe entice readers, I am offering a Giveaway. Leave a comment on The Shore Bookworm over the next two weeks and be entered into a drawing for a fabulous British mystery. Past Caring by Robert Goddard is a story of a decade’s old mystery, a long hidden diary, a secret engagement, scandal, disgrace and murder. Almost no one is who or what they seem to be in a plot with a dozen twists and turns. Five hundred pages of who done it/who is it/where is it fun!
Saturday afternoon I was sitting at the back of a session that overlapped another room where massage therapists were quietly giving chair massages. Sitting in my power chair, I was listening and knitting like Madame Defarge, when a woman crouched down next to me. It was one of the massage therapists and she whispered, “When the session is over, see me and I will give you a thorough hand and arm massage.”
She didn’t have to tell me twice. I sought her out about twenty minutes later and we chatted while she worked my hands and arms. She was charming and interesting and soothing. We talked about the mystery of how we are drawn to people, as she said she was drawn to me that afternoon. We both believed that there is some sort of intangible connection that one sometimes never understands, but is there nonetheless. We talked about the power of alternative healing practices. We also discovered we had strong, loving ties still to our late grandmothers and viewed them as forces in our lives even though they were gone now. Altogether a fascinating and relaxing half an hour.
Also forgot to tell you…as the dinner in Tribeca was ending, one of the women there asked if anyone wanted one of the last flash drives that were being given out as a promotion. Out of, I guess, several hundred, a couple had $500 gift certificates to Target on them. Well, I wasn’t even considering the gift certificate, I needed a new flash drive for a project I was working on. So I jumped at grabbing one.
Got back to the hotel, hopped into my p.j.s, plugged in the flash drive and UP POPPED A $500 GIFT CERTIFICATE TO TARGET!!!!! AAAGGHHHH!!!! I couldn’t believe it. After contacting the Energizer Batteries, the contest sponsor, and after doing everything but signing my name in blood to prove I had received the flash drive under the proper circumstances, I received my card yesterday. New laptop, here I come!!! They also sent me a charger and four rechargable AA batteries. Now that is exciting.
I had intended to go to church Sunday morning at St. Thomas Fifth Avenue, the magnificent Episcopal church one block from the hotel. I had even verified access with my chair. Unfortunately, I, who am up at 5 a.m. every morning of my life, overslept and never made the service.
Instead I went with Hurricane Danielle down to the lobby Starbucks and bought a massive latte. God subsequently punished me for missing church by having me knock the whole thing over after I had taken one sip, saturating the hotel room carpet with Starbucks. I tried soaking it up and thereby ruined several hotel towels. I am still waiting for a bill.
The lesson here? Set your alarm and go to church.
So we packed our swag and sundries and checked out one by one. The four days had flown. I sat in the lobby and waited for Mary Kate to pick me up. A few hairy moments were spent when I found out Sixth Avenue was closed for an obscure parade and Mary Kate had to find a different route to the hotel. But she, who had never driven in the city before, did fine. We were home in an hour.
Here are some of the remarkable fellow writer/bloggers I met:
My overall take on the conference? It was interesting, but ultimately a little disappointing.
While there were many sessions to attend, a lot of them had similar themes and consequently felt somewhat repetitive. Considering the range of subjects we blog about, I think there could have been a better variety. While the idea of tracks was a good one to organize the sessions, it was also limiting in subject matter. Perhaps it would be better to simply have a wide variety of sessions not attached to any particular theme?
Another issue, the sheer size. There were so many people, it was difficult to cultivate sustaining conversations, never mind relationships. Although everyone had business cards, which did help me remember connections. Attempts to address this were made through various parties and get togethers. However, at the end of the day, I was too exhausted to get to those.
My mobility limitations had a huge impact on my participation in all events, but I am going to write a separate post on that.
On the plus side, I was thrilled several times to have strangers tell me they read, and love, my blog!!
I do know it took a massive, unfathomable amount of work to organize an event like this. And for that alone I give the BlogHer staff enormous credit and thanks.
Friday evening there was a large scale gala honoring blogging Voices of the Year, ninety bloggers honored for excellence in their writing. There is so much good stuff out there it just awes me. Here is a link to the list of these outstanding writers: Voices of the Year. They are worth reading.
Saturday was another full day of sessions. I still focused on the Writing track, but there were easily dozens of other things I could have done. There were hundreds of sponsors, some of whom had suites reserved where you could sample their products and/or services. ECCO shoes had a suite where they provided free foot massages and pedicures. K-Mart sponsored a day care room. Most of the sponsors were offering samples and I came home with more Playdough than I would have thought humanly possible. Because this was a women’s blogging conference, the primary focus of the sponsors was traditional ‘female’ stuff, i.e., products for children, babies, pets and the home.
Prize for most, um, unusual? "At Home With Your Digestive System" sponsored by the makers of Metamucil and Align. We all received an invitation to visit their suite for complimentary products and “services”. I shudder to think what services they might have been offering. I gave this a miss, as I am already at home with my digestive system, thank you very much, and if I wasn’t I certainly would not be discussing it with strangers in a hotel suite.
That last sentence definitely sounds kinky.
I met some other fellow bloggers I have followed online, SO exciting. The writers of Nanny Goats in Panties and Sparkle Cat were my companions for more than one meal. Absolutely delightful, as I knew they would be from their blogs. I felt like a groupie.
I caught a glimpse of Marinka from Motherhood in NYC (consistently funny AND raising young children at the same time!), but I was disappointed not to meet her. “Wow, she looks taller in person.” I thought. Which was rich, considering I’d never seen her at all. Ever. I guess she writes short.
Hurricane Danielle had wrangled us a free dinner Saturday night. Including transportation! We were picked up right at the hotel door and whisked (almost literally) all the way downtown to TriBeca. The taxi ride was even more adventurous than usual when, while hemmed in by traffic, the van in front of us began to back up towards us at top speed. All of us in the cab involuntarily leaned back and shrieked, including the driver. Fortunately, the van halted in the nick of time.
We all met downtown at F. Illi Ponte on Desbrosses Street. As an aside, because I am a New York City history freak, Desbrosses Street is still cobblestoned. So cool. It is named for Elias Desbrosses, a wealthy merchant who lived in the eighteenth century. He was a senior warden at Trinity Church and in 1777, at the height of the Revolutionary War, was obliged to administer the oath of office to the new Rector, an Englishman and an avowed Royalist. I could not find any information about his political leanings but his brother was a British supporter. Desbrosses died in 1778, apparently of natural causes and is buried in a vault in Trinity Church.
Ok, history lesson over. Back to dinner.
We were guests that evening of Lou Bivona, who is a Managing Partner of Tavern Direct and a Founding Member of the Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Tavern Direct is a charity founded specifically to support the NCMEC. Besides traditional fundraising, they offer products such as flavored oils, sauces, marinades and vinegars under the Tavern on the Green label. (Another historic aside: Tavern on the Green, which operated from 1934 until 1999 at the southern end of Central Park, was the venue of choice for my family’s celebrations for years, such a wonderful place.) With every purchase, 50 cents is donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. While we enjoyed a marvelous dinner, with samplings of the products for sale, Lou, an senior executive by trade, spoke movingly of his passion for this cause and his commitment to protecting children. There are other ways to help as well, so check out the website here. The products we sampled were superb, available on line or at Wegman’s.
Lou is a down to earth, handsome, funny guy who demonstrated a strong dedication to doing good in this world, something that has been confirmed for me in subsequent e-mail exchanges with him. A really good guy. The food was awesome, the service was flawless, the company was great, the cause is admirable. Not a bad deal for a Saturday night in the city.
F. Illi Ponte is at 39 DesBrosses Street in Manhattan. They serve Italian American cuisine, rating rave reviews, and have been in business for decades, a rarity for a New York restaurant.
Thanks, Lou, for a great dinner and introducing us to a great cause!
I went into the city last Thursday, a day early, in order to get started bright and early on Friday, when the conference officially began.
This is how I spent my time getting ready for four days I would be away from home:
Monday – did nothing Tuesday – did nothing Wednesday – did nothing Thursday – ran around like a lunatic
By the time I got into New York, because I had totally overdone it, I was doubled over in pain and exhaustion. The SheWrites get together in a swanky bar downtown? Scratch. All I could do was take a load of pills and fall face down on the bed.
Thanks, Multiple Sclerosis. Well, technically, thanks you procrastinating knucklehead. But if it wasn’t for MS, I just would have been tired, not incapacitated.
On the plus side, we had lined up a last minute third roommate, a delightful woman from D. C. Debbie blogs at Legal Speaks and is a fascinating person.
Then there was Hurricane Danielle. Except that I saw her sleeping with my own eyes, I never would have believed it. That child did not stop for one single, solitary second. She won more stuff than seemed humanly possible, including two laptops. And she found swag under every rock and in every cranny. Evidence:
So I started out with two wonderful, considerate, thoughtful partners in crime. We all have totally divergent backgrounds and interests, but we really hit it off.
The conference opened with two separate breakfasts, one for all attendees and one for women attending for the first time. Comic relief: Danielle kept running into the original roommate who ditched us and continually practiced giving her the evil eye.
The breakfasts were sumptuous, no kidding, and the welcome was warm. Everyone was happy to be there as we headed off to our first workshops.
There were three workshop blocks each day, each segment containing multiple tracks: Bloggers as Change Agents, Passions, Personal, Professional, Geek (tech stuff), Writing and Job issues. The subjects were very comprehensive, with sessions such as Creating Tangible Social Change, How to Build a Community Around Your Cause and Writing Inspiration: Stoke Your Creativity.
I found that the sessions I was most interested in were the writing ones, and that was the track I pretty much stuck with. It was awe inspiring to be in rooms filled with women who had published books already (one panelist actually even had one of her books made into a movie) or had projects in the works, most resulting from blogging.
I met many wonderful women, but I was especially happy to meet Kamy Wicoff, the founder of SheWrites, a marvelous online community for women writers of all sorts, not just bloggers. That was the party I missed on Thursday night. She was incredibly down to earth and friendly. Of course, on the site I announced I had been thrilled to meet her and spelled her name wrong in my gushing comment. Mortifying. But honestly Kamy! You have K’s where there should be C’s and C’s where there should be K’s. Way to addle a girl’s brain!!
Friday evening was punctuated by a frantic call from my sister regarding my parents, whose train has been coming off the tracks for two years now, a slow motion horror show. The situation was deteriorating and would get even worse over the next days.
My perspective of the conference was completely affected by having to use a wheelchair. The wheelchair determined where I sat in the dining room or at a workshop. Since all the meals were buffets, it determined what I ate and drank (although the staff was VERY helpful; one manager even made me a cup of tea and brought it to my table for me). As the elevators were in banks, there were only three serving the conference floors and the twelve floors above, where our room was. At busy times, I sometimes had to wait through five or six elevators before there was one with room for me and my chair. The second floor of exhibitors was completely inaccessible to me.
Without the chair the conference would have been impossible. But with it, it was still daunting and, at times, the chair was very marginalizing. More to come...
The topic of this coming week's Grand Rounds is doctor/patient communication, which in some cases, many cases, is an oxymoron. This is one of my experiences with this subject:
In late summer 2005, I developed a condition called Transverse Myelitis. I ended up in the hospital, paralyzed and terrified. Once the diagnosis was made I was started on a course of IV steroids and within hours my symptoms started to abate. So I figured this was a one shot deal, a freak occurrence. I found out later that it was clear at that time that the TM was caused by Multiple Sclerosis. But no one told me.
Instead the condescending little snot of a neurologist that I happened to get in the hospital told me at 50 I was “too old” for Multiple Sclerosis. He did not tell me my spinal cord was alight with old MS lesions.
I switched neurologists. I liked the next one I went to, a seemingly considerate and pleasant young woman. But even she did not tell me.
Within six months a relapse landed me back in the hospital. My doctor stood at the bottom of my bed and told me there was a new lesion, this one on my brain.
Me: So does that mean I have It? Her: Looks like It.
And she left. Neither one of us even used the words “Multiple Sclerosis”.
So that is how I was told I had an incurable, crippling disease. I was all alone, in a hospital bed. I don’t care how hard it is to give someone bad news, this was cruel and utterly unacceptable.
I’m now on my third neurologist. He is respectful, talks to me and answers my questions honestly. Sometimes a little too honestly. Because I still have trouble accepting it, I will occasionally ask “Are you really sure about the diagnosis?” And he will reply cheerfully in his cute Australian accent, “Oh, you DEFINITELY have MS!”. Sigh.
In my head, I have thought about what I would imagine the ideal scenario to be. I’m not greedy or excessively needy, so it wouldn’t involve hand holding or even inordinate gravity or sadness. My model is simple. I would have liked someone to tell me unequivocally but gently. I would have liked to have had the option of having a loved one with me. I would have liked someone to tell me they were sorry I had this, but that we would work together to manage this brutal illness. In other words, I would have liked to have been treated the way anyone would like to be treated: kindly, compassionately and sympathetically. That should not be too much to ask.
This week I am going to a blogging conference sponsored by BlogHer, a site for women bloggers. It is in New York and over 1000 writers will gather to network and discuss things like legal matters, technical...things and writing topics.
It is an amazing opportunity to meet with other women writers and share ideas and talk about concerns.
I am sharing my hotel room with another writer, http://momotics.com, a 25 year old dynamo who has knocked my socks off with her energy and ambition.
Unfortunately, the third person we had lined up to share out room in order to reduce costs, bailed on us YESTERDAY, yep, that’s right, THREE DAYS before the conference. So we are scrambling to find another roommate.
Don’t you deserve a three night break in New York City?!?! E-mail me and we can talk.
The response from everyone who read about my sink was overwhelming. I am so blessed to have so many warm and loving people in my life.
One of my dear blogging friends has a friend who works for American Standard (bathroom and kitchen fixture manufacturer). She contacted her friend when she saw my post and American Standard is going to give me a sink for free!! I would have been grateful for something that had fallen off the truck, but they even let me pick out the sink and faucet!!
I don’t know when they will be delivered, but it is all in the works. I also have two people who have offered to install it for me. I am so lucky! I will do a post when everything is done.