What Voices of the Year Means to Me.

VoicesOfTheYear

The first year that I attended a BlogHer conference, it started out as a rough trip.  I missed Chris and Ali desperately, found out that I wasn’t very good at travelling alone, and realized that I was WAY too introverted to be at a conference with 1,500 people, 6 of which I knew.

By Friday night, I was already done for.  I really wanted to go home, but I made myself go to the Voices of the Year keynote address, having no idea what it was.

It was a magical experience.

21 presenters got up and read their best blog posts.  Hearing blog posts read aloud is a unique experience in and of itself.  Normally, we all have to make our best guess at the author’s intended inflections and voice, but to hear stellar posts read in in the way that they were meant to be heard is awe-inspiring.

And the posts – they were amazing.  Some were touching, some were hilarious, some were thought-provoking.  During those two hours, I cried, laughed, went back to crying, then laughed again.  It was so engaging, such a rich experience, and so healing to feel all of those emotions, that it made the entire conference worth it.  After that night, I was able to get myself together, enjoy the rest of the conference, along with having a couple Chicago adventures.

Between the 2009 and 2010 BlogHer, I got another blogging trip under my belt and made some tweeks to help me enjoy a “by myself” trip (I can’t help it – I just like being with my husband), so I was ready for New York City.  The entire 2010 conference experience was great, but what I looked forward to most was Voices of the Year, knowing it would be a comfortable old friend.

And it did not disappoint.

Just like the year before, the selected readers were absolute perfection, and their posts had me running the gamut of emotions.  Afterward, there was a fabulous gala honoring the Voices of the Year presenters as well as the honorees (those who didn’t read aloud but were chosen as finalists).  There was actually commissioned artwork created for each post – beautiful pieces conveying, in color, what the author had written in black and white.

My fellow Birmingham blogger, Country-Fried Mama, was an honoree that year, but not able to attend.  I remember searching for the piece of art representing her post and tweeting the photo to her, wishing she could have been there to see it in person.  It was a beautiful moment that I felt like I got to live vicariously as her local proxy.

So this year, when I found out that I was selected as a Voice of the Year Honoree, I could not have been more thrilled to be a part of something so dear to my heart.  And the post chosen, A Tornado Story (a post that I wrote at 5 Minutes for Mom), made it all the more of a special honor.

That post was one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written.  Right after the tornadoes, I emailed my dear friends Susan and Janice and asked them if I could post about our state’s tragedies on their site, and give their readers a chance to help.  They welcomed me to do so, but then I put it off – I didn’t think I could do it.  There was so much pain in our state, so much that just couldn’t be put into words, so much that needed to be DONE – it felt as if writing about it instead of using that time doing something about it was disrespectful to the thousands hurting.

A week later, due to a royal wedding and the capture of Osama Bin Laden, Alabama’s devastating destruction had been completely discarded by all national news outlets.  All of a sudden I knew that I NEEDED to write that post.  But I didn’t know how to start.  I prayed desperately for God to show me how to put my state’s tragedy into words – it just felt so wrong to boil down people’s lives being destroyed into 700 words, as if I was somehow cheapening their pain.

And finally, very late on that Thursday night when I should have been sleeping, the words came.  I grabbed my computer and set in bed, typing feverishly.

And the response to my post blew me away.  Between the readers at 5 Minutes for Mom, the readers at another blog that I wrote at, Southern Hospitality, and my readers, they (you!) donated over $1,500 in cash to supply diapers and formula for babies affected by the storms, sent me coupons that helped me save over $850 while buying those items, mailed me many items to give away, and bought around $3,000 of items off of the Christian Service Mission’s Amazon Wish List for tornado survivors and recovery projects.  You made it possible for me to take 73 canisters of formula, 25 gigantic boxes of diapers, and many, many other supplies to Henager, Pleasant Grove, and Alberta.

The blogosphere is an AMAZING place!!!

So really, the Voice of the Year honor should absolutely go to all of you who gave so much to help Alabama – you truly showed love and compassion above and beyond what I imagined, and blessed our state – and my heart – immeasurably.

Thank you to all of you, thank you to Susan and Janice for letting me share, and thank you to the amazing ladies at Blogher!

(Now if I could just figure out how to get to San Diego in three weeks for the Voices of the Year Keynote!!)