Won’t you be my neighbor?

Won’t you be my neighbor?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of the Internet and how creates strong communities. Well, at least that has been the word that has been used so much lately. I suppose now the word community is more appropriate it. But there was a time when that seemed too formal. Too “organized” for what organically came to be back then. I started officially writing online in 1995 with an online journal on Live Journal. That was pretty much just throwing words out there. But in 2003 I started this blog. (Happy belated birthday, blog. You look good for 14 years old!) That is what in the blogging community considers an OG blogger. When we blogged, it was just blogging.

We weren’t Facebooking, Tweeting, Instagramming, etc. To see what was happening with one another, we’d hop online and read each other’s blog. We’d leave a comment and move on to our next friend’s blog. To me, it was more like a neighborhood. We would visit one another’s home, catch up,  and then we’d go catch up with another neighbor. It was close-knit. If someone was going through a rough time, we rallied around them. If someone wasn’t going to be “home” for an extended period, we would house-sit for each other. ( Also known as handing the keys to your blog over to another blogger so they can guest blog for you so you never had an empty day on your blog.) On weekends, we would have a neighborhood block party where we would gather and drink *kook-aid (*not a typo) and chat with each other in our version of real-time. If you put out the call for help, it was there. I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through my Mom’s long, horrible hospital stay and her death without my “neighbors” and their support. They lifted me up and reminded me I wasn’t alone.

In 2005 I was introduced to a tiny little grassroots company and new community named BlogHer. I almost didn’t go to their first conference until a long conversation with one of their founders, Lisa Stone, who not only talked me into going but into speaking on a panel. It was the best decision I could have made. From the conference, I began to work for BlogHer as a writer, helped kick-off their ad network and did whatever they needed behind the scenes for their ’06 conference. (Not to mention speaking at three of the conferences and being a part of a morning keynote.) I wouldn’t trade those early days working for BlogHer for anything. It was amazing watching many of my neighbors become part of that community of BlogHers.

I met many friends through my neighborhood and the many communities I have belonged to over the years. In 2007, BlogHer exploded into a conference that had huge numbers of attendees and vendors and parties etc. It was exciting to see the growth, especially when I was there watching from the grassroots level. (I am so thankful to have beenworking there at the very beginning and grateful I wasn’t there at the end.) I  got to know so many new bloggers through BlogHer. It was in 2007 that I met a handful of bloggers I’m still friends with today. Real friends. Not just computer friends. Heart friends.

Almost two weeks ago, Anissa, an OG blogger died. Anissa was hilarious, kind and my kind of crazy. I first met her on a BlogHer trip to the Ford plant in Chicago. You see, there were six of us who had “alternative departure times” and therefore we were late getting to the bus. So, the big fancy charter bus was full, so the six of us rode in a small charter-ish bus. Best outcome ever! We all laughed until our abs hurt. Anissa and I had a similar sense of humor and riffed off of each other perfectly. It was a blast. (I made some awesome friends on that bus that day that are still real, close friends today.)   Every time Anissa and I saw each other after that at BlogHer, we always shared at least one or two smart-ass remarks. We weren’t close but we had moments that made me laugh. So, when I heard that she died, I literally began sobbing. Right there is the waiting room of the eye doctor with the girls. Someone who has survived so much and who has a personality that is larger than life and is so young isn’t supposed to just suddenly die. Not someone so loved, so needed by her family, so adored by her friends. It’s so hard to wrap my mind around it. It just hit hard. It hurt hard. My heart has so many things I want to say but I honestly don’t know how to say it. The quote on Anissa’s about section by Erma Bombeck is one she lived by and I hope I live up to as well.

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and I could say, “I used everything you gave me.”

That week wasn’t over with me yet. There are so many things going on, rushing to force  themselves out of my brain through my fingers, and I am having one hell of a hard time trying to sort through them. Trying to figure out what to share and what not to. I found a friend from school died. I’m not ready to talk about that yet. But that was within a couple of days of Anissa’s passing. I also struggle with what is medical to help you understand me a bit better and what is boring medical and what is scary medical. (Most recently, I had a bad reaction to medications I was taking. Not only was it making things worse, it made me insanely angry, irrational, and suicidal. Not a good combo with the things in my Universe at the time.) Also?  You know how when you look really sad and kind of lost people will tell you look like you lost your best friend? So, that  actually did happen. I’d tell you it’s a long story and share it but in all honesty I don’t know the story so I can’t share it. My take away is that I won’t let anyone use a certain word as a term of endearment for me again when it is used one week before walking away with ease … hell, I have no idea. However, one of the best gifts Anissa could have given me was helping me work through serious issues & things happening on my own. That was a blessing in disguise.

Anyhoo, while looking for the picture of the six charter-ish bus gang, I went back and looked at pictures from BlogHers from years past. From ’05 when I walked into a conference where I only knew people I  had read online. And seeing how I found a tribe that got me. I still love those ladies I made friends with that year. It was a new and wonderful experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. And then came ’06. Oh, BlogHer ’06! I laughed my ass off all weekend. I danced even without music. I “hugged” statues. I took a nose-dive into a hot tub. All of which was caught on camera. I laughed so hard looking at those pictures and remembering how it all came with such ease even though it was such a hard time for me. Then ’07 where I finally met THE Busy Mom. We can sum  up ’07 with one word: CHEESE. Enough said. I could go on and on. For years this was BlogHer for me. I am so grateful for the many friends It brought into my life. The community that brought me neighbors, so to speak.

There is so much going on  in my life right now. Some good and some that is too hard to really talk about here or now. But I am glad to be back. I’m just going to go about dusting things off around here. Rearranging the furniture. Take down some old pictures that don’t belong on the walls anymore. Put up some new ones without 80’s hair. It’s time to clear out the cobwebs, shake out the rugs, and get back to me & writing.




17 thoughts on “Won’t you be my neighbor?

  1. Welcome back! (Although I’m a new reader here). I just stumbled on this page. Three weeks ago I lost my friend and partner in crime. It was so sudden…and so devastating. We were inseparable in grad school. We talked every day, sometimes several times a day. Looking back, she was my light and my other half. She was the jokester to my serious self. It just feels like a part of me has been ripped out. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend Anissa. I can sympathize. But every day, the pain gets a little bit less. Try to honor her every day and you’ll be OK.

    I’ve never been to BlogHer. I wanted to go in 2013 when it was near me in Chicago, but I was teaching a class in grad school that summer and couldn’t get away. One of these days….

  2. Was it San Francisco ’07 that security kicked us all out of your room in the evening because we were making too much noise? And didn’t that result in the McD’s run that produced its own annual party?

  3. Love, love, love reading your words here again. The way you describe early blog days is *exactly accurate. I miss those days, long before we IG’ed/Pinned/FB’ed and Snapped every damned thing to death – back when it was just words on a screen and a coffee cup and friends. I miss those days. I read and lurk because my job and my life and my kids keep my running way too frantically, and it’s so much easier to read and not comment, to click a “like” and move on, to process and not respond. I’m making a commitment to stop doing that and to be there again.

    xoxoxo. Hope you remember who I am.

    1. Remember who you are?! What the heck? Of course I do! I don’t forget friends that easily. Carmen, you’ve always been a hoot to hang out with. I have great memories of many times laughing it up with you!

      I wish we could go back too, but I know we can’t. I’m just doing my best to stay away from FB. Too much ridiculousness to care. I only go if I’m pointed that way for something.

      Anyhooo, I’d love to see all of us writing again. I loved it. We can’t go back but maybe we can create a better, stronger village with our neighbors. ❤️

  4. I’m glad to see you back.
    I’m sorry for all that you are dealing with and carrying.
    Love you!

    1. I love you too, Brandie. You know what we live by: What doesn’t kill us makes us drink… I mean makes us stronger. 😉

  5. I really miss the OG days… I just passed the 10-year blogging milestone. I was at BlogHer ’09 and met so many of my online friends, friends that are still so special to me today.. I didn’t get to meet Anissa in person, but I definitely knew who she was and admired her. I am sorry for your loss, and sorry I never got to meet her.

    1. Thank you. I wish I had taken time to go being the surface laughs but it’s just a lesson in no regrets. I met a lot of amazing friends in ’09 as well. It was a great year.

      I think a lot of us miss the OG years. What is that saying? “You don’t realize you’re living in the good old days until they’re gone.” Total truth.

    1. Truth! We all need to bring back the blog! I’m happy to see you here. Thank you for commenting.

  6. Welcome back, Jenn! I’m a newcomer (a mom blogger) and have often heard about Blog Her and it sounds like a hoot. So sorry to hear about your dear friend, that’s really rough. Looking forward to hearing more from you. Take care!

    1. Hi, Sarah! Thanks for the warm welcome back. I love newcomers. The passion of newer bloggers is contagious. I hope to read more from you!

  7. It’s been so long since I wrote anything on my blog & even longer since I wrote anything of consequence. It makes me sad. I remember the good old days of visiting each other, blog to blog, reading and leaving comments. That was a happy time. I was so sad when Haloscan finally died & took all my blog comments with it. Almost as if negating any of those relationships.

    Fortunately, I’m still friends with so many people from back then. I never got to go to BlogHer, but I sure kept up with the goings on every year. I’m sure glad to still have your friendship! ❤

    1. I’m glad to have your friendship, too. Especially the mutual support. You know I adore you, girl.

      I’m sad no one from the “old days” really blogs any more but I get it. They have so many other ways of communicating. That and it’s easier to live an insincere or stage performance only life on Facebook than to share real stories on a blog.

      It’s a dying art. I understand that it’s not for everyone anymore. I just wish it was. Right?

      Sooooo, write!! 😉

  8. In the blogging world, I never got to sit at the “cool kids” table. I was always a tag along and most people made me feel like the “outsider”

    But there were a few that made all the difference in the world. That made it so it didn’t matter that I didn’t have the numbers, the hits, the followers that many others had. You being one. And you mentioned two of the 3 others. Busy Mom, Liz of This Full House and of course Anissa, who actually talked me out of leaving the first BlogHer I attended when I felt like a fish out of water. And of course the second time around, I got to sit and talk with you, Busy Mom, Liz and Melissa for what may have only been a couple of hours, but felt like a lifetime of story exchanges that I would not trade for anything. You called it a “community” and I think that is a good word, though I often have cited as a “village” as in the old saying, “it takes a village…” because it was that village of advice that helped me keep my head above water so many times.

    I am looking forward to this next chapter and reading your writings once again. And who knows, after a few false starts of my own, maybe this is just what I need to help get me back writing again as well. (Don’t worry, I won’t let anyone blame you for it though if I do)

    1. If you start blogging again, please blame me! I’d love to see my friend blogging again. I’m missing out on so much by staying off Facebook. I miss you and knowing about your life. Also, I’d love to see more of my friends blogging so I can catch up.

      Thanks for coming by to comment. ☺️

      1. PS- I’ve never been at the cool table. I just make the dork table as fun as I can. You’ll always have a seat wherever I am. Permanent reserved.

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