I had the words from The Velveteen Rabbit running through my mind after meeting a certain group of very special friends to me, the bloggers known as the "autism moms" or the "autism bloggers," for lack of a better description. Those of us who pour our hearts out here 24/7 onto our keyboards, writing about our kids, the controversies, our deepest inner-most feelings. They were, all of a sudden, here. Real.
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real, you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real, you can't be ugly, except to folks who don't understand." ~ The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams
Margery's words surged unprotected through my mind on Friday and Saturday, as I met one Real velveteen friend after another after another. Friends who I know only through this space, through our blogs, through my words and theirs. My imaginary friends, as some might have said, and in some ways they were right, because before this weekend there was no way to believe otherwise that such beautiful, genuine, caring people in this often-cruel world could have possibly existed.
But exist they do, and exist we did, together, during a few brief hours in New York. Most of us (I think, I'm not sure) were meeting for the first time. We were there to learn, to educate, to share, to laugh, to celebrate, to hug, to cry, to love.
In one of the first panels of the day ("Blogging Autism: Shattering Myths, Opening Eyes, and Finding Your Tribe") our words about our children and our siblings, spoken to a room full of other kindred spirits and to those curious about this world of which we speak and live, did just that.
Blogging Autism panelists, from left to right: Shark-Fu, moderator Shannon Des Roches Rosa from Squidalicious, Carol Greenburg, and Stimey from Stimeyland.
Waiting for the panel to begin and sitting with me in the front row were Jordan Sadler, Kristen Spina of From Here to There and Back, and pixiemama from I'm a Pixie Mama. I was beyond thrilled to meet and sit next to the wonderful (and delightfully funny!) Kristina Chew from We Go With Him (and former author of Autism Vox, which was one of the first autism blogs I ever read and which I still hold in as deep regard as when I wrote these words of appreciation - "Take a Bow, Kristina Chew" - to her.)
Kyra Anderson from This Mom shows off hers.
After the panel (which I'll do a separate post on, I think) we had lunch together, taking up more than three Birds of a Feather lunch tables. ("I finally get to sit at the cool kids table!" I tweeted.)
Niksmom from Maternal Instincts ... Flying By the Seat of My Pants, Kyra, pixiemama, and KAL from Autism Twins await the winning names ...
Pixie Mama and KAL were both winners!
Then, it was off to the Expo Hall where Kristin Chew, Kyra, pixiemama, Niksmom and I swagged together ....
Kristina, Kyra, and pixiemama
Niksmom (who has an incredible voice!) serenaded us with a BlogHer inspired version of "New York, New York." ("If I can blog it here, I can blog it anywhere ....")
... and Kyra got campy.
Front row: Shannon Des Roches Rosa, Kristen Spina, Kyra Anderson, and me, with JennyAlice from Have Autism Will Travel and Jordan in the back row. Unfortunately, I had to miss Shannon and JennyAlice's booksigning for their wonderful anthology, Can I Sit With You?, but fortunately I was able to get them to sign both of my copies.
JennyAlice, Shannon, and me
One of the smallest states had some of the most autism mom bloggers. Niksmom, me, and Kateypie35 from It is Tuesday, Right?
A piece of artwork that was on display at the BlogHer10 Voices of the Year Gala and Art Auction. It is inspired by one of the Voices of the Year posts, but to me it captures so much of what the autism blogging community tries to do, one post at a time.