Monday, August 9, 2010

My Velveteen Friends, The Ones Who Keep Me Real and Grounded

Our words - how we write them, share them, make an impact with them, change lives with them.  That's what BlogHer10 was about. Sometimes it was even about the words that didn't need to be said because they already had been written.

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.)

Footwear was a big deal at BlogHer, to some. While we waited for the panel to begin, we compared who had the most comfortable, well-worn shoes.

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.)

At lunch, Julia Roberts (the one who is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of did a drawing for American Express and Starbucks gift cards.
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.

On Saturday, several of us met up again to celebrate Kyra's booksigning of Gravity Pulls You In: Perspectives on Parenting Children on the Autism Spectrum, which she edited with Vicki Forman (who, we learned during BlogHer, has been named one of the Must-Read Moms 2010 by BlogHer and Parenting Magazine.)

Kyra asked us to sign her copy of Gravity, yearbook-style.  Above, Shannon Des Roches Rosa and Kristen Spina do just that. 

Niksmom wholeheartedly endorses the book.

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?

We even had a special surprise guest appear at Kyra's booksigning: Susan Senator, pictured here at left with KAL.  Both KAL and I had a chance to tell Susan that her book, Making Peace with Autism, was one of the first books we read after our kids were diagnosed and how through her book and her blog, we were introduced to the world of autism blogs and this wonderful community. 

In talking with Susan, she echoed the words that had been in my head all weekend.

"You're all real," she said.  "I mean, I knew you were real, but ... you're real."

"I suppose you are Real?" said the Rabbit.

And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive.  But the Skin Horse only smiled.

"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said.  "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."   (The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams)

It lasts for always.  It lasts for always.

Yes. Yes, I believe it will.

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.

More Thoughts:

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


pixiemama said...

I felt the exact same way - at the cool kids table, and suddenly so much less alone.


Niksmom said...

Oh, Melissa, this is fabulous! You made me laugh and cry (and cringe at the pics of me, but, meh, I look like what I look like).

I'm so glad you came and so glad I know you. You ARE real and you are loved. xo

Stimey said...

You made me cry. Like, ugly cry, but in a good way. I know exactly what you mean.

This was such an incredible weekend. It was an honor to meet you.

KAL said...

Awesome post, Melissa! I got teary again just remembering what a special experience it was to be with everyone! What a tribe :)

TC said...

THANK YOU for this post...for saying what we all think so beautifully...and even more for the photos of all my Very Best Friends who I've never met--and some of whom I've never really seen pictures of--but who keep me going, day to day.

Anonymous said...

just gorgeous, melissa. this is so moving to me! and i love your pics. very real. like you. like all the wonderful women there. xxxx

vikk simmons said...

You write beautifully and gracefully. It's an honor to read your work. :) Thank you for participating in the Top Tuesday meme this week.