The Power of Food Blogging

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by Lauren | Celiac Teen on June 1, 2011

The past week and a half has been the busiest of my life. Highs and lows, excitement pulsing, and very little sleep. Looking back at it, I don’t know where to begin. I want to gush about meeting so many friends at BlogHer Food. I want to sleep even thinking about my trip home. I want to replay my graduation over in my head. More than anything, I want to thank a couple of people. So, here is my not-so-orthodox way of doing just that.

This week and a half started on Thursday, the 19th of May. I got up at a much too early hour to fly to Atlanta. As I sat waiting for my plane, I grabbed my phone and thumbed through my twitter stream. Friends from across the continent were making their way to airports and beginning to get acquainted with Atlanta. It was my first time traveling internationally on my own, and knowing that so many friends were doing the same thing made it simpler; we’d all be together soon. That intangible feeling of knowing something is so close was pure goodness. I glanced at my homework, but my mind kept jumping to the fact that I was meeting some of my best friends in a few hours. There was no chance of it getting done. I wasn’t worried; I would arrive home on Sunday and have all day Monday to finish it up (or so I thought).

Upon finally getting to the Atlanta airport, I texted the friend I was supposed to meet. Once she told me where she was, I couldn’t help it – I raced to her. Weaving my way through the crowds, I glanced each way before getting a quick call to ask where I was. Upon seeing her, I broke into a sprint. Over a year chatting on Skype was finally coming to this. It was one of those movie-moment hugs. Elissa and I then waited a few moments for Tessa, hardly believing we would all be together momentarily. When Tessa came up the escalator, we waved furiously and gushed over finally meeting. Once finally making it to the hotel, we spotted Hannah and Kamran across the room, and rushed over to them.

Avatars and pings to notify of new words became real live people. LOLs and hahaha!s became laughter emerging through the hotel rooms. Smiles swept across our faces as we fell into an all-too-familiar step. We’d never lied or held back on Skype, so there were no big surprises. Sure, little things caught me off guard -like the fact that I was somehow the tallest, or our accents- but you can’t expect to learn everything through conversations over the net. Meeting in-person is invaluable. But no one needs a conference to do that. Conferences simply centralize it, they are certainly a whirlwind, but they’re also an excellent opportunity to meet a huge range of friends. I would have gone just to hang out with those four lovely friends, though.

The rest of the weekend was a true whirlwind. Much laughter, smiles, hugs, and all-around goodness. I know some found it cliquey and disheartening, but this is my truth. It was a time where I  had the privilege to see friends from across the continent, all in one place. Sure, there were small moments of feeling snubbed or patiently waiting to speak to someone, to thank them for their words and insight, but nothing that would stop me from returning. Elissa and I geeked out upon finding ourselves in an elevator with David Lebovitz. Then, we sighed as the kitchen generation, Stephanie, and a few other hotel patrons got stuck in another elevator. My heart leapt with joy while enjoying some gluten-free onion rings (and a grilled chicken burger) two nights in a row.

Now, there have been quite a lot of posts likening this all to high school. Being in high school, I get what they’re reaching at, but honestly? No. High school lasts three (or four) years, not a couple of rushed days. High school has homework and tests and and stress. This was a weekend of connection. Hanging out with friends, meeting new ones, laughing as much as we could and marveling in the fact I was in the presence of great friends. Now, maybe I’m a special case. Scratch that. I know I am. I’m fairly young, yet a “veteran” (no, not really) at this food blogging thing. I have friends throughout the food blogging world. This was my second conference. The one I went to last year? It was likened to high school as well. And it felt slightly more like it, for me. However, that wasn’t high school either. Why? Because bringing your mom is not a cool thing at school. (But it was there).

Not to mention, high school doesn’t happen in hotels. And you don’t spend every waking hour hanging out with your friends in high school. You see, this was different. The teachers were also the students. There were sponsors, and everyone talked about food. The only time math was used was when dividing the bill. I’m sorry, but it wasn’t high school. No, it was a conference. And I’ll bet it was a much more lovie-dovie conference than your average, run-of-the-mill corporate one. I think the biggest difference from what I assume non-blogging conferences are about is that bloggers travel to them to see friends first (at least most of us did). Other conferences tend to be much more about the content of the sessions and the ability to form new business relationships. That’s the lynchpin; business versus personal relationships as a priority. Whenever personal relationships are in frenzy, high school is always the go-to metaphor. It wasn’t high school; just a bunch of people with the same passion, each looking to connect with a different set of friends, both old and new.

I hate drama with a passion. I avoid it, even subconsciously. You can bet that I’ll do my best not to start anything (and know that I am truly sorry if I inadvertently did). So, even though I saw a couple snippets of drama, most of the moments, I was just enjoying myself. I tried to push myself out of my comfort zone as I said hello to people I’ve never met. My goal wasn’t to meet everyone, though.

My goal was to love. And love was what I found. From my time there, to the company, to the view, to the weather, to everything. Right now, the moments that burst across my memory are those where there was laughter, quiet contentment and honest beauty. They filled too many moments to count, and each will flutter back at different times, but I wouldn’t trade my time there for the world.

When all goodbyes had been said, and I got my plane tickets home, I took a moment to be grateful for all that I found in Atlanta. After my first plane landed, we couldn’t taxi to a gate as there had been hail. Hours later, we arrived at a gate. I found my second flight on time – a mere ten minutes from boarding. After grabbing a make-shift meal, it was delayed.

Every five minutes, that flight was delayed another ten. Finally, after changing our gate, they chose a time to take off. It was five minutes from then, and we hadn’t boarded. But no matter. I would be home soon. They boarded us, and we even drove away from the gate. Until we had to stop. There was lightning. It was far enough away, but bright and loud. As I played on my phone, it came closer and closer. At one point there was practically no space between the flash of light and the crack of the thunder. After nearly three hours of just sitting there in the lightning storm, my flight was cancelled. I was stranded. Gulp. Hours after, I was rebooked for a flight two days later. It was the earliest they could get me out of there. And I couldn’t get my bag.

I’m forever grateful for social media. Without Facebook and a certain anonymous blogger, I wouldn’t have had a place to stay that night. (I was told the hotels were fully booked). Mrs. Q, thank you. I loved every minute at your house, and being with you and your boys. Everyone else? Go see her site. She’s much more phenomenal than she gives herself credit for. Undoubtedly outstanding.

Facebook also let me discover that Elissa and I would have the same Dallas layover. What luck. Even in a nightmare of travel, I got to see dear friends. After buying a change of clothes and some necessities from Target (including a shirt fittingly by the brand “Stranded”), I said goodbye to my gracious hosts and headed to Dallas.

The first flight went smoothly. I found Elissa without much problem, and was thrilled for the extra hour or two with her. We scarfed a meal of sorts down, then parted ways. Her flight was minorly delayed. Then it was more delayed. I was jumpy. I couldn’t get stranded twice, right?! Wrong. Both our flights boarded. They were hot, oven-like. The claustrophobic woman beside me started to panic. The flight attendant brought water. Then there was lightning. And hail. Huge, plonking hail. A tornado was spotted. We deplaned.

I was terrified. I was in a hall filled with windows. Tornadoes were a source of bafflement, a story of faraway places. I sat where the police were directing us. The clouds were changing rapidly. It didn’t look or feel right. Then some clouds started turning. I was watching the beginning of a tornado. Tight chest, puffy eyes, panic. Phone calls not going through. Hyperventilation. Rapid texts to Elissa, who was much too far away on the other side of the airport. Tears. I was helpless. I wanted to be home. Anything but alone.

Once the sky calmed down and turned into a night black, sirens stopped sounding. We were allowed to sit in chairs. Flights started to be cancelled left and right. Mine was cancelled soon. The mile-long line-up for rebooking was next. Out of energy, I was finally rebooked for morning. We were advised not to leave the airport. After instinctively buying the biggest bottle of water I could see, I went to find Elissa.

In case you didn’t know, the Dallas airport is enormous. And easy to get lost in. And when there are lightning strikes, hail and tornadoes, the train that makes it easier to get around doesn’t run. An hour later and utterly exhausted, I finally found her. Half an hour after that, she landed the lucky last spot on a flight out the next morning.

We found a corner behind a gate to “sleep”. All the cots and blankets had already been given out, so we made do by draping Elissa’s clothes over us and trying different angles on the chairs. It was freezing. Sleep was minimal, as the lights never went off and sounds were always surprising. Babies cried, conversations were had, and every so often there was panic over where our bags were. Once the stores started to open and we were ready to move, we found some sort of breakfast. Nothing substantial, but something. Our flights left mid-morning, so we’d be home by early afternoon. Upon saying goodbye for the third time, we found our flights changed. Mine was delayed 45 minutes due to a flight attendant who was not in Dallas yet, and hers was cancelled. I wanted to stomp my feet and make them take us home. Now.

After Elissa finally got rebooked, she came to see me. My flight was repeatedly delayed an hour. But it was still happening, I vaguely hoped. The next day was my graduation. And, that dinner with Elissa had finished off the last of my extra medication. Eventually, I said the last goodbye (of that trip!) to Elissa and boarded. It was a clear day. After a couple of passengers decided they wanted off the flight (why they waited that long to change their minds, I will never know), we took off. I could (almost) breathe. Home.

Customs went quickly, and my bag was waiting so perfectly on the carousel, as if it hadn’t been hidden from me for the past four days. Then I ran out to see mom. Home at last.

Elissa’s flight was somewhat delayed, but she made it out that night too. So much relief.

And for the few of you still with me, here is what I want to leave you with: Food blogging is so much more than the act of typing words and photographing what you bake. It is the joy found in community and the expansiveness of that community. It is the fact that because of this space, I’m no longer alone. Not alone in celiac, in life, or in any situation I’ll encounter. So, thank you. Especially to Mrs. Q and Elissa, (and twitter). You lent joy to difficult days.

xoxo
Lauren

Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Wendy-Celiacs in the House June 1, 2011 at 5:54 pm

I saw your tweets throughout your ordeal, but so pleased that the wonderful Mrs. Q rescued you. All of us in the gluten-free community who have followed you as you grew up are just so proud of the world-traveling adventurer and food blogging speaker you’ve become. What a way to celebrate being 18!

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2 Petra June 1, 2011 at 6:04 pm

I recently met a number of food bloggers for the first time and it was such an amazing experience – I felt like I had known them for years! I am glad you got to experience that. Good to hear you got home safely!!

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3 Lori June 1, 2011 at 6:05 pm

After three phone calls in a row, I needed to take a break from writing my own BlogHer recap and saw your {new post} Tweet. What a perfect diversion! I didn’t officially meet you even though you kindly offered me one of your homemade graham crackers (which were delicious by the way) while waiting in line at the hotel Starbucks on Saturday morning. Thank you!
I also had a wonderful, positive experience at the conference and met so many delightful people. I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

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4 Lynn June 1, 2011 at 6:07 pm

It was so much fun getting to meet you! I am sorry you had such a rough trip home. I am sure that is a trip you will never forget. I live in Oklahoma where thunderstorms, hail, and tornadoes happen quite often and I am still not used them. I am sure it was quite the night for you having never been through all that before. I am glad you made it home safe and in time for graduation.

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5 Elisa Camahort Page June 1, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Um. Wow. I kept hearing about your long trip home, but had NO idea. Wow and double wow. This post brought tears to my eyes…I was right there with you.

So sorry we didn’t get more than quick “hello”…i heard nothing but awesomeness about you and your entire Kitchen Generation crew. Thrilled that BlogHer could be the catalyst for your only-in-the-movies slow motion reunion having never met before :)

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6 Winnie June 1, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Lauren,
You are so special and meeting you was one of the highlights of the weekend for me. Thanks for being there for me when I was feeling down (I really appreciate the hugs), and thanks for sharing your experiences here (both good and bad!). Thank you also for reminding those of us who’ve been out of school for a while that it really wasn’t anything like high school…not at all :)

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7 kellypea June 1, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Quite a wonderful read, Lauren. I enjoyed your perspective quite a bit, smiling through it all until the airport fiasco which you also made lemonade of. I remember seeing your tweets well after I’d returned home and couldn’t believe you were still out there trying to get home and had to wonder how your family was dealing with it all. Glad you’re safe and sound, and yes, you are a tall one! Glad to have had the hug :)

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8 tori June 1, 2011 at 6:30 pm

What a tale! And what a wonder you are, Lauren. Wish I’d met you at the BlogHer conference. I’m old enough to be your mother but we think alike…drama is a waste of energy. I loved everyone I met there. Next time!

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9 Nisrine M. June 1, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Sounds like it was an intense moment when you and other teen bloggers met for the first time. Glad you had a good time.

I hope we can meet at a future event!

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10 Debbie June 1, 2011 at 7:10 pm

As I read your post I felt as if I was there in the moment with you. What an adventure! I am glad you had a great conference. One day I look forward to meeting many of you. Congratulations on your graduation!

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11 Stephanie O'Dea June 1, 2011 at 9:17 pm

I’m so glad you made it home safe and sound! I was following your tweets— I’d imagine your mom doesn’t want to let you out of her sight!

congratulations on your graduation. Enjoy your summer, and relish everything.
lots and lots of love and best wishes to you—- I look forward to following your story. ooxoxo

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12 Elissa June 1, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Lauren, I love you I love you I love you. I’m so glad we were together, and even though there was lightning, hail, tornadoes and far too many delays, I almost feel lucky that I got another chance to spend time with you :)

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13 Caroline June 1, 2011 at 11:21 pm

I just found your blog, along with all the Kitchen Generation gang through David Lebovitz’s post about the BlogHer conference, it was such a revelation to me. You and all your pals are such an inspiration to everyone. I’m sure at this point you hear that a lot. But I just want to say thanks, for making me want to get my life together, and pursue the things that I want to do. Also, even though you guys are part of The New Generation group, I think what makes you guys so special is not because you’re young (sure that’s super impressive, and puts some of us to shame, honestly), but because you’re doing something that you love and it shows. You can always tell when someone is doing something they love so much, they just can’t help but showing their best.

So that’s all, just want to say thanks and happy graduation to you, it must feel amazing to finish high school with all this under your belt.

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14 Rebecca June 2, 2011 at 10:27 am

I loved this post. I was sorry we only got to meet briefly at blogher, but I understood that your time there, like everyone’s, was brief. Plus, you were (deservedly) one of the belles of the ball! lol. It’s your own fault for having such a great blog and participating in such a great panel :-) I love your blog and look forward to following your adventures – thanks for such a thoughtful post.

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15 Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite.com June 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Lauren, what a beautifully written post. I am not sure what I could possibly comment here that would hold a candle to your lovely and well-crafted words but I just wanted to say that I feel so lucky to have met you :) You light up a room with your personality and warmth. Your session was inspiring. I couldn’t be more proud of you if you were my own daughter XOX

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16 Maggie June 2, 2011 at 6:56 pm

You still amaze me Lauren! It sounds like your trip was delightful (minus the path home). Oh the things you will do! xo

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17 christelle is flabbergastingc June 2, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Oh wow! I read it all! What an amazing journey/ experience. Congrats for your graduation, blogherfood, the kitchen generation and just… blogging, you know! You’re doing great! It was really inspiring reading your post!

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18 Laura June 3, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Hi Lauren,
I just stumbled across your blog and I love it! I work for Love Grown Foods and would love to send you some gluten free granola to review! If you are interested feel free to shoot me and email with your address.
Lots of Love,
Laura and Love Grown Foods

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19 rnovitsky June 6, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Hey,

I haour doing a good job with this website and your writing. My daughter is 11, diagnosed with celiac at 4. I am appreciative she will have role models like you as she gets older and more into social media and technology.

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20 kamran siddiqi June 7, 2011 at 9:21 pm

What a conference, eh? And your trip. Wow. At least you and Elissa found each other. And that Mrs. Q! Gotta love her! Hopefully when we meet-up again next year, we’ll have a drama-free time with lots of beautiful weather.

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21 Cheryl Arkison June 12, 2011 at 9:39 am

I’m always entertained by the comparisons to high school. Frankly, the real world, regardless of the industry is full of cliques and bullies and cheerleaders and friends. The people who were that way in high school rarely grow up and change. No, that’s not fair, they might indeed change, but the way they approach other people often does not. I’ve found this in many professional circles.

I share this not to be cynical, but to be honest.

It is wonderful to hear that you had a good experience, despite the stress and drama. And I am so happy you made it home for graduation. Looking forward to some tea together this summer.

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22 Lexi June 14, 2011 at 8:16 pm

I am envious. To go to an event like that. Congratulations on our graduation!

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23 Amanda June 19, 2011 at 10:59 am

hi! i’m amanda and i’m a teen food blogger as well! it must have been really cool to go the Blogher event and meet Mrs. Q. I enjoy reading your site!

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24 Kelly June 5, 2012 at 11:15 pm

My daughter was diagnosed with celiac in 2008, and quickly turned to YouTube as her online community of supporters. She started out vlogging about celiac; however, this soon morphed into “beauty guru” channels (hanhan1012 and ShabbyChicGeek). I think that she would agree with you that this has indeed expanded her “community” and helped her to feel connected instead of alone. Your site inspires me, and I can’t wait to share it with my daughter!

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