Saturday, June 25, 2011

Stuff I learned at Type-A Parent...and one unforgettable woman

I'm just back from the Type-A Parent Conference, where I spoke about getting freelance writing gigs (mostly having to do with my life as a magazine editor). I love this conference (props, Kelby!) because it's intimate, friendly, full of smart sessions and packed with fantastic people (including, above, the fabulous Washington, D.C. ladies who adopted me). A few things I took away from the conference:

• Asheville, North Carolina is an amazing place for a getaway. Lots of cool art galleries to check out, places to explore like The Biltmore Estate (America's largest home), and a bazillion fantastic restaurants. I went to Early Girl Eatery (organic Southern), Zambra! (tapas), Bouchon (French), and the Green Sage Coffehouse & Cafe twice because their coffee was that good. Our restaurant recos all came from, that's right, Aiming Low (thanks, Robin, for the calories, the super-cool handmade cards and your groundbreaking website idea).

The Charlotte airport is my new favorite—I've never seen rocking chairs in an airport. If they tried putting those in a New York one, they'd probably get stolen.

• From a super-helpful photography session by Amanda Padgett and Jenna Hatfield: Instead of always taking pictures from standing up looking down, shoot from down up—it's a really cool perspective, especially when you're photographing kids. Also, if you take pictures with a digital camera, you want to add a little contrast when you tinker with it—digital photos have a haze. And then there's the fascinating "rule of thirds" about photo composition.

I wasn't able to apply any of my newfound photography know-how to Sadie, my friend Megan's daughter. Megan writes over at Sweet Sadie Marie. Like Max, Sadie has CP. Like Max, she kicks butt. I couldn't get her to slow down for a photo—she was zooming all over the place.

• From the "No Brainer" files: If you sit next to someone at lunch and stare at your PDA the entire time, it's called anti-social media, and it's rude. "Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity," keynote speaker Patti Digh of 37 Days said. A-men.

• "Give up the need to be right," Patti also said, something I need to do more often. A friend at the conference told me something her mother taught her: If you're in a tug of war with a person and you let go, they're the one who falls. Wise words.

• If you want to see if your blog is too slow or has other tech glitches, head on over to Is My Blog Working? I'm a little scared to find out what's wrong with this thing. Thanks to Heather Solos from Home Ec 101 for that tip, and lots more. Check out her book, Home Ec 101: Skills For Everyday Living—Cook It, Clean It, Fix It, Wash It.

• A whole bunch of great bloggers are writing books. My friend Joanne, of Pundit Mom fame, just came out with Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media Are Revolutionizing Politics in America. Per Joanne, "Women make up the majority of online users and utilize the Internet more effectively than men, overall." Y-E-S.

• There is all kinds of courage in this world but to me, one of the most awe-inspiring kinds comes from people who, even as they are in the throes of battling a disease, strive to prevent it from happening to others.

I had the honor of meeting Susan Niebur from Toddler Planet. Susan is an astrophysicist and a mom of two boys, ages 6 and 4. Susan has inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), a particularly aggressive form of the disease. The last time the cancer returned, and it's come back four times now, it got into her bones and is now metatastic.

Susan works, raises her children, deals with cancer and all of its crappy side effects, does whatever she can to raise awareness about IBC ("the cancer that kills without the lump"), and tries to make life better for women with it. When you have IBC, lymph nodes are removed in your arm; that can produce swelling called lymphedema. The solution: A compression sleeve. "Like a bra for your arm," Susan describes it. Insurance won't pay for the sleeves, as they are not medically necessary. (AAAAARGH, INSURANCE COMPANIES). They cost about $100 each. So Susan set out to find a way to have them donated to women who need them...and she did. Not only that, but she recently got a big-deal designer to do one up, and it's in the works.

Susan received the Bloganthropy Award at the conference, given to bloggers who use social media for social good. All of the finalists were worthy, but none more so than Susan. She received $2200 from the sponsor of the awards, P&G's GIVE Education program. In her speech, Susan mentioned the 19 other women who were there with her in spirit—the moms who write with her at Mothers With Cancer.

Susan (right) with Katherine Stone from Postpartum Progress

Please read Susan's eye-opening post about IBC, then tell your friends—you could save lives. And don't miss The Starfish, Susan's reminder about the power each of us have as individuals to make a difference in this big, crazy world. It will stay with you.

Photo of Susan & Katherine/Amy Mascott


  1. I am so envious that you got to hang out for days with the amazing DC women. I spent some time with them last summer when they were in NYC for BlogHer and have been scheming about how to get away to DC w/o kids some time soon.

    Also? I love your friend Patti's tug-of-war quote, gonna try to remember that one.

    Thanks for letting me attend tihs conference vicariously through you with this great post. I *almost* feel like I were there. (If the still-awake child were not squirming in my lap, that is.)

  2. You travel more in a month than I have in my lifetime!!! I gotta keep my envy in check!

    Great post full of useful info, as always!

  3. Reading all the tweets from the event makes it sound like it was a really good conference.

    And, man oh man, do you get some places at a conference--one day I'll have to tag along to eat at all the fantastic places you choose.

  4. Woah that picture of Sadie is beauuuutiful. That isn't rule of thirds, that's motion photography. Good work.

  5. "If you're in a tug of war with a person and you let go, they're the one who falls."

    I would like have this tattooed across my forehead, backwards, so that whenever I look in the mirror, there it is.

    Great post, Ellen. Sounds like you met a lot of great women!

  6. I freaking LOVE Susan, I'm thrilled to see her recognized for her hard work. She is a true phenom.

  7. Wonderful recap and honored to be among the great sessions you attended!!! I am sorry we did not get to talk more. Hopefully next year.

  8. Thank you for was lovely to watch you in action in person.

  9. Wish I could have been there to hear your panel!

  10. Thanks for all these wonderful links. It sounds like a terrific conference --

  11. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the tug of war comment. I will have to add that one to my arsenal! :) Great one.

    It looks like a good time was had by all.


Thanks for sharing!

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