It was very difficult to leave home last week. The decision to make the trip to Virginia to attend BlogPaws 2011 was not made lightly. Sam and I both changed our minds as we sat glued to the TV, watching the latest reports on Hurricane Irene. The closer we got to leaving, the closer the Hurricane was coming to the United States. We knew we'd have to cut our trip down to the shortest time away, possible, if we had any hope of getting back before the weather turned. Add to that our Pet Sitter and our backup, Jennifer, both got the flu, my car died on the highway the day before and Bob...Bob was growing thinner and thinner. His time was coming. Would we be away when he passed on?
Reluctantly, I packed, thinking it was a fool's errand to even bother. I knew I made a commitment to be a Speaker at BlogPaws and I also knew it was my only chance to be able to have Amberly and her kittens transported to me at the hotel, instead of facing putting them on a paid transport. It was my only chance to finally meet, in person, Maria & Bobby who I've been working with for over a year. I had to go.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Headed over the Tappen Zee bridge.
We decided to leave later and come home sooner. At noon on Thursday, I took half a valium. It was the only way I was going to be able to leave and not have a nervous breakdown. I did not want to leave Bob. I started crying. I said goodbye to him, not knowing if I would ever see him again. Our pet sitter came through and said she would be there as much as she could, but of course it would never be enough since she couldn't live here while we were gone. I had to be ok with that.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. D.C. Traffic.
The drive to Vienna was mostly uneventful. Sam and I talked, but often we sat quietly. As we got further from home, I tried to focus on what I wanted to get done at the conference and I thought about the presentation we were going to give about Analytics. I did what I could to prepare, but I just wanted to go home.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Almost there...
We made good time to the hotel, even though the traffic near it was terrible. We're used to traffic in New York City, but somehow this seemed worse. We were lucky we were headed into the city because we saw the northbound traffic backing up from Baltimore to the exits for D.C.
After we got into our room, which had a great view of the pool and from the 15th floor we could see what the weather was doing, too, we got unpacked. This is when I discovered that my old digital camera was not working properly. Great. Just what I needed. I would have to use my iPhone and do what I could. I didn't want to think about how much it was going to cost to replace that camera. Or could I get it repaired? I was too tired from everything breaking. I put the camera away and shelved my disappointment for later.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. I tried to resist the temptation to jump.
Ingrid was waiting, anyway.
Ingrid King, who writes The Conscious Cat, and I have become good friends since we met at the Cat Writers' Association conference a few years ago. Ingrid is one of the nicest, most kind-hearted people I have ever met. Being around her always cheers me up and I knew she was waiting for us in the Lobby, so we made a beeline down to see her.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. A SMALL sample of the swag we got.
We got gigantic goody bags when we registered. They were so huge we had to bring them up to our room. No way were we going to carry that stuff around all night. I took a peek inside the bags. I saw a lot of dog-centric things, but I must say I really liked the BlogPaws t-shirt. Very nice design. Anyway..back to Ingrid!
The worries about doing the right thing began to fade as soon as I started to see my friends and meet new ones. It was great to see Ingrid again and I finally got to meet Margaret Gates, who is the Executive Director of Feline Nutrition Education Society. We love what Margaret does to help people understand the benefits and importance of feeding a species appropriate diet. I saw JaneA Kelley from Paws & Effect. She is one groovy chick. Wendy Christensen, a fellow CWA member and awesome artist was there with my new cat charm bracelet-she made just for me! (I will have to take a photo of it soon!) Wendy has a shop on Etsy you can see HERE. I also met my new BFF, Kate Benjamin whose website, Modern Cat is one of my favorites for discovering simply beautiful products for cats. Kate and I didn't get to talk much, but I could tell right away we were going to be good friends. Kate is really awesome and has a kickass tattoo on her arm of a tribal stylized cat. Very cool!
We loaded up on an array of appetizers and got to chatting, about cats, of course. I was really impressed that there was a lot to choose from and the place was buzzing with excitement. Hurricane Irene hadn't kept folks home, that's for certain. I was told that there were about 400 people, up from 250 at the first BlogPaws 2011 in Ohio. Very impressive! Sam and I had to run off to test our Presentations and check out the room we'd be using. It was very big with lots of windows. The reality of doing the session in less than 24 hours hit me. Was I even mentally prepared for this? Guess I'd find out.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. YAY!
The gals, Sam and I went to the Cheesecake factory to chat and load up on sugar. The conversation was non-stop and there was a great deal of laughter. I REALLY needed that, more than I can say. It was so good to be around like-minded folks, who were all passionate about the same thing-cats, cats and more cats!
I would have been happy to stay up all night, but I knew I had a 7 AM (as in the MORNING!!) breakfast meeting to get to, so we all said our good-nights.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Prepare to be assimilated.
Somehow I managed to drag my butt out of bed and get to the Breakfast meeting held by World's Best Cat Litter. They'd invited a small group of bloggers to talk about their products and their vision for getting the word out on their brand. I was too delirious to say much, but it was interesting to know they realized the value of having our good opinion. I got a coupon for a free bag of litter, so I was pretty happy about that, but really, where is the money? Sorry, but we all work very hard at what we do. It just seems to be very tough to figure out if there's a way to make a reasonable income when, clearly we can help this company make some money. All we get out of it is more visibility for our blog-maybe. This is something I need to ponder further.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Rescue Ink Guys, Big Ant and Joe.
Next up was a trip back to the big dining hall for a presentation by two of the guys from Rescue Ink: Joe Panz and Big Ant. Now it's clear these fellas really care about helping both people and animals that are in danger of being abused, but I have to admit that there is something about them that makes me giggle and I can't take them seriously. I'm really sorry to say that because I don't know them, but they are so completely different than the female-centric rescue people I know that seeing these big guys with tattoos talking about how they scare off the bad guy...I dunno...I reminds me of going to a friend's house for a party and meeting a guy who brags about things but you're never really sure if he's telling the truth or just trying to be cool.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Ooo..I feel so tiny.
After the presentation was over, I spoke to the guys about a situation my rescue has been dealing with regarding a nut-job woman who is in jail and how she dumped her cats on poor Jennifer without surrendering them to her. So Jennifer is stuck-she should be able to give the animals to the pound, which is very nice in Milford, and they cannot do anything to those cats until the owner is out of jail. I wanted to know about the law regarding removing animals from a home and personal property laws. What would happen if one of those cats got sick and died while the woman was in jail? Their advice; talk to the cops. They didn't even seem to know about animals being considered personal property. Hmmm...well I got my photo taken with them so that made up for a few misgivings.
After that, I had to find Megan from Purina. She'd asked me if I wanted to be interviewed about Kitten Associates. Sure! Of course! The Purina Cat Chow Correspondent, Andy Senor Jr. wanted to meet with me. I had no idea how they knew about me or why they wanted to chat. I was still half-awake, but figured I better get this done. I walked over to the Purina booth and introduced myself. They knew who I was and were ready to do the interview right then and there. I was escorted outside (for better light) by Andy, himself, a camera man and Bill a very big wig from Nestle/Purina. I'm a very informal person, but suddenly I felt like I needed to step up to the plate.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Andy is dandy! Hee hee. (and me)
Firstly, Andy is VERY charming. Apparently he's an actor and has been in the cast of “RENT” for over a decade. Andy shares ownership of a cat named Buster with his friend. His cat spends two weeks at one apartment and two weeks at Andy's. Shared custody? ONE CAT? Okay, what does this guy know about cats? He certainly loves them, but I really wanted to get him alone to find out what was going on or to make out with him, one of the two.
Oh yes..be professional! Okay...so Andy starts interviewing me. Wow is he good at what he does! The camera guy was walking around us, getting different angles. I tried not to look in the camera, but it certainly was an odd feeling having someone watching your every move. I know how these things work-they shoot a lot of footage and cut it to 30 seconds. I tried to remember to sit up straight, be clever and clear and make sure to get out my message. Oops. Problem. One of the missions of Kitten Associates is to feed a species appropriate diet-which means no dry food. Guess I better tread lightly on that topic for now.
Andy oozed confidence and compassion. Either he was a great actor or really cared. He was very polite and kind and very easy to like, which made the interview go that much better. Due to Hurricane Irene, Andy had to hustle back to New York City, but our interview will be posted in the coming weeks. You can subscribe to Andy's feed on YouTube HERE so you'll be notified of when our interview goes live.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.
And now it was time for lunch! Remember, I'd been up since 6 AM so I was covering a lot of ground.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Let us eat cheesecake (again)!
I decided to attend a presentation afterwards-the one just before the one I was doing. It was about monetizing your blog. Great! What they didn't tell us what HOW MUCH MONEY we could get for doing whatever we were going to do to sell our souls to the Devil to make a buck. I still have no idea how this happens because it sounded like you have to pitch company's what you want to do to help their brand, then get paid to do that via your blog. I don't know how I could do what I do, tell my stories and share my knowledge all “sponsored by” some big corporation. I think I would lose my credibility. I hate being poor, but really? Isn't there some other way to make money? I bet I could do consulting. That might be the answer, but again, what are people getting paid to do this sort of thing? They wouldn't say!
©2011 Ingrid King. Sam is up first.
Then it was our turn to do our Presentation. I was not nervous, for once. In fact, I was raring to go. I think doing that stand up comedy/storytelling show in New York City made me stop being scared to talk in public.
©2011 Ingrid King. I get started.
Sam was up first. He went over all the nitty gritty about Analytics. I was watching the time and he was going long. I started to get worried I wouldn't have more than 5 minutes to talk. Then Sam started to show slides about things I WAS GOING TO TALK ABOUT! What the heck was going on? I tried to be funny and remind him to move along and that I had that covered. I think the stress from the past week had gotten to Sam, too. He was clearly tired and jumped into action to wrap things up.
©2011 Ingrid King. Last slide. Whew!
Things went quickly and before I knew it I was done and we were fielding questions. I started getting text messages from Maria before we started. She was worried about Amberly. Her belly was big. She was gassy. Maria thought it was something bad. They were about an hour away. At the end of my talk, I saw she had sent more texts, frantic that Anberly needed to be seen by a VET.
It's Friday afternoon, almost 5pm. I need a Vet. I don't know where there is a Vet. I don't know where I am! I ran out of the conference room and started to search for Yvonne and Caroline, who are two of the founders or BlogPaws. They would know where I could find a Vet to talk to.
But what I couldn't have known then, that even though I found a Vet, not 30 minutes later, would I have a real crisis on my hands and need another.
Tomorrow...the next 24 hours...