New Orleans and Me – A Love Story

Thank you.  Thank you place of employment, for giving me work on an account that allows us to do good things and sponsor cool events.  Thank you for putting me in charge of said events.  Thank you Laura Mayes for creating the Mom 2.0 summit and thank you Megan Jordan for not allowing horrible things to ruin your spirit, and for being the storyteller you are, on paper (shit…we need a new expression for this…on the interwebs?) and in person.  Thank you both for coming together to make the stories of hope event at the Eiffel Society in New Orleans a true success, on a professional and very personal level.

Thank you Heather Armstrong, queen of the mommy bloggers, for not running away when I approached you to tell you my old friend and former roommate was your biggest fan.  Thank you for remembering that she waited for three hours outside your book signing in Brooklyn so she could meet you face to face.  Thank you for remembering that her mom emailed you after she passed away last year to tell you what an inspiration you were to her, as an aspiring write herself.  Thank you for talking to me at length about her, and for being truly interested in the story of her life.  And thank you for what you did Saturday night, after being reminded of Robin’s story, in front of hundreds of people (and thousands of online followers) dedicating your story of hope to her.

Thank you universe for allowing me to play some role in having Robin’s idol honor her on a stage in a public setting, in front of so many other talented writers.  Thank you for allowing her memory to live on 15 months after her passing.  She must be going ballistic up in heaven knowing that the one and only Dooce so publicly acknowledged her.

What a vast difference this weekend was compared to that first trip to New Orleans.  From hating the cheesiness and spring break-like atmosphere to finally understanding it after interacting with those who were affected by the hurricane, to actually having a deeply profound evening that overwhelmed me with emotion.  New Orleans, we have quite the relationship.  If visit number one was an awkward first date, I think we just consummated our relationship, and I’m even inclined to say I may have just fallen in love with you.

Saturday evening, we (we being Tide Loads of Hope) threw an event at the Eiffel Society, a beautiful structure that used to sit atop the Eiffel Tower.  The event, called “Stories of Hope,” featured 10 incredibly prolific writers who rose to fame because of their written musings on what we’re currently calling “mom blogs.”  This was the concluding event for the Mom 2.0 Summit, a “mom blogging” conference held this year in New Orleans.  We decided months ago that since New Orleans was the birthplace of the Tide Loads of Hope program and, let’s face it, Tide loves moms, we would absolutely have to be a part of this event.  We had each reader dedicate their story of hope to someone they knew who was affected by disaster.

Which is why I was so touched that, in addition to dedicating her story to someone she knew in Japan, Heather, queen of the moms, chose my old friend Robin, aspiring writer/designer/friend/fiancee, to honor.

Like I said, this trip to New Orleans was quite different.

All along, I thought traveling to different places was the most inspiring thing I could do.  Seeing beautiful places, going on new adventures.  Why did I fall in love with Morocco?  Was it the scenic coast of Essouira, or the overwhelming aromas of the souk? Did I love Guatemala because of the beautiful volcanoes I saw across Lake Atilan? Undoubtedly those scenes were breathtaking, but when I think back to some of the best trips I’ve taken, I think of the people.  I think of Hayat, and Tim and Brian, and the Moroccan families, and the Guatemalan children, and even the people with whom I traveled to these places.  Sure, I hated the cheesiness of Bourbon Street when I first stumbled upon it last summer.  When I saw Frenchman Street, the disappointment turned to appreciation and admiration.  But this time, this was a whole new level of amazement.  Could the Mom 2.0 summit have happened in any other city? Sure.  But if it had, would we have heard Megan’s story about losing her house in Hurricane Katrina, a story that went beyond anything she’s publicly written?  Did hearing her tale in person, in the very place where it happened give us all a stronger connection to the Gulf Coast? Absolutely.  Was I embarrassed to cry at a work function? No, I was proud.  Because it turns out, I’m not as inspired by the beauty of the places I go as I am by the people I meet while in said places.

At the end of the night, Laura and the Mom 2.0 gang made a donation to the Red Cross with the money from Tide’s sponsorship.  It’s hard not to walk away completely inspired when you’ve spent an entire weekend soaking up the awesomeness of creative women who are probably some of the best writers and storytellers in the country.   I went in as a PR chick only there to represent her brand and throw an event that people would enjoy.  I walked away feeling like part of a community.

And for that, women of Mom 2.0, writers, storytellers, families abroad, creators, designers – I thank all of you.