Wow. Just WOW.
Have you ever gone to a party or been in a classroom where everyone liked the same thing? You feel comforted and energized at the same, don’t you? That’s kinda how I felt this past weekend when I went to the first ever Food Allergy Bloggers Conference (FABlogcon) in Las Vegas. It was amazing to get to connect and talk to other people like me-moms and individuals that think about food allergies 24/7. For once I felt like I was in a place where people understood me. For once others didn’t say, “What DO you EAT?!?!” when I rattled off my son’s long list of allergens. Instead, I heard sympathetic and understanding comments. For once. Finally. I didn’t feel alone. That’s where the WOW factor comes in.
As our plane approached Vegas I couldn’t help but notice the barrenness of the mountain and desert that I hadn’t been around since I was 3 years old on a family vacation. I’ve never seen it for myself from the air. It was overwhelming. It was beautiful, but it was still overwhelming. It was so empty. That’s how I remember feeling when I realized I was on the long and isolating road of a food allergy mom.
Fast forward to the Meet and Greet on Saturday night when my introverted personality was thrust into a room full of others that were like me. It was still lonely at first until fun conversations were started, common stories were shared and laughs bellowed through the evening. The conversations were broke up by a moment of silence for those lost to food allergies this year, an opening speech by Jenny Sprague, positive feedback from Nevada Senator Debbie Smith, and uplifting comments from one of the designers of the Auvi-Q. Add to that introductions from various vendors, some incredibly tasty snacks, and new friends and it was a really fun evening! (Check out the list of attendees here).
Sunday and Monday morning were filled with some intensely informative sessions where I typed vigorously to soak in as much information as I could. I attended the blogging track and learned so much more than I thought possible. My clone (aka my mother) attended as a supportive grandmother and attended the Disease Management track, where she also took notes and gained insight on life with food allergies. Sunday night ended with a Wine and Sign where we talked to authors and bought books, while again enjoying some incredible food. Chef Keith Norman did an amazing job with the food!
Monday’s sessions rounded out with three uplifting sessions. The keynote address was led by author Henry Erlich speaking about his book Asthma Allergies Children and the future of food alleriges. Next was an advocacy talk led by three powerful women, and one last session capped the weekend with the aim of answering the question, “Where do we go from here?”
Where DO we go from here? In the last session a fellow blogger made a comment about not being divided as a group if we’re going to make a difference in our world of food allergies. Then someone said that we weren’t divided. Both comments have their own degree of truth, but let’s put it this way…..
As my plane descended on my lifelong, Midwest home state I noticed the difference in the terrain from Saturday’s arrival in Vegas. The midwest is full of color, straight lines, and texture from the various types of vegetation. It makes a quilt of many colors. Each quilt square represents a blogger from FABlogcon. Even though we’re different, we are sewn together by a common thread. The stitches are tight and we come together to make a quilt. FABlogcon attendees, as we go back into our communities think of yourselves as part of a quilt that when stitched together across the world can make a difference by educating, informing, and advocating on behalf of food allergic individuals everywhere. We can do this. Now go into your communities and be that voice that can bring awareness, write that blog post that can inform, and be that advocate. I’ll say it again: We CAN do this.