Back in September I was invited to the Better Homes & Gardens Stylemaker Event in New York City and I’ve never shared the recap until now. What I have to say about it, and me, might surprise you. I’ll start with this…
I’m still in shock over it and I’ve written this post about a thousand times, mostly in my head while driving, and it never seems to sound the same way it does, written here, as inside my head. Because what I want to say is not, Hey! Look at me. I’m this really cool blogger and I got to go to NYC and I was invited by Better Homes & Gardens.
What I’m trying to say is that even in the middle of what feels like my life falling apart this really cool thing happened to regular ol’ me and I still don’t even know what to make of it or do with it but I wanted to share it with you anyway.
It’s as much for me as it is for you. I hope it means something.
*Where noted, I humbly thank Avi Gerver Photography for so graciously lending us the use of his beautiful work for our blog posts. I’m sorry Avi! I’ve basically used them all. But kudos to those times where you’d rather be in the moment than taking pics of it!
I could start here. With the obligatory wing of the plane pic and the sun coming up just over the horizon because I chose to take the earliest possible flight I could get so that I could soak up NYC for as long possible.
I could start by telling you I’m lucky I made my plane. Even though I left with what I thought was plenty of time to spare. I made it to TSA with less than 30 mins before departure and earned my luggage a “late tag”. I never even knew such a thing existed but if anyone’s luggage ends up with a late tag it’s fitting that it would be mine.
But really I should probably start here. Two generations of the same, classic Better Homes and Gardens red plaid cookbook. One my Mom’s, one her mother’s. Now both mine because my Mom and Nene are gone. First launched in 1930 and hitting the best seller’s list in just 3 months. It was a staple in our kitchen growing up and probably yours too. It is America’s #1 Cookbook, after all.
So, you can imagine my surprise I when I was invited to Better Homes and Gardens. What would my Mom and Nene say if they were here to see me now?
The last time I was in NY I made the mistake of taking a taxi from JFK all the way to Yonkers. If you aren’t from around here that probably doesn’t mean much to you. For me, it meant my wallet was $100+ lighter. I wasn’t making that mistake again.
This time I took the M60 bus to 106th St and schlepped (because I’m so NY now) my luggage to the 103rd St 1 Train station. A kind older gentleman took pity on me as I studied the map in the train station a) trying to figure out if I was indeed about to get on the 1 train and b) which 1 train I was suppose to take.
Where ya goin, Sweetheart?
[Did have that look on my face?] West 58th St.
You staying at the Hudson?
Come on. I’ll show you where to go. I’m getting off there myself.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you New Yorkers are rude. It just isn’t true. At least not any more true than anywhere else.
We chatted the whole way there. He asked me all about what I did, how I got started and what I was doing in NYC. Just before the ride was over he asked where I was from. When I said Georgia he got this puzzled look on his face and I was expecting him to say something like, Oh I thought Texas or Alabama, as people often do. Nope. He said, Huh. I thought you were British.
Now that’s a first!
The nice gentleman saw me off the train and pointed me in the right direction and just like that, which is always sort of strange to me, I’ll never see him again.
If you’ve never been to the Hudson Hotel it is a beautiful experience. Gorgeous bar areas both indoors and out. I sat in this room after checking in, while waiting on my room, and had the first of many inner struggles. I struggle every day with feeling like I’m enough. Pretty enough. Smart enough. Good enough
What if my invitation was a mistake? Stuff like that.
Later I sat at the bottom of this escalator dividing my time between being entertained that this entrance to the hotel seemed to confuse everyone else as much as it did me and worrying that people who’d said I could tag along with them for a day of sightseeing were just being nice to me.
Here’s the thing, I spend an absurd amount of time worrying about what other people think of me and I almost always operate under the assumption that I like, remember or care more about everyone else than they do about me.
And I am keenly aware of how much a drag that makes me so I almost never let anyone know I feel that way. The same was true on this day as I walked around with a group of talented bloggers in New York City and tried reminding myself that every time I felt like I didn’t belong was a slap in the face to the person responsible for my being there. Whomever had voted for me, however I was chosen. So I just tried to chill out an enjoy myself.
And I did.
We had lunch in Central Park, picnic style, at Columbus Circle.
After that we walked through Rockefeller Center and went shopping at Anthropologie.
Which occupies an old bank building as evidenced by some of the original fixtures and I wanted absolutely everything in there. Most of which wasn’t actually for sale. And I only know this because Diane, In My Own Style, was like having our own personal NYC tour guide.
It was at this point when Chelsea, Two Twenty One, accidentally broke a candle that I realized maybe these were my people after all.
Seeing my hotel room made me wonder whether I was cool enough to stay there. By the way, that’s a glass window that peeks into the shower in front of that desk. I will eternally be grateful that I did not have a roommate. Eternally.
My hotel window overlooked the Hudson’s Private Park and the Sky Terrace and I sat in my open window every night and enjoyed the lights and sounds of people. I could also see the Rooftop Terrace on the 24th floor where we’d have our wrap up party.
By the time the actual event rolled around the next morning I couldn’t decide whether to squeal for joy or stay close to a potted plant in case I suddenly needed to puke. You see, this wasn’t the first time I had requested an invitation. The first year I wasn’t even sure how the invitation came but June came and went without one and that was that.
That was the year I went to Toronto and I distinctly remember sitting in the Atlanta airport waiting to catch my connecting flight into Toronto feeling sorry for myself because I hadn’t been invited to NYC. And then that evil little voice inside of you that tends to do the most talking when you’re at your most vulnerable repeatedly told me I didn’t deserve to be there anyway. I wasn’t good enough, hadn’t worked hard enough.
The year I did get an invite was a month before my life started to crumble a little and I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to make it.
In the end, though, I did make it. [Food Styling Session]
And I got to meet food editors and stylists.
Libbie Summers taught us The Perfect Dollop which is an actual thing with an actual technique and now I know it.
Simon Andrews showed us that it’s a miracle that all food stylists don’t wind up on the no-fly list when traveling and that a heated paint removing tool browns the top of a casserole better than your oven’s broiler. And that food stylists are really, really cool even if they don’t all have accents.
Jill Lust taught us that there’s more to tossing the perfect salad than just tossing it.
It all hinges on the chunky cut of the vegetables that adds texture and interest. And while I’m not food blogger, or stylist for that matter, I still find all of this very fascinating.
If you’re a Better Homes and Gardens subscriber you’re probably familiar with the Sytlemaker Issue. This year Brooke Shields was on the cover and the Stylemakers included chefs Clodagh McKenna, Erin Gleeson and designers Kishani Perera and Patrick Mele. The StyleMakers Panel was a surreal experience.
But imagine sitting in a room at a relatively intimate gathering for the Editor’s panel and listening to the editors of a magazine you’ve had in your home your entire life. Just imagine it.
And then imagine the moment that you realize how delightful and down to Earth these people are even if one of them is Stephen Orr, Editor-in-Chief of Better Homes and Gardens.
The Truth About Getting a Book Deal Session: The thing about the truth is that it can be hard to swallow. In this session I learned that I am like a microscopic organism in a very large and talented ocean and it simultaneously made me want to just give up and to shout, I’m here! I matter. I’m good at what I do and I’ll prove it to you. Not at anyone is this room, just the world in general.
This session was perhaps the most powerful for me. Not only because I’ve always had dreams of one day authoring a book but because they were telling the truth about the hurtles and obstacles of that process and it made me want to work harder. I hope you notice that this year on Southern Revivals.
I read several other recap posts and they were mostly of two varieties: Recaps in general, my fav being Jill’s, One Good Thing by Jillee, (because she gives you all the fun details about what we learned, including The Perfect Dollop) and the I’m Happy Where I’m At varieties. And those had me thinking something was wrong with me. Why aren’t I happy where I’m at? You know, content.
And I realized, in those moments, reading those posts, that we are all so different. That our journeys are all so different, that our lives, situations and pasts are all so different that it is probably an impossible question to answer. All I can tell you is that I do want more. Not in an unhealthy, I’d sacrifice the things that really matter to get there kind of way. But in a, maybe this is the reason for all my struggles, so I’ll be prepared when my time comes, kind of way.
I want to get to where I was meant to be and I don’t feel like I’m there yet. Contentment is an enviable achievement. I hope I get there one day. But for now, that’s not where I’m at.
I missed out on the Table Styling Session in favor of the more business sided discussion because I thought, for my first time there, those might benefit me more. But I’ll be honest I was bummed to miss Eddie Ross’s class.
The Modern Mix author has been a favorite inspiration of mine for a long time and I hadn’t had a chance to meet him yet. He was constantly surrounded and for an Introvert like myself approaching a situation like that is alarming, at best.
Our day of learning comes to an end and my head is literally spinning.
Can I do this? Do I belong here? Countered by, How can you not do this?! And it all culminating in me hiding out in my room prior to the cocktail party, while I was supposed to be changing….into what?!….and literally having to talk myself into going back out again.
I’m here on my own. I’ve met some really nice people and gotten to know others I’ve met before a little better but I’m not here with my blogging BFFs like some others are. I am alone. With myself. That’s simultaneously a terrifying and empowering experience. Because I have no one but myself to lean on and sometimes you need to be forced to do that.
Now I’m walking down the hall, headed up to the 24th floor and it hits me, what I’m about to do. I’m about to walk into a room and mingle with some really talented bloggers, editors of Better Homes and Gardens and Brooke Shields. BROOKE SHIELDS.
I love this picture because it’s the behind-the-scenes of this one…
And I’ve always wondered what that looked like. Now I know. Because I was there.
WITH BROOKE SHIELDS, y’all!
That’s Jill, One Good Thing by Jillee, up front in the blue sweater and Chelsea in the pink skirt and if you look closely, over her left shoulder, that’s me. Standing on my tippie toes to get a pic because apparently everyone else is taller than me.
But you better believe I got that video of Brooke Shields!
And then we got to hang out here on the Sky Terrace and it is just as amazing as you might expect. A sky terrace in NYC, how could it not be! Scroll down for nighttime pics taken out here, breathtaking!
I also missed the Flower Arranging Session but got to enjoy all the arrangements other bloggers made at the cocktail party.
Cocktails. Liquid courage, they call it. There’s a reason for that.
I finally got to meet Eddie, who, as it turns out, has a knack for making everyone feel special.
Fan girl moment.
I’ve followed you since that post about your tiny Christmas tree in your tiny NYC apartment, I tell him. I was obsessed.
He remembers. That post was from 2007. The year my mom died. The year everything changed for me.
And it continues to change. Some days for the better. Some days, not so much. But I keep going because in spite of a sometimes negative inner monologue there’s also something in me that just won’t let me give up.
One thing I am sure of is that that thing doesn’t come from me but I am so, so glad it is there.
And this is me, and all of my hair for those of you asking to see it, wondering it if I really have to turn in my badge.
Well, do you want to keep it?
Are you kidding me?! I want to frame it!
I got to keep it and got to pick up this, the greatest swag bag of my life. A new shower head, a new pair of jeans, a handmade-just-for-me shirt and wallpaper which you’ll get to see in upcoming room makeover and a ton of other stuff, too.
Just hours before I was wondering if anyone would even notice if I wasn’t there. I have often wondered what it is about a person that makes them want to take things away from themselves at crucial moments. I don’t really know the answer to that question but I do know that when you start talking to yourself like that it probably means something wonderful is about to happen and what ever you do, don’t listen to it.
So if you’ve read this far hopefully the core of what I am trying to say has gotten across and hasn’t become a jumbled whiny, depressing and full of insecurities monologue, but a message: Loving myself is one of the hardest things I’ve personally ever tried to do. And if you struggle with that, too, I wanted you to know you are not alone.
I know my struggle has cost me some opportunities but it’s gained me some, too because I’m determined to keep going in spite of it. For that I am grateful because I believe it means I don’t take one single opportunity for granted.
Even when it looks like other people live really cool lives, at the end of the day they are human just like you and me. And if you’re still waiting on your invitation, whatever it may be, don’t give up on yourself. It’s coming.