Thursday, October 9, 2014

Why Vegas is Truly FABulous

This is the most difficult blog I have ever written...ever. But in a good way. I am challenged and when I feel challenged, I feel a need to do my very best. I hope that all of you can read through my random thoughts about the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference that I went to in Las Vegas and understand my difficulty in trying to relay so much wonderful information in just one blog post. School has the "three R's" but the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference has the three E's - Excitement, Empowerment and Eating.

Photo courtesy amovieaweek.com
Where to Start- Goodness! Can I first tell you that my brain is on overload? I feel like I am stuck in the helicopter scene from the movie Goodfellas. You know, come on! "I had to start braising the beef, pork butt and veal shanks for the tomato sauce. It was Michael's favorite. I was making ziti with the meat gravy and I'm planning to roast some peppers over the flames and I was gonna put on some string beans with some olive oil and garlic, and I had some beautiful cutlets that were cut just right, that I was going to fry up before dinner just as an appetizer. So I was home for about an hour. Now my plan was to start the dinner early so Karen and I could unload the guns that Jimmy didn't want, and then get the package from Lois to take to Atlanta for her trip later that night." This was my brain when I got home from the conference- as dead tired as I was, it was like I could not figure out which thoughts to process first. In a good way. This is all your fault, Jenny Sprague and Homa Woodrum- you started this conference! But I cannot thank both of you enough for the purely passionate insanity that you have created for all of us.

In the Beginning, There Were Peeps- For so many years, I have been virtual buds with so many people but then there are others that I never had the privilege to meet.  This conference brought all of those people to me with the added bonus of many food allergy rock stars.Or rather, brought us all to each other. Where else would I be able to say that I met people like  Robyn O'Brien, Alisa Fleming, Erica Dermer, Gina Mennett, Lisa Musician and Jules Shepard (just to name a few). I was like a kid in a candy store OMG, is that really who I think it is? Do I go say hello? Do I just like, walk up to them? I felt a tad bit like a little fish in a REALLY big pond. Me, Nutrimom! But thinking back, this is a positive because I feel it keeps me humble. What made me feel even better was that so many people came to find me too (phew! so I am doing something right!). And the best thing about everybody is the hugging. Yes, all girlie stuff but everybody could not stop hugging everybody. It was awesome. (Although, I did not hug Robyn O'Brien because she probably would have been really creeped out and I didn't want that on the 11 o'clock news).

I also got to meet a bunch of allergy-friendly bloggers and product contacts that I "know" via the computer world as well. The first person I saw upon registration was Selena Bluntzer of Amazing and Atopic. She greeted me with a huge smile and a hug. What a great surprise when the sweet ladies from SunButter tapped me on the shoulder during dinner the first night and told me they had to find me to say hello.I love being one of their official SunButter bloggers so it was like meeting long lost family members. I got extra hugs from Cindy Gordon aka Vegetarian Mamma and I was also excited to finally meet some of the Enjoy Life Foods crew including their Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Joel Warady. Being one of their Preferred Bloggers as well, it was enlightening to hear them discuss how truly dedicated the company is to the purity of their products for all of us. Dave & Deb Bloom from SnackSafely.com were just the best ever! And Kyle Dine, OMG, I got to finally meet Kyle Dine! We have also been virtual pals but it's just amazing to speak in person. Then Daniella Knell of S.A.F.E. (Smart Allergy-Friendly Education) bounded into the room & I felt like I had a sister with me. Even before I could finish processing that, Heather from Blue Bear Aware  even came over and said "Hey, I'm Heather"- I love their products. Debbie Adler (who has that delectable cookbook that I had the honor of reviewing) also snuck up on me but she was just as great in person (she really is Sweet Debbie!). Then halfway through the conference, I realized that the person I kept seeing was Tiffany Glass (you know, her cartoons are used in all of Dr. Ruchi Gupta's slides) and I actually had the honor of using her cartoon in my first newsletter. Am I overly annoying? Apologies, I can't help but gush a little.

Then There Was Passion- If you have ever been to a conference within the food allergy community, you will understand what I mean when I say that you can truly feel and understand the sheer passion in everyone's voice when you meet them. We are all on the same page, we all have a deep, heartfelt connection and it's empowering to share this with so many people all at once. It's reaffirming to know that whatever you are doing to help, it is important and it does matter. There is no such thing as a small voice. Everyone is helping others, everyone is changing the way that people think and feel about food allergies and everyone is part of this journey that we are in. So what if you are just Small Time Suzy Q who sends out a blog once a month- you have no idea how much impact your blog can be felt by others who needed to hear exactly what you shared in that post.

The sessions that I attended were just as inspiring. All of them were different but each one offered tips on how I can continue to improve what I do while continuing to help other people in the process (which is what I love to do!). The panel speakers offered multiple sides to scenarios with a touch of humor (my kind of people) and I found all of them very helpful. What I most enjoyed was listening to some of the company representatives speak. Not because I feel that I should promote them but because as a rule of thumb, I do not promote products or companies that (I feel) do not have our community's health in their best interest. So for me, hearing the pains that they take, the extra steps and precautions used to make sure that we are safe makes my heart smile. I think I can safely say that within the food allergy community, there is an absolute need to feel that level of compassion and honesty in what they are doing to keep us all safe and that's what I felt.

And, the Food... Oh My Goodness, the Food! Who else gained at least 5 pounds on this trip? (hand raised) Between the meals provided by Chef Keith Norman, the samples from the sponsors and the swag that we all took home.... I left a bit more roly-poly but so happy and so allergy-friendly! I have not had this type of catering since, well, ever. The amazing spread that was made available to us was like the king of allergy-aware buffets. There was no worry about how will I get a dairy-free milk for my coffee, there was no issue of what ingredients are in this meal and there certainly was nothing that tasted anything less than amazing. All foods were clearly labeled and the selection was never-ending. And it was all safe. My mouth is still watering.
photo courtesy Disneyscreencaps.com

Sponsor tables that had items to sample or bring home-whoa! I think we all silently felt like the Seagulls in Finding Nemo where they all swarm and just say 'Mine, Mine, Mine" but we were all trying to be professionally discreet at the same time. (Now come on guys, tell me really how many times you tasted those new products at the Ian's Natural Foods table, or munched on those yummy Luke's Organic chips or how many Sun Cups you managed to sneak into your bag or how about those delicious baggies of Divvis Popcorn?!) Not to mention that everyone was so approachable.  Hanson Watkins of Indie Candy was just the sweetest person ever (no pun intended). It's all for the good of the cause and I was more than happy to help out in that area.

The Big Surprise- Unbeknownst to most of us, the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference also caught us off-guard with a surprise visit from Jerome Bettis. For those of you who didn't know, Jerome is working to spread food allergy awareness and the importance of being prepared with Auvi-Q. Not only did he give a great speech but he even took the time for a photo op with each and every person that wanted to say hello. We all received autographed photos from him and he was just the most down to earth person ever. Extra thanks to Jerome for going the extra mile to share your knowledge and support and thank you to all of those people who helped get him there with us.




And Then, There Was One- I wanted to mention someone that stood out the most to me during this event. Although everything that was planned at this conference was completely superb, there was one special person that left a lasting impression on me the most. Early during the conference, I was approached by Shari Winard. She introduced herself as a page member and her name rang a bell. She was so sweet and I loved speaking with her. But her name kept repeating inside of my head and when that happens, in the back of my mind, I know there is a detail that I should remember. Then I went over to speak with the Sun Cups representative and she went on to tell me how Shari had visited her, telling her how she had won one of my giveaways, was introduced to Sun Cups and how what I do has changed her life. Gasp! My giveaway, that was it! And oh my gosh, I helped her? Little old me? I found her in the crowd of people and told her that I needed to speak with her. I apologized to her and explained that I knew I had her name for a reason other than being a page member and that I had just been reminded of how I knew her. So I wanted to say thank you specifically to Shari for telling her story because this truly is what inspires me to do what I do each and every day of my life. I always try to let everyone know that without all of those who look to me for help, I would not be here. I would not be doing what I am doing without all of you and I cannot tell you how much I am grateful for that. Shari, you were my personal beacon of light in this entire trip and I hope I can repay you one day. Thank you!


An End Just Means a Beginning- There is a proverb that says "From small beginnings come great things". Luckily, this was just the end until next year. But I think that is about how long it will take me to process all of the information and contacts and ideas that have been bestowed upon me. Thank you to Jenny Sprague and Homa Woodrum for putting this event together for all of us that needed it and for those of us who didn't even know we needed it until you did it. Thank you to all of the companies that helped to sponsor this event (list here) - it shows us how much you care about our community. I also want to personally thank my corporate sponsors Brothers-All-Natural, SunButter and Smart Flour Foods for believing in me enough to help me get to as Las Vegas to help others. I hope that I represented your companies well and I will always continue to do so to the best of my abilities.

Thank you to my mom and stepfather for staying with NutriKids so I didn't have a complete heart attack leaving them for the very first time. I hope that I also make all of my fellow food allergy community peeps proud in the upcoming months by utilizing all of these glorious memories.

A rare photo of NutriHubby who hates to have his picture taken!








6 comments:

  1. Great post! It was so lovely to meet you in person as well. I hope we get to meet up again before FABlogCon 2015.

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    1. It was wonderful to meet you too! I know we will see each other again!

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  2. It was great to see you again, Tracy! Thank you for all the hard work you do!

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  3. Tracy, it was great meeting you in person. Thanks for all you do for the community.

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    1. Thank you, Joel! And thank you for being on our side to help :)

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