A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Confessions of a blog conference pariah

It started off so great. I had tallied the word “vagina” 13 times and it wasn’t even halfway through the first day of the conference. These were clearly my people! 

But throughout the day, I could feel my voice starting to falter. And by mid-afternoon, it was completely gone.

And then—oh no—the session leader wanted us to go around the table and introduce ourselves.


“Hello, I’m Leslie, and my blog is The Bearded Iris,” I hoarsely whispered with as much force as I could muster. It sounded like a bag piper with a tracheostomy being eaten by a wounded animal.

“Her name is Leslie, and her blog is The Bearded Iris,” the lovely Katherine Stone, sitting next to me, graciously jumped in to interpret my strained noises for the other bloggers at our table.

“I’m also the Editor in Chief for In The Powder Room.com,” I struggled to continue.

“She’s also the Editor in Chief for a powder room” Katherine rapidly interpreted aloud.

“I’ve never felt so handicapped in all my life,” the dam began to crack, “…but I’m happy to be here,” I resigned.

“She feels handicapped, but she’s happy to pee here,” Katherine guessed.

Okay, I just made that last part up, because I’m totally mortified and I tend to make bathroom jokes to avoid dealing with scary feelings.

Honestly, I really don’t remember what Katherine said after my last tortured sentence because I was trying my best not to cry. You know that feeling when your face and your brain have ceased to communicate? And your lips start to quiver uncontrollably, making it even harder to fight back the tears? Holy shit. I hate that feeling. I’d rather pogo-stick naked across a Broadway stage than lose my composure in public like that.

But there I was, trapped at a blog conference with no voice. 

And it wasn’t just any blog conference. It was the Aiming Low Non-Conference. For the 100 bloggers there who could actually talk to each other and participate in events like the Super Hero Costume Party, the iPhone camera walk with Neil Kramer, or the olive-eating extravaganza at the bar with Ree Drummond, it was obviously pretty awesome.

But for me? Not so much.

I felt helpless and frustrated.

Like what a surgeon might feel if you put her in an operating room with nothing but a wooden spoon and a parakeet.

Actually, it was more like going to a whore house but forgetting to bring your penis. (Just guessing, obviously.) Not that any of the bloggers at Non-Con were whores, per se. Well some of them probably were—statistically speaking, I mean. No, you know what? Scratch that analogy, because on second thought, I don’t really want my voice to be compared to a penis, even though they’re both really hard to listen to at times.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is: last weekend was really difficult for me. 

I was surrounded by people I admire but was completely incapable of effectively communicating with them. And unlike bigger conferences like BlogHer (5000+ bloggers) where you’re constantly standing in lines with throngs of grouchy swag-hags who will cut a bitch for taking the last honey bun at the breakfast buffet; none of the 100 laid-back Non-Con bloggers were wearing a shiv. And it was in a gorgeous and very relaxed setting—perfect for making new friends and strengthening bonds with old friends.

But, I couldn’t. Because all I could do was this:

Leslie, sick at a blog conference, drinking tea and not talking.

Green tea with lemon and honey. Wheeee.

So I sat there, like a bump on a log for most of the conference, unable to connect, or make wise cracks or share stories/ideas/best practices with my peers.

I felt invisible.

It was my own personal Dante’s Inferno, bloggy style.

And it got me thinking…

…is this karma?

…is this a sign from God?

…is this a lesson that I must learn before I can continue on my journey?

…am I being called to listen to others more and speak less?


Because, oh my God…that’s really fucking hard!

I obviously should have just stayed home when I felt that first twinge of sickness. But I didn’t, because I was afraid.

I was afraid of missing out. I was afraid of missing the opportunity to network. I was afraid of creating extra anxiety and hassle for my roommate and another friend who I thought would be stranded at the airport if I was a no-show.

So I put on my big girl panties and I went.

And I struggled.

And I got other people sick.

And now I feel like the turd in the Non-Con punchbowl of love. 

I offer my most sincere apologies to anyone at this conference who took home the bonus swag of viral laryngitis. Apparently, when I bring the funk to a party, I REALLY BRING THE FUNK.

Please forgive me, Non-Con friends. The universe has spoken, and I have heard the message loud and clear: speak less; listen more; and bring your penis or stay the fuck home. 

Very humbly yours,



  1. Lindsay

    I couldn’t do anything but love you, even if you were a turd. I’m really glad I got to meet you and chat with you for a bit. I understood every word, and I appreciated your sincerity. Did I get sappy there? Vagina.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Big non-contagious hugs to you, fellow bathroom humor fan, Lindsay. Loved getting to meet you finally. You are a DOLL! And congrats on winning those boots. (Jealous!) Also? Vagina.

  2. jana

    I’ll be honored to have The Bearded Iris Virus Laryngitis. Boom. That rhymed.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Skillz. Is there any end to your list of talents, Jana? DAY-YAM.

  3. Eliesa

    Oh, that stinks! Those poor ladies missed out on your “complete” awesomeness 🙁
    On a brighter note, I will be using “it’s like going to a whore house, but forgetting to bring your penis” as soon as I can find an appropriate situation. Love it!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Aw, thanks Eliesa. I appreciate that! And I think that whore house/penis analogy is really multifunctional. Try it at church or PTA meetings. It will really add that extra spark, if you know what I mean.

  4. Elly

    🙁 Boo for feeling like a turd and not having a voice.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Thanks for feeling me, dawg. Boo indeed!

  5. Laura Elliott

    Your analogies just crack me up – they NEVER cease to amaze me! And, just to let you know, it’s “tracheostomy” (forgot the ‘s’). My son was trached and vented so I know it too well. 🙂 And, many trached patients can talk “normally” now, as there have been advancements like the passy muir speaking valve (my son used it).

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh gosh, thank you Laura. I always appreciate learning new words…especially when I flub something. Thank you for that! And thank you for not being offended by my creative license with analogies. I hope your son is doing better. XO.

      • Laura Elliott

        Thanks, Leslie….he is better (no more trach). He will never be a “typical” child, and I can’t imagine him any other way. Love him! 🙂

  6. By Word of Mouth Musings

    See, I knew I should have gone.
    I could have been like some version of a seeing eye dog for you.
    And also, I don’t have a penis …

    • The Bearded Iris

      That’s okay. You can share mine. I have a big enough one for the both of us. Wait. What?

  7. KeAnne

    Awww, you poor thing! When I attended Type A last summer, I was getting over a cold and had a snotty, scratchy, phlegmy voice. Really helped the ol’ confidence. I hope you feel better & I’m sure your awesomeness still came through.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh no – being Peggy Phlegm in public is the worst! I was kind of lucky…no phlegm and goo, just laryngitis. Probably another reason I thought I wasn’t contagious. #FAIL. I’ve heard only good things about Type A. I think I’m done with conferences for a while though.

  8. Arnebya

    Aw, damn. I was so looking forward to all the wonderful stories about a conference I tried to make it to but couldn’t swing. I’m sorry you weren’t able to commuicate fully. If I’d been there I’d have totally been your wingvagina and played charades or passed handwritten notes that read “I farted”.

    • The Bearded Iris

      WINGVAGINA!!! OMG. I adore you.

      • Jen

        Bwaahahaha! Wingvagina. That should be a thing.

  9. Jane

    That really stinks about your voice- I hate being sick at events like that. I’m sorry for you. On another note…I am a swag – whore.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Really! Have you ever cut a bitch for the last honey bun? No judgement. I just want to know so I can stay on your good side.

      • Jane

        Not a honey bun but I have pushed my way to the front for another chip-clip. I am not ashamed.

  10. Jester Queen

    Well, you communicated pretty effectively with me. You gave me two of the best blogging tips, two that I needed RIGHT NOW, and you did it in your hoarse voice. I actually felt really touched that you were fighting through the laryngitis to have a conversation with me. And I seriously loved meeting you face to face.

    And that’s not even going into the fact that I went because at 9AM Thursday morning, I was checking my blogs, and holy shitballs there was the Bearded Iris going to fucking CALLAWAY GARDENS RIGHT THE FUCK THEN and how fast could I get over my panic and get my little (metaphorically little; actually size 18) ass out the door?? You inspired the hell out of me. Your card is sitting on top of the crap heap that is my desk balanced on the remains of my purse (which was raided for the lip balm the instant I hit the door; my children’s lips will not age an hour now) And it’s on top of a pile of cards that are on top of the heap. Here. Wait. I’ll count them.

    Seventeen cards. Seventeen people I met, talked to, and got to know in real life. Because of you.

    And there’s a build-a-bear certificate on the bottom of my pile, because they were a sponsor, and my kids and I are shameless build-a-bear whores. I put that thousand bearbucks right onto my daughters bear account. And I told her it was because of the lady with the sharpie beard and mustache. So now she idolizes you too. (My son went and drew on his face, but he does that a lot anyway, so it’s hard to say whether this was an act of adoration or retaliation for me going away).

    And I feel awful because I had no idea you were feeling isolated. I would totally have given you a smooshy space-stealing hug and stolen some germs.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh, wow, Jessie, what a wonderful comment. That really makes me feel so much better. It was so great to meet you face to face and I’m thrilled to hear that I didn’t infect you with my scourge even though I was all up in your beeswax hoarsely whispering to you.

      If you email me your address I’ll mail you my Build-a-Bear bucks. I’ll never use them and I’d love your kids to have them.

      And I’m so pleased I could inspire you to come to the Non-Con and that you got some good stuff out of it! That makes me pause from my coughing and smile a big furry-faced smile. 🙂

      • Crista

        See, you really ARE lurved, Typhoid Mary.

      • Jester Queen

        Aw, thank you. I’ll e-mail you my address (because seriously. We live by the obnoxious waste of furry stuffedness.)

  11. Teri

    Did you at least get to ‘pee here’??

    Hope you’re feeling better now after the tea and some rest.


    • The Bearded Iris

      I totally peed there. Multiple times. Thank you for your care and concern. I am definitely on the mend! XO

  12. Famous SpokesGoat Pricilla

    I do hope you are feeling better. It is not fun to be sick

    • The Bearded Iris

      Thanks Pricilla. So true. I definitely prefer fun.

  13. Jen at PIWTPITT.com

    Please don’t stop talking, because I love to hear you. I’m so bummed I didn’t go to this conference. It sounds like it would been perfect. I could have made you tea and translated for you the whole time. Feel better!!

    • The Bearded Iris

      You should definitely go to the next one! It was such a cool format – I think you would love it. And thanks for the love, and tea, and translation services! I may take you up on that some time. XO.

  14. Alexandra

    Then my round table was the lucky one: the one that got the best of you.

    THAT was Karma: you were there to speak your piece: and be heard: that if we ignore who we are and push it down and pretend to be someone else then we never get to meet the ones we’re supposed to meet, the ones drawn to us with our truths: our fellow misfits on the island of misfit toys.

    I’m so lucky, with everything , always. We got to hear you speak.

    Pretty cool, huh?

    Thanks for the love of getting what I was trying to say: that which we think is our flaw is actually a beacon for someone else.



    • The Bearded Iris

      Seriously, girl, our timing was perfect! I’m so glad I got to sit at your table BEFORE I totally lost my voice because your topic was of the utmost importance to me right now.

      I love your “island of misfit toys” analogy and so totally relate. When I look back on the posts where I tried to stifle what makes me different, those are my least favorites.

      My freak flag is the heart and soul of this blog. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I’d rather be true to myself. Thank you so much, Alexandra, for validating that it is our differences that make us special.

  15. Lisa Hewitt

    You are fabulous. I was worried about you and I am glad you are OK. Vagina

  16. Tricia O.

    Now I REALLY wish we’d gotten to chat because I’m awesome at talking talking talking about nothing and a lot at the same time. Anytime I get the chance to do that with a captive audience, it’s a good day.

    Feel better. All I can think about is that this time last week I was on my way down to Calloway Gardens to see y’all, and I’m sad that I’m not doing it again today.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Hilarious, Tricia. I was TOTALLY a captive audience. We would have been a great fit. Next year? I promise I won’t come if I’m contagious.

  17. The Bearded Iris

    Love you, Lisa. Vagina.

  18. Ninja Mom

    WOMAN! Not even viral lotsalettersidontreallyfeelliketypingeventhoughitwouldtakeuplesstimethanthisrapidlycrashingjoke, can keep The Bearded Iris down. I imagine, without your even realizing it, psychic messages were sent—and received.

    Get better, pack a penis.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Thanks honey. I’m on the mend. And so is my penis.

  19. Mod Mom Beyond IndieDom

    I’m so glad we met and got a chance to chat pre-laryngitis. I don’t know where my manners were, because I really should have shown you some of my extensive mime skillz that I picked up at acting school. Finally an opportunity to use that shit. Also, I really think we keep getting vibrators in our swag bags at these things just in case we left our penis at home. Just a theory. Huh…what do I follow penis up with? Oh yeah…

    • The Bearded Iris

      OMG, seriously? MIME SKILLS?! Promise you’ll teach me some moves at the next conference. My kids would LOVE it.

      Yeah, what’s up with all the vibrators? If anyone finds my extensive conference swag vibe stash they are going to think I’m one twisted horn-ball. “Uh, Mom? Why do you have so many of those mini back massagers? Are you okay?”

      • Mod Mom Beyond IndieDom

        HA! And worse, you know those little wind up toys that jump? I have a little jumping penis from the singing telegram company I used to work for. My son found it in the drawer. Yeah…that was a special day…

  20. tracy@sellabitmum

    I lost my voice the first morning of Blissdom last year and I just wanted to sit in my room and cry because I could not communicate with anyone. So horrible when it’s important to actually talk to people.


    • The Bearded Iris

      Right?! If only this would happen when we are at home alone typing away on our computers. Why during the one weekend when we are actually with fun bloggers who get us? Argh! Thanks for the empathy. Nice to know I’m not the only one.

  21. Leila (Don't Speak Whinese)

    You are awesome… and I’m glad you were there!!! I lost my voice after the conference. I think my kids were happy. I actually always lose my voice and start sounding like a man on the final day.

    And don’t worry about getting other people sick. You weren’t the only outbreak monkey… and sharing means caring even if sometimes it’s gross 😉

    • The Bearded Iris

      “Outbreak monkey”!!! I love it! Thanks Leila, that makes me feel better. I wish I could have chatted you up about some stuff I’ve got on the back burner. You are obviously such a good resource on so many issues. Looking forward to getting to know you better!

  22. Lizz

    I’m just glad I got a moment to chat with you, with or without your voice!
    Have you seen Pitch Perfect yet? The girl with the teeny tiny voice has some of the best one line zingers in the whole movie… think of yourself as her!
    (If you haven’t seen it, go NOW.)

    And OMG, you kept a LITERAL vagina tally? That’s pretty much teh awesome right there.

  23. brigid

    So sad you felt alone. But I’m glad we met and reconnected! Just in case you were wondering, you didn’t look for a second like you were down.
    Vagina. Vagina.

  24. Tracy in Suburbia

    Even though you were vocally handicapped, you still were able to make your presence felt. Seriously, I have never seen anyone mime the word “vagina” so effectively.
    And it’s good to know that even when you are sick, you still have the best photo bombing skills of anyone I know.
    Hope you’re feeling better! Mwuh!!

  25. Anissa

    I hate to say it but I KNOW what you mean!! It sucks to feel invisible and have things to say but you feel incapable of being heard. I loved the little time we got. Between your voice and my bad hearing it would have been painful for you, but I plan for us to get on that video chat soon. Have the talk we missed.

  26. Nichole

    You weren’t invisible! I saw you! And you were lovely, and you were not in any way turdish.

  27. Kristin @ What She Said

    Awww, I’m sorry you had a rough go of it at the non-con. I know how much you were looking forward to it. If it’s any consolation, I personally think it sounds like a fabulous conference and would like to try to go next year. And I’ll gladly room with you even if you have laryngitis because I think I sound super hot when I lose my voice. So, I’ll be Phoebe to your Monica, licking the germs off the rim of your coffee cup and singing Smelly Cat all sexy-like (“Goodnight, my babies.”)

    On another note, I can’t get out of my head the image of you jumping naked on a pogo stick across a Broadway stage. It’s awesome.

  28. Kymberli aka JW Moxie

    Laryngitis or not, I’m glad that you were there. Even if you would have just sat there and nodded, I wish that we would have had more of a chance to hang out. Though you couldn’t talk, don’t forget; you had the benefit of hearing. And I got the benefit of bragging about being able to meet THE Bearded Iris.

    Oh, yeah – I’m braggin’.

  29. Susan in the Boonies

    I have certainly, in my own way, been there, and done that.

    I felt so bad for you!!!

    Once, I was helping chaperone a field trip with 90 second and third graders. I was the school counselor, known by all, and asked to go along as another adult presence, to chaperone these 8 and 9 year olds as they gazed in wonder at the Christmas Trees of the Nations that were on display at a local art museum/mansion.

    With no voice, I could no more have intimidated a 2nd grader into obedience than a kitten could intimidate a jaguar. I felt completely powerless.

    Worse, they trapped me in the back of the bus, while all the other adults were at the front of the bus. Thus, I was engulfed by the shrill voices of little children, screaming to be heard over the deafening ROAR of the bus’ engine, all the while inhaling the noxious, toxic fumes of the bus’ exhaust, that were somehow leaking up through the floorboards of that bus.

    Suddenly, I KNEW what hell would be: being powerless, trapped with screaming children in a confined area, and sucking in poisonous gas.

    And then we went to Chuck E. Cheese. Chuck E. Cheese, he of the urine soaked ball pit, and the adult sized mascot-like characters with their sharp pointy teeth, who made me, the chaperone of the future of our country, want nothing more than order a couple of pitchers of beer to suck down, just by the sheer terrifying nature of their presence.

    I thought of that awful field trip last weekend, as I watched you struggling with your inability to speak in the midst of a throng, where you desired nothing MORE THAN to speak.

    As I, on the Field Trip From Hell, wanted nothing so much as the ability to scream to those second and third graders: “Youth of America, PIPE DOWN!!!”.

  30. Amiyrah

    I loved every bit of this post and i’m super pissed that I didn’t get to meet you at Non Con. Everyone said you were there, but somehow I never got to come over, say hello, and grope you inappropriately.

  31. Anne (@notasupermom)

    You lost your voice? I just thought you were a really good listener!

    Seriously, think of it as a blessing in disguise. I did that thing where I talked too much and then felt bad afterward. Sharer’s remorse.

  32. steph

    Missed your posts this week. I hope you feel better soon.

  33. Vikki

    I’m glad I got to meet you AND I am glad you didn’t get me sick 😉

  34. Kathleen

    I’ve been there before, only it wasn’t a blogging Non-Con. It was an Honorary Band event (I play the flute AND I went to band camp ;-)). I started feeling ill on the way there, and by the time the first round of rehearsals were over, I should have been quarantined. I opted to sleep on the floor instead of getting my roomies sick and generally kept to myself. I’m an introvert, but I had been looking forward to meeting all my fellow musicians!
    I hope you’re feeling better now! And, even though I’m not sick right now, I have a hankering for some green tea with honey. I blame you 🙂

  35. Meg

    That really stinks – I’m sure they all loved you! Who doesn’t love the woman behind the how to make a fake turd tutorial?!

  36. Jen

    I think this page may have set a record for using the word vagina more than any other non-porn page in the history of the internet.
    I love your beard, and I love your vagina. And your large penis.
    Hopefully, one of these times I’ll get to go to one of these awesome conferences and hump your leg. I’m not completely sure if I could ask to wear you as a hat though.

    Who the hell am I kidding? That would totally come out of my mouth.

  37. The Animated Woman

    What a strange irony to be there with internet friends, with whom you normally communicate via a keyboard, and then not be able to speak using your actual voice in a real life encounter with them.

    I saw the struggle in your face when you came up to me to say hi. The best thing for laryngitis is to not use your voice so I’m just happy I got a chance to legit tell someone to STFU.

    BTW I went to BlissDom. I did not see LadyE, but I do have a Turd story AND a Vagina story. The Turd is on my blog,…the Vagina story…might be better in person, heh heh.

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