I didn’t take a lot of photos. I also didn’t take a lot of breaths. At one point, on the second night of the conference, I couldn’t hold back tears, and I ran up to the hotel room and cried. Yes. I did. But when I forced myself to lie down, pick up my novel and just relax, I felt better. (Awesome book, by the way.)

That’s when I realized I hadn’t taken a single break that day. While I may seem outgoing and (at times even) natural in social settings, inside I’m often anxious and tense. I’m really as shy as a turtle.

I need to make time to crawl into my shell and just collect myself for a bit — otherwise, I’m just all over the place. If you caught me JUST before I broke into tears, you would have thought me boring and spacey in a withdrawn sort of way. If you caught me AFTER the tears, you would have thought me just a weeee bit spacey and gullible in a Three’s Company‘s Chrissy sort of way….

Despite the social anxiety issssues, I had a great time. I partied HARD. And I haven’t done that in a long time. Those friends of mine, they dragged me out at a whopping 9pm for dinner and drinks, not at a quiet bar down the street from the conference hotel, but a longish cab ride away to the Lower East Side of NYC. The 15 of us (ahem) piled into an already PACKED bar in which there were men in plaid button-downs standing on the bar taking photos and swigging beers. Kind of like the gorj Miss Daniela Syrovy here in the green (with some seriously awesome and hilarious ladies — Joanne Acri, Theresa Albert and Emma Waverman [who’s either yawning or showing off her FAB Martha-Stewart-party “ring” craft])….

…who stood up on a chair in her fab green dress and took this pic of all most of us….

Can you see the social anxiety on my (distorted) face? Hmm, maybe not, since by then I’d had a glass of wine (it doesn’t take much). Look at all the lovelies! Where to start? Let’s see, next to me, Corinne, Nadine, Rebecca, Brandie, Rebecca, Emma (sweet WILLER), Maureen, Cora, Lianne, and Tracy. The only person missing in the photo, if I’m not mistaken…, is Ms. GREENERS, who earlier that night did THIS….

Her fab keynote speech moved us all to tears…. Here’s a link to all the Voices of the Year keynotes, including Karen’s. LOVE!

Despite the short and very therapeutic cry, the conference was an amazing experience. I got to meet a lot of my online friends in person, and I got to hear some incredible, inspiring people speak, including “international activists” who risk their lives blogging and make a real difference…for all of us.

Another really rewarding and memorable part of the conference was meeting LINDSEYJAY and SANDYEL! They met each other through MY BLOG! They’ve both been commenting here since the dawn of Cheaty Monkey, pretty much, and there they were, ROOMIES in NYC. Can you say FAHKLEMPT! I need to get a picture of the three of us, HELLO? Picture, anyone? FAHKLEMPT.

[PLACE PICTURE OF LINDSEY, SANDYEL AND ME HERE]

I left the conference early, alas, because I had to get back to work Monday morning — and we drove to NYC. When I got into the car, I was greeted by a very-desperate-to-see-me THIS….

She covered me in kisses — like I HAVE NEVER. It was good to be back….

And I’m back! When I got to work this morning, I found this month’s issue of Today’s Parent on my desk. Look for a feature on my CELEBRITY BLOG on p. 22 and on the “What’s on the Web” page, and, again, my name in the masthead (much to my mother’s delight!). FUN! My spoofy PINK article on Celine Dion will occur in the October issue.

How was YOUR week?

Love! xo Haley-O

Credit: Photo of turtles by cygnus921.