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Talking With The Pioneer Woman at BlogHer'13: On Being Blogger, Writer, Mother... and Siblings With Special Needs

Saturday mornings at my house start with delicious sleepiness. Not to be confused with actual sleep, this is simply the act of allowing myself a slow Saturday start, being awake and sleepy and not feeling the pressure to be productive. After my coffee, cruising the news on my Ipad, and feeding the kids breakfast, I reach for the remote for some Ree Drummond time. 

 Just like her books and blog, it is the celebration of her lifestyle and the beautiful images that I find so relaxing.Ree opens each Pioneer Woman, Food Network show reminding us of her roots, introducing herself “ I am a Writer, Blogger, Photographer and Mother”, and that is who I connect with, this same woman who welcomed bloggers at the Kickoff Keynote at BlogHer’ 2013.

 After taking the stage Friday morning, Ree looked nervously at the wide open stage space, hovering to one side, as she jokingly pleaded for her long time gal pals and BlogHer founders, to not leave her alone. Ree wasn’t afraid to appear vulnerable, telling us “ I am not a public speaker, folks”, and winning the audience over by publicly declaring her Spanx discomfort.  At that very moment, I too sat squirming in Spanx, and I suspect Ree would have been overwhelmed by the show of Spanx solidarity, if only she had queried the audience. 

Ree led us through a visual presentation detailing the start and history of her blog, keeping it “ Ree” real by not being shy about poking fun at herself, showing us what her food photos looked like before she learned how to rock the lens, and revealing intimate family moments and mistakes she made along the way. It was a fascinating view from her blog beginning in 2006, her first BlogHer event in 2007 leading us to her current career climb. Ree Drummond is not only a #1 Best Selling NYTimes  Author, but her show Pioneer Woman is the top Food Network Show for the female demographic.

 Sprinkled throughout the photos and fun introspective were golden nuggets of knowledge for bloggers like me, reminding us about posting often to build an audience, and the idea that slow and steady can bring success, sharing that “There was no major spike” in her own traffic, but instead, steady growth.To me, also a Mother, Blogger, Writer, her reminder “Give yourself permission not to go 100% all the time” was especially powerful. Ree is still a part of the BlogHer Publishing Network too, displaying the BlogHer logo prominently on her blog where she also shares blogging tips and advice. 

 Ree’s KickOff Keynote was an inspiring start to the day, her words and images stayed with me well into the evening. That night, I entered the Community Voice Of The Year Keynote and was completely overwhelmed by the large crowds. As one of the 100 VOTY honorees, I was hoping to meet some of the other 99 VOTY’s, and ended up sitting up front, directly behind Ree, and nearby some of the BlogHer rockstar staff. I watched as Ree with her daughter Paige, was enjoying just being another blogger. A picture of the two of us, would have looked great alongside this post, but I felt strongly that it was too cool that Ree was able to just hang and be a blogger, and I didn’t want that time for her to end. I didn’t want to be that gushing fan crashing in on her moments of normalcy, when she was getting to be part of the audience again. 

 I chatted with Paige, a bit, and she was well poised and sweet, and like her Mom, honest and open. I told her how my almost 13 yo,( who often watches along with me on Saturday mornings and is a big fan of the Pioneer Woman’s, Spicy Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork)  is sensitive about being on my blog, and  begrudgingly, how I am always careful to respect that. A typical teen, Paige smiled, unbothered, as she said she was used to all that, it was only the retakes that were utterly boring to her. 

 There was a moment, when Ree turned around, and I took the opportunity to tell her how moved I was when she featured her brother Mike on the show. In a way that is real and normal, that again made her vulnerable, she shared her relationship with her sibling, who happens to be funny, and lovable and special. Her brother Mike’s medical diagnosis may define his condition, but not who he is. Ree has featured on her blog, her brother’s individuality, sense of humor and sibling sameness. So when Ree turned around, I told her just that, and she said “ At the end of the day, that is just what it’s about, my brother is just part of the family, and we treat him that way, you have too, just the same.” As a mother, these words of hers stuck with me too. 

 Fast forward to my re-entry from BlogHer 2013. WIth my bag unpacked, laundry in piles, and bleary red eyes I was scanning my email yesterday morning and thinking about dinner when Ree’s daily RSS email caught my eye “ My daughter and I returned home from Chicago yesterday ..” like me, she returned home to a family hungry for homemeade food, and just as I desired, she had the perfect recipe compiled with on-hand pantry basics, and like Ree, I too, had an herb garden overflowing with Basil. Dinner dilemma solved!

 Making Ree’s recipes aren’t a daily occasion in my home, these days I tend to make veggie heavy, overly healthy meals that are good for the heart, but don’t always satisfy my flavor cravings or do much for my creative Mama nurturing self. 

 So when I seek comfort, crave extra special goodness, and old fashioned, delicious food Ree’s recipes are the one’s I go to- 

 Because her food, just like her simple words, stirring images and inspiring ideas-  are authentic, filling and satisfying to your hungry creative soul.