It has been over 4 days since I returned from warm, sunny Las Vegas and the first ever Food Allergy Bloggers Conference, belovedly going by #FABlogCon on Twitter. Last Friday, I assumed that I would publish a wrap-up post on the blog by Wednesday. Boy was I wrong! I've been grappling for days now, how to put this event into the words that even begins to give it the justice it deserves.
You may be wondering why I put genius loves company in the title? The conference honestly reminded me of the beautiful collaborative album - Genius Loves Company - that was Ray Charles' swan song in 2004. All artists sharing the mic with Ray were united by a common love, talent, and passion for the artistry of music. Yet, each artist has their particular niche within that common love (I mean Norah Jones, Willie Nelson, and Elton John in the same album?!). This is what the Food Allergy Blogger's Conference was all about. All of us are united by the fact that we or a loved one face dire consequences should the wrong foods be eaten, whether we are dealing with food allergies, Celiac Disease, or Eosinophilic Esophagitis to name a few. Yet within this commonality, so many truly diverse talents were displayed. Each of us has our unique gifts and passions, whether is is advocacy, education, policy, culinary skill, the written word, the spoken word, artistry in photos, marketing, or social networking. Did I forget any?! Right, science and engineering (have you seen the Auvi-Q?) - how could I nearly forget that! The unity and collaboration of this group truly is a beautiful masterpiece.
The relationships built, the ideas sparked will be the lasting contribution of this "album" we are nowhere near complete in composing. Jenny Sprague's brainchild will keep on giving, just like the musical artistry of an album keeps on giving. There is something powerful about meeting others like you and then combining forces toward common goals. Putting an actual human being to names and internet pictures is powerful. We are social creatures after all (even those of us that are introverts!). And even if you weren't able to attend this year, the power of this conference will be shared for some time to come among a much wider group than just the conference attendees.
With all of that said, I am throwing out a call to action. In the past, I have been fired up by amazing events like this, only to have it fade as time goes on. The energy of this event will fade as the realities of life creep in. Before it does, though, I encourage you to think about your strengths, think about your talents. Ask yourself, how can I better use my strengths and talents? Leverage your newly-found network of people that you have shared incredibly tasty and SAFE meals with (the Soutpoint Resort did an AMAZING job accomodating our food needs by the way), or hugs, or possibly even a few tears.
What are your "actions required" or "ARs" as my husband loves to call them?
My ARs -
1. Getting out more timely educational blog posts on the science of allergic disorders. You all have no idea just how inspirational your words truly were for me! Knowing that there are so many out there looking for someone to break down the science in understandable ways was HUGELY motivating for me. I had no idea just how many at the conference had already read my work! I think I nearly fainted when Dr. Mike Pistiner of Allergy Home had heard of me and some of the pieces I have written.
2. Help Oregon get better policies in place regarding food allergies in schools. I have so many notes that I am bringing back to my local group, Oregon Food Allergy Network (OFAN). There is action happening NOW at the state level, so this conference was incredibly timely.
3. Advocating for basic science research. I want to bring this issue to the forefront because science-funding is in a world of hurt right now in the U.S. The longer budgets for research are slashed, the longer we wait for solutions to food allergies and more.
So get off your "ARs" and write them down on paper (or the web, a comment on my blog post - I don't care!). Hold yourself accountable before the energy fades.
My sincerest thanks to Jenny Sprague and Homa Woodrum. I hope they realize the power that they have just unleashed within this community!