The Purse Project: Better Blogging Through Tawdry Accessories

BlogHer Original Post

Ideas fly in our minds like sparks. But for the most part, those comet trails linger only a moment before being extinguished by the reality and logistics of our lives. Ideas have a hard time competing with the demands of home, family, career.

But once in a while, one of those sparks finds a stack of kindling and becomes a plan. It takes just the right tinder for that to happen, for that spark to turn to flame.

The blogging community became my tinder and turned a spark of an idea into a wildfire of a plan.

The PurseIt started with a joke about the world’s tackiest purse. I happen to own this purse.  Not my proudest piece of wardrobe. Sequined zebra-striped. It’s practically an experience. To make the story better, it was a gift from my mother who has a wicked sense of humor.

A friend joked that this atrocious piece of tackitude should be my BlogHer purse. My reply was simply that keeping it all to myself was selfish -- splendor of that magnitude was meant to be shared.

The spark was finding that a funny idea -- sending the purse around the country to my blogging friends. The only rule would be that if you had the purse, you had to go have fun. You had to play. Women, who so often find themselves in the nearly inevitable role of caregiver regardless of their circumstance, seldom go play just because they should. Which is tragic. And unhealthy. The purse, I thought, could be a reason. Because for heaven’s sake, if you have a zebra-striped, sequined handbag you need to take it somewhere.

Both Jenny Lawson, and her Traveling Red Dress, and Catherine Connors and Tutu’s for Tanner were in my mind. Both of these women had seen in their blogging communities tremendous potential: for lift, for inspiration, for accomplishing amazing things. And somewhere in thinking about them, and thinking about my own blogging life and this silly idea of a traveling purse I realized… that community is not over there somewhere. I am in it. I am part of it.

I became aware of something substantial and powerful on my side, and that with it my funny traveling purse had the potential do something wonderful. I write a small blog. But each of my Hostesses writes a blog of her own. We are loyal, and we are voracious. We click like the mouse might make a break for it if we don’t. And a few dozen blogs’ worth of eyes ain’t chicken feed, as they say in necks of the woods where I have never been.

The spark fanned into flame. What if in addition to getting caregivers to care for themselves, I asked businesses to pledge a small amount of money for each night I could make that happen?

One year of a touring trashy accessory. It started at The SITSGirls Bloggy BootCamp in San Francisco on August 21st (where I was privileged to meet Catherine Connors and force her into knocking over a dozen drinking glasses), and will end at BlogHer11 in San Diego on August 6th where I will be equally privileged to meet Jenny Lawson (and will try to not break anything at all). The tour will go everywhere around the country (plus Canada) in between. Forty-five stops and $10,000. All for the American Stroke Association.

I researched, I organized, I sent out a few teasers and I crafted a host blog. Then I held my breath, hit “publish” and tweeted like a canary with a small bladder.

Project: Purse and Boots was born.

In a day, fifteen women wanted to host the purse. A week and a half put me almost at the 30-mark. And the stories! About people they loved who’d had strokes, how they’d lost them or helped them fight back. And the enthusiasm. Capitalized, exclamation-point-laden entreaties to have the purse! A naming campaign (“Pursey Galore” if you’re curious) and support and love from a community that did not exist for me mere months ago.

The blogging community took my spark and gave it a place to flame into life.

If you find yourself of a mind to get your mitts on a zebra-striped sequined handbag, I would love to send it to you. I want you to go play. I want you to dress up and call out to your friends. I will send you a reason. And for that night of play, I will ask for donations that might prevent a tragedy from befalling someone neither you nor I have ever met.

If you’d like to know why I chose the American Stroke Association swing by the website and read about an amazing woman who decided in the 1930’s that she was going to get a master’s degree from Stanford and teach biology. She also happens to be my grandmother.

And she would have knocked you over to get her hands on that bag, let me tell you.

Visit me here, Project: Purse and Boots.


Lori, speech pathologist and writer, also blogs home-family-working-mom drama at In Pursuit of Martha Points.

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