A Grand Return to Speaking at SXSW

I’m thrilled to have a new opportunity to speak at one of my favorite events of the year, SXSW. You’ll find my 12-year-old daughter, Jordan, and I  speaking as a part of the Social Impact programming.

If you hadn’t noticed, I’ve stepped away from this site a bit in the last couple of years. I realized this happened because while I kept working in the strategic social communications space, I shifted some of my energies when I wasn’t working on my day job. In 2016, I was a member of the Disney Parks Moms Panel. But most of my extra effort went into supporting Jordan and our vision of building more awareness and opportunities for kids with disabilities. Since she was born, I wrote about our lessons and experiences at Born Just Right. In the Spring of 2017, that blog officially turned into a nonprofit.

My life as a digital communicator evolved because of my kids. I started blogging in 2003 after I grew tired creating weekly webpages on GeoCities about my son, Cameron. Writing about my toddler gave me a chance to experiment inside Blogger and eventually WordPress. I was learning about comments, hyperlinks, and digital assets. My need for digital community took a major leap when my daughter, Jordan, was born. We didn’t know she would arrive into the world with one hand and a little arm. But I knew I needed the Internet to help me connect with people who had similar experiences. Limb difference communities didn’t exist online yet. So, I started one.

My years of online community building helped me learn how to build social communities for brands. I was a founding member of the social journalism world while I taught at the Missouri School of Journalism and managed all digital properties at KOMU-TV. In the last five years at AARP, I’ve helped the social communications team navigate from an organic social space to a growing pay-to-play environment. I have always known from the start that no matter what, good content and real engagement wins.

In the last two years, Jordan’s opportunities through Born Just Right exploded thanks to her innovative spirit and growing ability to speak and advocate for herself and her community. (Her invention, Project Unicorn, was an amazing team effort led by her vision to shoot glitter out of her little arm.) My years as a journalist, social media strategist, PR expert, and mom merged into amazingness. The first burst of major media coverage happened in 2016. Jordan started touring Maker Faire events and speaking to all kinds of local and national groups. The second major burst happened when Jordan had the chance to visit The Rachael Ray Show. That led to us to write a middle-grade book (publishing with Simon & Schuster’s Aladdin and Jeter Publishing imprints) that comes out Summer 2019. Jordan and I have had a number of additional speaking opportunities. Sometimes it’s just her. Sometimes it’s both of us. But it’s a team process to plan, prepare, and travel to all of these experiences.

At SXSW, Jordan and I are going to share the lessons we have learned over the years. Jordan is also going to share all of the reasons why she’s become an outspoken advocate for disability. I’m proud of the time I’ve put into launching Born Just Right. I’m proud of guiding Jordan into the world as a public figure. I’m also proud of how all of my learnings at Born Just Right always make me better at my full-time job. And vice-a-versa!

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