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Remembering the Place Where No One Asks If You Have Kids

Here's what we did on our Summer Vacation. The NotMom team -- Laura LaVoie and I -- spent our summer absorbing Change in just about every way you might define it.

One year ago, on October 7, 2017, we were wrapping up our second successful NotMom Summit in Cleveland, Ohio, More than 100 childless and childfree women from across the US and Canada, plus attendees from Belgium, England, and even New Zealand spent a memorable weekend together, happy to be in a place where no one asked, "Do you have kids?"

I remember being at the podium, saying something like "Thanks for coming, be safe going home." Don't I look happy? I was.

And then, the ballroom lights became spectacularly bright and jackhammers started inside my head. I left my own event in an ambulance, trusting Laura to party on without me.

At that moment, I became a Patient, recovering from a minor stroke and fretting about the aneurysm revealed during testing. It still feels funny saying that I have had brain surgery. It doesn't hurt to live within 10 minutes of the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic.

I wish I could say that was a summer's worth of change, but Karen the Patient also became Karen the Caregiver.

In April, my husband Andy, known by many readers from his appearances at our NotMom Summits, suffered a major heart attack. That's us below at the 2017 conference, about an hour before my head blew up.

Andy experienced the type of heart attack that cardiologists call The Widowmaker. It's the same condition that killed Jack on NBC's This Is Us, Jack died, but blessedly, Andy didn't. Again, thank you, Cleveland Clinic.

Meanwhile, in Asheville, North Carolina, Laura was proving that happy news can turn your world upside down, too. Her partner, Matt, received his acceptance to law school! Not much time to celebrate, pack everything and head for Atlanta, Georgia, leaving their tiny house behind (below).

Sad to say, bad news did find Laura soon after the move. Little Piglet, her beloved sphynx cat (below),, passed away soon after their arrival. With that, the southern adventure lost some of its glow.

Through the months, Laura and I did our best to keep The NotMom going. We know there are errors on the site, and unanswered mail in our inboxes. Days pass without a post. It's an understatement and an unfunny joke to say that Life got in the way.

What to do? In comments and social posts, women let us know they value what we do here. They appreciate The NotMom and we love connecting with them. What to do with a two-person staff and no money? (I have a great story about the sales pro whose $4,000 paycheck left us with one good contact made but not a single sponsor.)

I was certain that a story about us (with photo) in The New York Times business section, directly aimed at marketers, would generate at least one e-mail from an appropriately curious brand. I was wrong.

The NotMom Summits proved that our international audience craves the super-rare offline experience and learning we provide. Without external funding for marketing and staff, attendance is hard to grow and the event is impossible to sustain.

With big sighs, Laura and I huddled with each other, our Advisory Board and many talented people we respect. The horrible bottom line was inescapable. We fought a good fight, but The NotMom was done.

We decided that I would write a summarizing post, kinda like this one, followed by Laura's take on the matter.

But, I couldn't write it. After five and a half years "noticing" women without children in the news, sharing my own story and being touched by dozens of others from women I may never meet in person, the idea of just turning that off gave me stomachaches.

So for today, I'm remembering the magic of the 2017 NotMom Summit, the blessings of my Life, and how good it feels to be back at the keyboard. Frankly, I don't know what comes next for us, but we're still here, today.

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