|Courtesy of Jen Fulwiler at Conversion Diary|
I returned from Boston late yesterday afternoon from the Faith & Family Mom’s Day Away. Three blonde girls and one tall, dark and handsome husband gave me the greatest homecoming a mom could want. Now I’m playing catch up. My mind’s all jumble mostly because there’s so much to share from a weekend that refreshed my spirit.
It’s back to reality, but it’s a reality I love and welcome. I’m looking forward to planning a simple, family birthday shindig for a soon-to-be-2-year-old. It looks like we have a beautiful week ahead of us with with temps in the high 60s and mid-seventies. Despite all the human warmth of the weekend, the chunks of snow lining the Boston streets and the bite in the air left Rachel and me, the two Georgia girls, shivering. It’s very good to be home to the Southern sunshine as well to the sunshine of three little girls who have lots to say about their time with Gaba and Papa (my husband was on call, so my parents helped out big time).
But it was so good to be there, too.
This past weekend I was inspired, encouraged, and reminded that I’m not alone in my fears, my struggles – or my joys. I laughed. I nearly cried. I prayed, really prayed – not in a rushed sort of way, but quietly with intention. I talked. I ate good food in good company. I shared a cup of coffee with Rebecca Teti and really got to know a woman and writer I admire. I saw just how tall, stunning, and on fire with the faith Jennifer Fulwiler is in real-life (and despite what she claims on her blog, she didn’t seem socially awkward in the least). :-)
I embraced Melanie Bettinelli whose online friendship I’d embraced long ago. I finally got to meet Danielle Bean whom I’ve admired and written for since 2005. She’s an incredibly talented woman; yet, it’s her humility I’m drawn to the most. She also has a great sense of humor. I laughed a lot this weekend.
I soaked up the wisdom of Pat Gohn, a cancer survivor and a seasoned mom on the brink of being an empty nester. Celeste Behe and I talked shop and covered everything from the family bed to breastfeeding toddlers.
I had a chance to personally thank Simcha Fisher for being such a strong voice in the Catholic blogosphere. I saw firsthand just how beguiling Hallie Lord (AKA Betty Beguiles) is in-person, and it’s not because of her fashion sense (although her A-line, red dress, layered haircut, and beautiful, radiant, and frequent smile were lovely), but it was her warmness, the way she really made eye contact when you talked with her and made you feel like you had something important to say even if you were talking about goofy things.
Dorian Speed, the brilliant catechist, and I shared the challenges of moving and building a new community and talked about some mutual people we know (she grew up in the town I live in now; yet, we “met” online and then in-person for the first time this weekend). Dorian was recovering from a bad case of bronchitis but kept smiling despite feeling under the weather, and it was a gift to be in her presence. Lisa Mladinich, Daria Sockey, and I all chatted about writing, mothering, and life.
I laughed my silly head off with Rachel Balducci and decided she is one of the most down-to-earth, real, grace-filled women I’ve been blessed to spend time with, and oh, how I wish I’d known her when I lived in her hometown for 3 1/2 years (we know some mutual people, but our paths never crossed).
I recognized Colleen Martin immediately and we embraced, our preggo bellies bumping together. One gracious reader came up and introduced herself to me. I chatted with strangers in line around the buffet table, but it felt like they were old friends. There was a lovely woman named Linda at my discussion table who brought energy and good, thoughtful conversation to the day.
Some folks like Jen Ambrose (maybe we can have a future conference in China?) couldn’t physically be there, but that didn’t keep us from connecting any way we could and a-tweeting away.
I know I’ve forgotten some people. The weekend is a blur – a good blur though. I met so many amazing women – including women who don’t blog and don’t even ever read blogs (kind of refreshing, really).
The friends, the conversation, the opportunity to pray and receive the Sacraments, the uplifting, empowering talks given by Pat Gohn, Jennifer Fulwiler, Danielle Bean, Rachel Balducci and a lively, pious local priest were the highlights.
However, I confess that I also enjoyed how freakishly light my bag and its lack of provisions (and treasures like rocks and hand-picked flowers) felt hitched up on my shoulder. I wore impractical shoes – purple suede wedges – and dangly earrings, and there was no toddler to tug on them.
I’m so grateful I made it to the event.
Several moms talked about how it tough getting there and how there were roadblocks and obstacles to overcome: sick babies, heavy snowfall, a missing wardrobe, delayed flights, etc. Once I left early Friday morning, my own travels went smoothly. But earlier last week I strongly considered canceling my planned trip because of extenuating circumstances. It was my mom and dad who really urged me to get on that plane and to just go.
“You need this,” they both kept saying.
They were right. I didn’t realize how hungry my soul was for real companionship, to be in the presence of women who wouldn’t judge but only lift me up, until I was in the midst of it all.
Reflecting on the weekend, which simultaneously feels like it just happened and seems so long ago, I’ve been wondering how one recaptures a day that made her laugh and almost cry? How does one blog about a perked up soul or the way it felt to embrace a friend whom you had only known through her words on her site or in your inbox? How do you describe the vivacious Italian woman with the cascade of curls framing her animated face and recount the warmth you felt in her presence? How does one compare hearing the timbre of a Godly woman’s voice to reading her soundless words on a glowing screen?
The answer to all of the above? Not very well. So this maundering post will have to suffice.
Unfortunately, all I personally have is words to recount the experience because I was a total slacker and only snapped shots of one subject with the mediocre camera on my phone – Melanie’s sweet Anthony taking a post-nosh nap. Thankfully, others were better about clicking away, so I’ll link to folks’ posts and pictures as they pop up (be sure to let me know if you blog about the event).
Here’s a few I’ve seen already:
I know attending conferences or retreats isn’t feasible for a lot of moms, but I do encourage you – if you don’t already (I know I have several non-blogging readers)- to seek out human companionship beyond the Internet. Danielle Bean reminded us during her talk that we need each other’s support. And we need real, face-to-face conversation more than email exchanges, tweets among friends, or Facebook updates. Sometimes we need to see the friend before us. We need to see the beauty that spills out of this person, not because of her cute shoes (and there were plenty of cute shoes at the event, trust me) but because all that they they are – the way they snort when they laugh (that would be me), their smile, the way they really look at you when you talk.
I’ve made a personal goal to put myself out there more – not on Twitter or on Facebook – but in life. I’m going to really work on nurturing the IRL friendships I’m blessed to already have, and to make a better effort of meeting some new friends in my new community. I approached the event with some anxiety, worrying about meeting so many people in one place, how the real me would stand up to the virtual me. But I left with a feeling of peace and the belief that the real me is just fine and longs to share her soul over a cup of coffee – not just over the keyboard. I want to, need to connect – with an embrace not just a DSL. I need to be with others who see that I’m more than a talking head and would never say something as thoughtless as a comment that might end up in an online combox.
The Body of Christ needs real bodies to come together. We all need a few really good IRL girlfriends. We need to take what feels like a real connection but always leaves you lacking and make it real. We need words made flesh.
I can’t wait for next year’s 10-city tour. Pat, you’re on it, right?