It was awesome and motivational and great to be surrounded by other book nerds.
The night before my 4:00 am departure, though, I had some serious anxiety about leaving. I'm generally prone to anger, not worry, so this was relatively new territory for me. My top areas of concern were as follows:
-- bringing Edward on the plane. I liken traveling with a wiggly 9 month old boy to being locked in a small pin with a rambunctious bull. You are forced to sit with an uncontrollable animal who may very well poop, pee, or whine at deafening decibels at any point in time and it's expected both you and the bull be very still and quiet for several hours so as not to disturb the people/bulls in the in the pin next to you.
It's so much fun and totally not stressful!!! (Snort.)
-- leaving my five other children at home. Though they were in very capable hands of a competent, beloved babysitter, managing five kids all day for several days can be challenging. I mean, Camille can never find her shoes, they all break things with reckless abandon, and sometimes they stick stuff up their nose. What if they overwhelmed Madison? Worse, what if she never comes back?
(I can promise you, friends, if Madison were to ever leave us you would find me in a corner, incessantly rocking myself over this tragedy.)
--an inability to offer anything intelligent to the professional conversation. Have my days of chasing toddlers and changing diapers zapped the last few brain cells I might use to engage in adult conversation about important things? What if the only "insightful" commentary I had to offer included my thoughts on potty training and removing explosive diaper stains from jammies? (Seriously, though, we should talk about the stain solution sometime. I have some ideas, people.)
--I also worried I might lose my luggage, a terrorist might hijack the plane, the hotel wouldn't be able to find my reservation, and that I would lose my driver's licence and wouldn't be able to fly back home.
I was worried.
And while my concern was rational and logical (ahem), all of this was alleviated with five-year old, Christopher's parting comment to me:
"I hope a giant jet doesn't crush you, Mom."
Me neither, Buddy. Me, neither.
Saying good bye. Doesn't Camille look thrilled? Please don't be jealous of my fifteen passenger ride.
Obligatory window seat shot
Here's the good news: Edward and I both survived the trip with nary a complaint.
(Except security did swab both my hands for explosive chemicals in addition to testing Edward's infant formula for...I'm not sure what. I guess my five bags of diapers, bottles, and onesies made me appear like the mastermind behind a brilliant plan to bomb an entire jet airplane. But I digress...)
Within a few hours, we safely landed in Chicago where my wonderful, writer friend, Rhonda, met me.
Off we went to the conference, to spend several days listening to talks and discussing the components of writing, blogging, and the New Evangelization.
I met several new friends, including Becca Russo, my new bff and soul sister, from Loyola Press and Sister Miriam, who hails from England and has the most awesome accent you've ever heard, from the Franciscan Sisters Of The New Renewal. Both these ladies, I think, are kindred spirits.
I was touched by Rhonda's generosity in driving Eds and me here, there, and yonder and amazed at the ease in which we were able to share a hotel room together with two babies in tow!
Conference attendees and future writers. They were having a very important conversation.
I was moved by Rebecca Hamilton's talk, a fellow writer and blogger, who reported she spent 19 years as a representative in the Oklahoma Legislature where she was able to victoriously pass a law to rid all hospitals in her state of legalized abortion.
I had the pleasure of meeting Gary Zimak, who authored this new book From Fear To Faith: A Worrier's Guide To Discovering Peace and shared an interesting conversation with him aboutblogging pitfalls.
I cried during Father Frank Pavone's moving homily about family and the pro-life movement. (He is a master orator and if you've never had the pleasure of hearing him speak, rectify that as soon as possible.) I teared up again as we venerated a first class relic from Saint John Paul.
And I was the proud recipient of a bunch of new books that will keep me engaged and spiritually motivated for the next few months!
Rhonda coined the term "book gluttons" to describe us. Very apropos.
All too soon, the conference was over and I was back on plane flying home to my people, who had made cards and cupcakes to welcome me home!
(Sidenote: John stopped at the gas station on the way to the airport, when a man asked him, "You guys with a day camp?"
"Nope, not a day camp," John said. "These are my kids."
Years ago, a dear friend and mother of five, Andrea, used to say to me, "Freedom ain't free." What she meant was the brief moments of respite she experienced when she left her house for a special occasion always came with a price. After an evening or weekend away, she inevitably returned home to dirty dishes in the sink, loads of laundry piled in the corners, and sugared up kids jungle gyming (it's a new verb!) from couch to couch.
I thought of the wisdom in Andrea's "Freedom ain't free" slogan all weekend long as I looked around my house and at everything that needed attention--the laundry, the empty cupboards, the piles of junk and mess stashed all over the house--just because I was gone for a few days. As soon as my feet hit the airport turf, I was back in action dealing with parenting issues and discussing the finances and evaluating our family's overbooked schedule with John. All the writerly insights and ideas I had at the conference were immediately put on the back burner as I began tackling the more pressing issues of life.
On Saturday, Camille, my three year old, sang her version of Alicia Keyes hit song to all the Ikea shoppers. I'm sure everyone was impressed at her both her singing ability and her lyrical interpretation: "This Butt Is On Fiiiiiiiiiire!" I was so proud.
And then there was the bleeding. Two of my six children in a matter of ten hours managed to gouge their flesh, creating deep, bloody wounds which needed both TLC and possibly? stitches.
(I'm waiting on the decision to haul kids into the ER for staples and/or stitches. You can judge me.)
All kidding aside, there's nothing like coming home to my peeps and though I make jokes about the insanity in which I live, I'm lost without these people. The conference was great and so were all the attendees, but my family?
They are my purpose.
Plus, these goofy kids make up most of my material and without them, I would have absolutely nothing interesting to write about.
Early morning fashion show. Her dress is on backwards and I'm not sure what is going on with her hair. But, she was so proud and that emotion demanded photo documentation.
"Look how it poofs, Mom!"
"Take one of all of us!" So I did.
One day, I will write the book I want to write and one day, I'll have hours upon hours to submit queries and articles to Catholic publications.
My hands and heart are full with blessed (and sometimes crazy-insane) work.