Saturday, March 3, 2012

Blissdom: A Newbie's Tale

Please note:  The pictures included in this post are taken by an anti-photographer equipped only with an iphone.  Sad, but true.  Please keep expectations LOW.

I've been back from my first Blissdom Conference for just about a week. I am still trying to process all that I experienced, the people I met, the overall feeling of acceptance and love that was so clearly a part of it all.  Of course, like many of the attendees, I thought I would write all these amazing posts while I was there and be flooded with content for posts long after.  There's two problems with that expectation: 1) the internet at Gaylord Opryland was incredibly slow in the cascades wing, putting the kabash on my plans to wow everyone with my timely literary genius and 2) I greatly underestimated just how much I would get out of the Blissdom Conference (clearly a total newb here) and didn't realize that six days days later, I'd still be soaking it all in. 

It all started innocently enough while I was politely stalking the words and wisdom of Bernice Woods at www.livingthebalancedlife.com.  It was there I spotted my first Blissdom ad.  Her posts are genuine and provide a road map of sorts to help others battle depression and unstick themselves from the quicksand life can sometimes become.  Since I pretty much think Bernice rocks, I clicked the ad to see what Blissdom was all about.  If she was promoting it, I would certainly be interested in it.  I have five children, four boys and one girl, not necessarily in that order and I'm no stranger to depression and feelings of overwhelm. Those feelings are just par for the course with a family this large when you don't have a clear purpose yourself.  And at 38, I was still searching and praying for mine, unfortunately.  I had no idea it was about to be revealed to me in a BIG way.  (Details coming soon)

I clicked the Blissdom link, I read less than 10 words and was already clicking over to register.  I wasn't even sure why I was going.  Was I a self-improvement groupie?  What was my true purpose for going?  What did I hope to take away from the experience?  I was in the process, at the time I registered, of designing my personal blog.  But, I hadn't posted anything yet.  Would I actually put pen to paper, or keyboard keys to monitor and write?  What would I write about?  Would people even care to read it?  What if I never wrote a word? I had no answers to any of these questions.  And, despite my fear of the unknown, I was determined to not only attend, but really make the most of this conference - my first Blissdom.  
Since I didn't know a soul, and since we had traveled to Nashville in 2011 and loved it there, I asked The Husband to come along with me to Blissdom.  I thought having him there might help me feel a little more at ease OR he would be available if I just froze up stiff from fear and retreated to my room.  I thought either way, I'm covered.  As it turns out, I am very grateful to him for coming.  From the first flight out to the drive home late sunday night he was there for me. He laid low, attended a couple Nashville Predator's games, took a few naps and despite the crippling internet speeds in our Cascades section of the hotel, was able to finish up the coding we needed to launch the new website redesign we'd been working hard to have done in time for blissdom.  He was a great source of encouragement and even a little tough love when I was tired from all the hustle and bustle and just wanted to nap , he suggested I get back in the game so that I didn't miss out.  I'm thankful he did because each time I got something greater out of that next experience.  So here's to husbands that are loving and supportive!  Hollah!  

On the way from Orange County to Nashville, I felt like a little kid headed to Disneyland.  I was looking around for the little blue suitcases on luggage to try to spot other Blissdom attendees.  I was feeling anxious about what I'd wear, meeting new people and million other things.  But, I was excited.  And that excitement overshadowed all the other butterflies and what-ifs.  And then, I had my first Blissdom spotting, in the Houston airport at the gate for our connector flight  - GASP!  Lisa Leonard, from www.lisaleonardonline.com.  She was going to be on our flight to music city!  Lisa and her team create and sell some of the sweetest jewelry I've seen.   I jabbed my husband, "look...look, it's Lisa Leonard!"  He said, "Go talk to her.  Say Hi."  I thought he was crazy, and certainly told him that.  He said I bet you $10 you won't go say hi.  There I stood, challenged. So now he owes me $10.  Remind me to collect on that.  

We arrived at the Gaylord Opryland hotel and I was blown away.  It was lovely.  It felt like a cross between Las Vegas (one of my favorite places) without the gambling and Disneyland without the crowds and rides.  Our room was nice and had a view of the Atrium.  Well to be honest, we had a view of the rocks of the BACK of the waterfall.  But over those rocks, we knew there was a gorgeous view.  I unpacked and was certain I wouldn't sleep at all, filled with anticipation.  But, thanks to my White Noise app, I slept like a baby.


Thursday morning we drove over to Cracker Barrel, and had breakfast. I was super stoked because I grew up in the midwest with them and we don't have them in California.  We had fun because there were tons of bloggers there.  I didn't know any of them.  But, we could hear Blissdom this and Blissdom that or my blog this and my traffic that in the random conversations across the room. While we ate we played that ridiculously difficult triangle game.  I was never able to beat it.  A strategist, I am not. 

The Husband made it a point to keep me on schedule and reminded me I needed to get registered.  So, we drove back to the hotel.  I headed to registration and picked up a very unexpected swag bag so full of swag that it wouldn't all fit in the bag.  I thought geez, I need a wagon to carry all this around.  I lugged it all back to the room. Upon arrival, I proceeded to lay it all out on the bed so The Husband could check it all out with me.  There was so much stuff in there and HELLO, a Simple Human sensor pump, SHUT UP!!  So awesome! I felt like a V.I.P.!  Next up, Newcomer 's First Bliss Meet UP.  

For months I looked forward to the experiences I'd have alongside the other Blissdom attendees.  I knew I'd be crazy shy and this newcomers event would help me meet a few women that could become familiar faces throughout the rest of the event.  I walked into the room where they were hosting the meet up and was met with the vision of a sea of women, all shapes and sizes, grouped together and the sound of endless conversations.  I said "wow" outloud.  I stood by the door not sure how to penetrate the gigantic cluster of women.  Not too long after I'd stepped in, another attendee stepped in.  I heard her say "Wow."  I looked at her and we both laughed. 

I wasn't sure what to do just yet.  But, I thought I would share a picture of room with my social media girl at the office since I'd been texting her thoughts and pictures of the event so far.  I wanted to include her in the experience even though she couldn't be there.  As I was taking the picture, I was approached by Stephanie Precourt, one of the fabulous community leaders (with the most delicious felted bag I'd ever seen and yeah, she made it..hello! crazy talented).  Stephanie wanted to make sure I was having a good experience and asked me a few questions.  She was so cute and so friendly.  She and I talked about "small style" (despite owning a children's resale website I had never heard the term before) and gave me her card www.adventuresinbabywearing.com.   Welcoming, comforting, reassuring..she was truly one of my Blissdom highlights.  If it weren't for her, I probably would have left the room...just feeling a little intimidated by all the people not knowing where to start.  So a big thank you to Stephanie! 

 Talking with Stephanie allowed me to stay long enough to catch a glimpse of a familiar face, Bernice Wood!  I am sure I acted a little star-struck.  But, she has had a big impact on the recent changes in my life.  We had a couple pictures taken, sadly I didn't think to have someone use my camera (next time, Bernice).  And she and I talked and talked until we realized the room had cleared out and we were the only ones in there.  Love those conversations.  She was also a community leader and she made that extra effort to reach out and include me several times throughout the event.  Another highlight! Thank you Bernice! 

I am new to all of this, new to the blogging world and blogging conferences.  It was important to me to be me, to be genuine.  I didn't want to try to meet each and every attendee.  My goal was simple.  Meet a few women, spend more time with those I felt like I truly connected with and then stay in touch.  I am not sure if that's what you are supposed to do.  But, that was my plan.   

Thursday night at the reception, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Becca from www.ourcrazyboys.com.  She and I had been tweeting back and forth a little before Blissdom and she invited me to meet up with her amazing entourage: Nicole www.thepixelboutique.com, Karen www.desertdealsdiva.com and Kara www.AZthriftymom.com.  I haven't had that much fun in years.  Thursday we chatted and got the chance to get to know them a little and what they blog about.  They were the go to group at the rest of the parties, always willing to include me.  I can't express how nice that made me feel.  I just don't have words. Thank you just doesn't seem enough. 
On the way back to my room Thursday, I overheard a conversation with a phrase that caught my attention and I just had to comment.  I ended up meeting three hilarious women, Katy www.indianapoliswithkids.com, Jen www.pensacolawithkids.com and Barb www.momofftrack.com.  A chance meeting, yes.  Great ladies, yes.  So glad we crossed paths.  They are just so much fun and hopefully they remember that toilet paper in your shoes is no substitute for gel pads.

This post is getting a little wordy, okay a lot wordy, so in the interest of word preservation and dry eye prevention here's the rest of the good stuff on the fast track.  The sponsors and exhibitors were fabulous.  I love my Dr. Scholl sneakers that were free from Famous Footwear.  They are so comfortable! One of my favorite booths was the Hallmark booth.  I carded and got carded.  Fun!  All the parties were amazing - great food, great entertainiment - done the way I would do them with amazing attention to detail. 

Keynote speaker Jon Acuff, couldn't have been more perfect (more on this in the next post).  The Lorax party was whimsically decorated with truffula trees and paper lanterns, adorable. Rascal Flatts played an incredibly intimate show and we were right up front (I tweeted that night that I think I FLOATED back to my room).   
 
And Michael Hyatt's session on Creating a Life plan was an eye opener.  I'd been following his blog in recent months and was honored to meet him, get a picture with him and a head start on my plan to live with intention. 
 
The Girls Night in was great despite the fact that I traveled out Saturday, missing a session, to get pajamas because I'd planned on going to the hockey game with The Husband.  I just didn't want to miss out on the party and the sneak peak with Oprah and Paula Dean.  

Regrets? No.  But there are a couple things I noticed I goofed on and need to fix next time.  1) I didn't have any social media info on my business cards 2) I didn't have business cards at all for my blog, just my business - Der, Kate! and 3) I had the name of my blog wrong on my registration and badge (really Kate?) It's Kate-In-Progress.blogspot.com.  Whoops! What a newb! 




There just really aren't words, or at least words I'm equipped with, to describe it all at Blissdom.  I've read a few of the posts from other attendees and they seem to have presented their experiences well.  I, on the other hand, am just in awe. STILL in utter awe.  The only words that come even close are extremely cliche or so  over-used they don't seem worthy of such a magical event.  Now, I'm even analyzing the word magical.  I like the images that the work magical conjures up.  But, I believe that God was clearly at work there, touching lives, changing hearts, planting seedling ideas and connecting people in ways they most likely wouldn't understand for possibly years to come.  And He certainly deserves the glory. 

So if you are considering Blissdom next year.  Stop considering and start saving.  I guarantee it will be worth every last penny.  You'll almost feel as if you owe them when you leave.  The experience is just unforgettable.  

6 comments:

Erica Mueller said...

Kate, I'm so glad you enjoyed yourself! I'm a CL and 3rd time-BlissDom goer and I have to admit, it gets a little crazy, even for me! The newcomer's meetup was just crazy chaotic. I love that so many conversations were happening, but I felt a tad overwhelmed in there and opted to network outside he door. haha

I love your design here! So cute!

Saving For Someday said...

Kate, as I read this I was taken back to my 1st BlissDom 3 yrs ago. I knew no one and my blog was new and designed by me (read, kind of ugly). If there had been a Newbie meetup like the one this year I'm not sure how I would have done. This year I was a speaker, a veteran BlissDom-goer and I didn't have to go to the newbie meetup but I did. I did b/c I remember how it felt to know no one. I walked in the room and I, too, said 'WOW'. It was loud, and buzzing with so much excitement and joy my heart was immediately full.

I tell people that BlissDom, unlike any conference, will impact you in some way. BlissDom reassures me that good things do come from being intentional, real, kind and stepping slightly outside our comfort zone.

I'm thrilled BlissDom exceeded your expectations and gave you clarity to leap into a new opportunity.

Sara at Saving For Someday

Jenna said...

Im so glad to know all of the internal dialogue and the different ways you felt about what happened around you and to you at Blissdom. Im so glad you met Stephanie and Lisa Leonard, and were able to connect with both Bernie and Michael Hyatt. Your recap is fantastic, and it reminds me of my own from Blissdom 10 :)

By Word of Mouth Musings said...

So very glad that you met Bernice - you were in such lovely hands! My first Blissdom was a bit of a blur, so you sound as tho you had a great handle on it all!

Someday I'll Learn said...

What a fantastic group of people!! Now I'm going to have to check out Blissdom next year. THanks for the recap, Kate!

trina said...

Glad you had fun and met so many people! My first con was Blog Her and I met a great group of people that I still keep in contact with, but I know how intimidating these events can be! So cute that your husband was so supportive!

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