Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How I almost didn't attend that Catholic Women's Blogging conference...and why I'm so glad I did.

Felix, ready to go...good thing we built in extra time!
Last weekend, I almost didn't attend the Catholic Women's Blogging Network gathering.

I left plenty of time to get ready, but things just kept going wrong. By the time I left home, I was twenty minutes behind schedule and had used up almost all my extra time. I forgot my brownies for the potluck lunch and had to go back home to get them. There wasn't even time to cut them and arrange them on a plate. I just put the whole pan in the car and drove away as quickly as I could.

The trip was not a smooth one!

I finally pulled up with sweaty hands, my back stuck to the seat from the last hour of stressful driving (like twice-lost, going-the-wrong-way-out-of-the-roundabout, I'm-not-from-around-here driving). "Take 340 North to I-70" is one of those deceptively simple directions. I'd been stuck behind a truck since sometime before Harper's Ferry, lost 340 several times by doing what I sincerely thought was staying on 340, and (thanks to the late start I'd gotten) I was now an hour late. Felix had been hollering for the last twenty minutes due to a massively poopy diaper. My relief at arriving was quickly turned to dread of walking into a party in progress with my arms full of poopy baby.

As I drove, I had been reflecting on a friend's comment about the California Catholic Women's Blogging conference regarding another blogger who "perfectly encapsulates" her brand in person. It made me wonder what my brand is and if I even had any business attending a conference of people who talked that way. Would I, by my late arrival with a poopy baby and brownies missing a tiny taste-tested square in the corner, have branded myself as harried, late, and not-entirely together?

Does blogging mean putting yourself out there to be judged on your brand?

If that's what it is, I might be at the wrong party.

Shaky, I gathered myself and my baby boy and the brownies I'd almost forgotten to bring and made my way to the house. The back porch door was open, and before I even got there, I could hear the sound of voices enjoying each other's company.

Once I got inside, Julie, the hostess, took my brownies and said, "Don't worry! We haven't even started yet!" She showed me the changing table for my poopy, wailing boy, and before I even got his diaper off, Rosie appeared to change her baby, too.

I started to relax. We were going to be okay. We were in good company. This was no ordinary blogging conference.

I ended up at a table for lunch with delightful women who, I found, weren't judging my brand. Instead, they were asking all the same questions I was.

Why am I doing this?
Do I belong here?
Do I really need to be worrying about SEO when I can hardly find time to write?
Is anyone even reading my stuff when I DO write?
Do I have to play the self-promotion game to get anyone to notice what I'm doing over here? And do I really want to do that?

We had a wonderful discussion. We might not have really answered any of our own questions, but we made new friends with whom to share this journey, and I found some great new blogs to read.

In her conference talk about prayer, Meg said prayer was about showing up.

I think blogging is that way, too.

I felt a real renewal of energy for the conversation of blogging- the process of putting something out there for discussion and then talking with anyone who shows up. While I might not be ready right now to work on my brand or my SEO or the alt-text on my photos, I am going to try to show up more consistently to chat about whatever is happening.

At Mass on Sunday, back home in my usual pew, I felt the bonds of the new friendships I'd made. I thought about Cristina holding Margaret in a pew somewhere and wondered if things were going smoothly for them. I thought about Nicole and wondered if Lena would allow her to hold her during the homily or if she'd try to crawl under the pew in front of them. I thought about Marie Bernadette and wondered if she was exhausted after the long day of hanging out with extroverts the way I was. I thought about Rosemary and wondered if she was writing a post in her head at that very moment. And I wondered if Jamie's kids were behaving as wildly as mine were after having been away from her for a whole day. We sang the Gloria- glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth- and I thought of these women, my new friends, and how grateful I am to have met them face to face.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-5CMi2Il_IqA/VUZOyMGV4lI/AAAAAAAAX7s/Pja_W1mN3Mw/s1600/IMG_3408.JPG
Felix and all the other future blogging babies of the CWBN

We do belong here, ladies- we belong because we are making a community for each other and for other women who need what we have. It's a gift to be able to share that with them and with each other. Keep on sharing your stories...with or without pinnable images. They matter. Your voice matters. I'm grateful for each of you and for what you share in your corner of the world...thank you.