When I was in junior high, my friend Jennifer used to ask me to change my first name to Carmen. Then I would be Carmen Karmann (That’s my spiffy maiden name. Hi Mom and Dad!). I could have a show called Where In The World Is Carmen Karmann? (Based on Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? Obviously.)
Why am I telling you this? I don’t know. Sometimes I just have to do what the hamster in my brain wants so no one gets hurt.
It’s posible the hamster was trying to lead in to me explaining my absence from my blog. It has been a few weeks since I’ve written, and I know you have been missing me and my words. And by you, I mean my mom and three friends who sometimes swing by.
With the end of our Poland tour fast approaching, my anxiety is ramping up. I’m constantly looking at things in our apartment and wondering how it’s getting back to Texas. Don’t even get me started on my fears about selling our car. I travelled to Texas to get some emotional fuel from my home state and my parents. I caught up with my teacher people and let them know I’d be looking for a job for next fall. I was also fortunate enough to travel to Georgia for my first blogging conference, the Aiming Low NonConference.
I first flew to Louisiana to meet up with my friend Lindsay. It was actually our first time meeting in person, and I was advised to not go in the basement or turn my back on her in the dark. (My mom is so trusting of the people in the computer.) There was a big hug and immediate banter. It was a chick love-connection. Her son B also gave me the thumbs up after I showed him my awesome b-ball skillz. (Please note I only impress on a 1 foot rim.)
Lindsay loaded up on prescription drugs for her aching wisdom teeth and drove us out of town on Thursday morning. It took us seven hours and zero conversation breaks to make it to Pine Mountain, Georgia. It seems fall had erupted there. The trees were turning, and the weather was dreamy. We became especially excited as we entered the Callaway Resorts property. Suddenly I imagined myself with a glass of fine wine (So, not from a box.) in the hot tub soothing my old lady travellin’ bones. I had this image in my brain:
Why yes, I would like a pool boy to bring me some cheese with my wine.
But then the southern ladies at the registration desk kindly asked us to get off the property. It seems we were at the resort, not the location of our conference. And suddenly I was a Sugerbaker sister with a fine Georgia accent mocking our mistake. We assumed we were being gently, like only a southern woman can do, told to eff off and head over to the tents.
That was not the case. The Mountain Creek Inn at Callaway Gardens was equally fabulous.
We did a lot of good thinking out here.
We checked in, and headed to our room to freshen up. For Lindsay that meant putting on make-up and a clean shirt. For me that meant making sure my ball cap was on straight. Then, the big moment arrived; we went to our first conference function, a meet and greet in the ballroom. I have to admit I was nervous even though I told Lindsay that I was not. See, I felt like she needed me to be tough.
So I was. I walked in like I was supposed to be there. Then I needed to buy a beer.
I introduced myself to Vikki who I knew from the Twitters and her blog. She hugged me and told me Happy Birthday. (Did I not mention my birthday? 39. Ugh.) Then we met the Empress, Julia Roberts (the cool one), and Faiqa. Then we meet Anissa Mayhew, the lady responsible for Noncon. Everyone made us feel welcome and included. By the end of the evening we were joking with our waitress, who we named Cassie, and eating pizza in front of the debate. I met Anne and found a kindred smart-girl spirit. I met a Suzanne who was not my mom and Susan who felt left out when I didn’t put her name here because I’m so tired from traveling! There was Nichole who is writing a novel with me next month. I met the Animated Woman and her suave British husband who loves Dolly Parton’s music. (Turns out lots of NonCon attendees love that lady.)
And then the weekend just rolled along. We fit in and felt at home. We added our sister Jana and took on the world. I learned about Instagram. (Have you heard of it? Oh. Like a year ago? I see.) I learned about how to make my blog more professional thanks to Heather Solos. My new friend Amyriah was cheered on in her quest to grow her blog. More and more people became friends, like lovely Lizz Porter and my other tall girls-Sarah, Jasmine, Katherine Stone (who has changed so many lives), and Dresden. The awesome Kymberli gave great hugs and kept reminding us how much we belonged.
Lindsay and I after we won our boots from Country Outfitter. Jana won too because we are an awesome trio of awesome. When I won, I screamed and jumped up and down and made a scene. In front of the whole conference and The Pioneer Woman. So that happened.
The conference was set up as a roundtable system. The sessions involved leaders starting the discussion, and then the people sitting at the table all joined in. We added our thoughts and asked questions of each other. This led to meeting MORE people. Seriously, I cannot name all my new friends. I do have to mention Maddie and her awesome hobbies of quilting and sex-toy reviews. Also, Leila from Don’t Speak Whinese gave me stickers and a positive attitude. Oh! And I met Cecily and Tracey in Suburbia. (This could go on for a while. Someone please stop me.)
And, I did not monopolize any of the conversations with my constant talking. I don’t think.
Did I also mention these ladies and gentlemen (Hi Neil and DJ and Peter and JC’s Huz!) acted as my advisory board? We came up with a plan to expand my blog and ramp up my involvement in my passions of writing and teaching. My new homeschooling friends, like Melinda, who also had a birthday at the conference, offered to answer my questions and give me all of their knowledge because the plan involves me offering curriculum and lectures to homeschoolers. I’m not going to go into all the details here, but just know it’s a great idea that fit right in with my strengths of writing and teaching.
In other words, they helped me change my life.
But the truth is I’m scared that I’m not smart enough to pull this new idea off and make it work. I’m a good teacher, and I know the writing process, but can I create curriculum and get some customers and new readers? Can I follow through and not get hung up on shiny stuff like the TV and solitaire on my phone?
Will my new friends stay with me through it? I hope so.