Recap in too many words
This wasn't one of those times.
This time, even though my expectations were torqued unbelievably high, everything exceeded my wildest dreams. The five-hour drive on the way down passed in the blink of an eye, or more accurately, the wag of a tongue. I don't think Andrea and I stopped chatting for more than a quarter of a kilometer at a time. She is a perfect road-trip companion!
It was just after one o'clock when we arrived chez Marla. Marla is *exactly* like she appears in her blog - kind, quirky, smart, and side-splittingly funny. She is also an amazing hostess, and she makes, no joke, the best chicken noodle soup that I have ever had in my life, complete with hominy and avocado (really, I was a little hesitant when she offered to put avocado in mine, but it was DIVINE!)
And Josephine - it was hard not to just scoop her up and stuff her in my suitcase and take her home with me. On Saturday morning, I was just rustling myself out of bed when she wandered tentatively into the guest room. She reclined against the fluffed pillow, the grey morning light bathing her blond tousled hair, and my heart melted. She's exquisite!
So then we had this panel thing to do. Oh yes, the conference!
We arrived a healthy 30 minutes or so before we were scheduled to start, and I was extremely nervous. I hadn't had nearly the opportunities to practise my talk that I would have wanted, and I was antsy with so much time to kill. Luckily, the extra time gave me a chance to finally meet in person some people I've been admiring online for so long that it was almost surreal to finally meet them in person: Miche, Andrea Gordon, Kate, Nadine/Scarbie Doll, and even one of the editors from the Citizen. Very very cool people! I was starstruck before I even began talking.
The audience was very friendly, and when they laughed at my first joke ("Blog itself is short for 'weblog,' which is short for 'we blog because we weren't very popular in high school and we're trying to gain respect and admiration without actually having to be around people'") almost all my fear evaporated and I really enjoyed speaking.
My co-panelists did an amazing job as well. I'm so proud of them for their hard work, their great style and their terrific presentations! Andrea will be posting everyone's essays on the next edition of The Whole Mom in a couple of weeks, and although we did digitally record the whole thing, we haven't quite figured out if and how we might podcast it.
To me, the highlight of the presentation was the question and answer session afterward, for a couple of reasons. First, I was afraid no-one would say anything. I needn't have worried! We not only had a fascinating discourse, but we went over our alotted time by half an hour, and I'm sure we could have continued on for two hours more. It was during the QA that I realized that two of my all-time favourite bloggers, among the first friends I had made in the blog world, were in the audience. When I realized who it was, I'm sure I literally gasped, and I turned to Ann sitting beside me. "Is that... is that... is that Emily and Cooper from Been There?" I asked, incredulous and reverent at the same time. "It sure is," Ann replied, "and I got to hug them yesterday!" I was so excited I could barely stay in my chair for the rest of the session.
I was still reeling from the surprise of finding Cooper and Emily in the audience, so I was barely prepared for the next shock of recognition. There had been a woman in the front row who had been obviously paying close attention to what I was saying, nodding encouragingly and with agreement through a lot of my presentation. I didn't know who she was, but she seemed very receptive to what we were saying, and her manner relaxed and encouraged me. In making a point during the QA, she made a reference to "my book Mothershock" and again I nearly swooned with celebrity recognition. Again I turned to Ann, probably not to sotto voce as I should have been, and gasped "Is that - Andi Buchanan?", to which Ann only smiled and nodded, her eyes bright with laughter.
After the QA officially ended, we had a few more minutes to chat in small groups and catch up. An ongoing theme of the weekend emerged: we have so much to say, so little time, and really, we could go on like this for hours. I also had the chance to meet Her Bad Mother oh so briefly as well - she also did her own presentation at the conference, and through a fluke of scheduling, her talk was at the same time as ours. So many bloggers, so much so say - and so little time!!
Into the rainy night we hustled to our next destination - Jen's place for dinner and an old-fashioned hen session with a decidedly intellectual bent. I want to write a whole other blog post about some of the themes we covered, especially the differences in raising girls and boys (we were loosely basing our discussions on the books that Andi Buchanan edited, It's A Boy and It's a Girl) and how we mother according to how we were mothered. Fascinating! I only wish it could have gone on for about six more hours... I really think we could have all talked that long.
Back to Marla's place where I fell exhaustedly into bed, and Andrea was kind enough to relinquish the guest bed to me and take the new comfy couch for herself. I slept in until 7:30!! That alone would make a noteworthy weekend! Lattes and conversation and Josie's antics warmed us into a rainy grey morning.
And then (pause for breath) we met up with our co-panelists and Andi and Sue Allan from the Ottawa Citizen to have a little post-panel debrief over coffee and diner breakfast. More fascinating conversation ensued, and I got to meet the lovely and charming Frances, daughter of Andrea.
We rounded out the morning with some intensive retail therapy at the Mecca of all Winners. You'd think with this crowd, our arms would be bursting with handbags and shoes and accessories, but no - I had to laugh when the vast majority of everyone's purchases were made in the toy section. Even when you take the mother out on the town, you can't leave the mother behind. The boys loved the Play Dough (or, as Simon says, Play-day-doh) alphabet set, and for $6.99, it was a steal to ease my maternal guilt at leaving them behind for the weekend.
We had to leave too early in the day for my tastes, as I really could have spent another day chatting and wandering and shopping, but the weather was threatening to turn bad, and I had promised my boys we'd be back for bedtime on Saturday, so Andrea and I passed another agreeable if not slightly more mellow couple of hours in the car on the way home.
Oh, and that little conference thing of ours? Turns out at least somebody was paying attention, given the fact that my new hero Jen was quoted extensively on the FRONT PAGE of the weekend edition of the National freakin' Post!
I think I've officially run out of superlatives. What a weekend!