I've got my Southern twang on now since spending three wonderful days in Hotlanta for the 2nd annual Haven Conference!
Let me just get this out of the way for all my fellow bloggers - I WILL be moving myself over to Wordpress...and figuring out the hosting thing...and probably consolidating my blog name with the name I've chosen for my furniture/decor business...so there is no shortage of housekeeping work to do BUT I couldn't wait til all that was done to post about Haven!
As a fairly newbie blogger, I wasn't sure at all what to expect from the experience. Lemme tell you... it was better than I ever could have imagined!
400 (give or take) other women and 4 (give or take) husbands who all love home/DIY projects and love blogging all about it! These women were friendly, outgoing, and talented. It was like being in a room full of unicorns. These people don't exist in normal life - at least not in mine. It was fantastic.
I attended sessions with some super well-known, gifted women, and got to meet and greet some of my favorite bloggers!
Here's me with the incomparable Mandi of Vintage Revivals. We laughed. We cried. It was REAL. And I'll be forever grateful for her openness and her sense of humor.
I also found the sweet Jen of IHeartOrganizing! She has inspired me to make my own home a more tidy, well-laid out, adorable place and I was already a big fan. She is just as nice in person!
I got to meet Ashley of The Handmade Home (on the far right - whose home tour is NOT to be missed. She's lucky I don't live in Alabama or else I might move in.) and Lindsay of Makely School for Girls (on the far left - who is hilarious and also a MEAN dancer. Just take my word for it.)
I didn't get the name of the other lady in the pic...
The enormously talented and very insightful Ana White gave the opening Keynote and we were all hanging on her every word.
(My pic of Ana didn't come out very well.)
I remember finding Ana's blog once upon a time...and just trying to pick my jaw up off the floor. Here was this tiny woman, with babies on her hip, in ALASKA, building her own house and then building everything else in sight. And sharing it all with the world. Yeah, she's all that. And a bag of chips.
I got to take a painting class with the super down to earth and incredibly talented ladies, Shaunna from Perfectly Imperfect, and the one and only Miss Mustard Seed.
I would probably still be there painting if the hotel people would let me. Alas, I had to leave. But not before soaking up their energy and wisdom and hoping to meet them again! This was one of the highlights of my trip!!! Still smiling. :-)
My new friend, car ride partner, and roomie, Jessica of Mom4Real, and I laughed in the car for 6 hours on our way down to Haven. Instant friendship. I am so so glad to have met her! (This was on the way home...and I was re-enacting part of the Haven Shuffle. Yeah. We had our own dance at this conference. We're just cool like that. Thanks Traci of Beneath my Heart!)
I can't even begin to count all the other new friends I made, from all over the country (adorable pinboard from the sweet gals at Online Fabric Store)!
Let me just say that if these women ever decide to stop blogging and DIYing, and decide to take over the world, you had better watch out. Because it is ON.
I had the pleasure of attending an awesome cocktail party with the peeps from Ryobi and believe you me - these people are friggin fantastic!!
Not only do they make great tools, and love to share them with bloggers, they are super friendly people, who truly GET what bloggers like us are trying to do, and when they gave us a real, honest to goodness shout-out for the work being done in the DIY blogosphere, I almost teared up.
(RYOBI gals in the house!!! And my new BFF, Darla of HeartWork Organizing is in the back - another mystery attendee on the right - sorry! Darla decided we may have been separated at birth, only she got all the tall and slender genes. I decided to like her anyway.)
The RYOBI folks all just ROCK. And I'm not just saying that because they throw such a wild party*!
*Understand that if the people from Ryobi invite you to a party, you'll want to nap first. Consider yourselves warned. And yes, it was "Raining Men" on the dance floor. You can't make this stuff up. :-)
I knew only one person before stepping foot into this conference.
I left feeling like I was part of a family. Everyone was so excited to be there, so geeked out about all the awesome speakers, so ready to party and learn and share and grow. The energy was phenomenal.
And these women are not just in it for fame and fortune (although no one's turning that down, of course!) A group of them had connected with the people at GMC and spent three days hunting down treasures at the World's Longest Yard Sale, so they could pretty up and furnish a home for a Habitat for Humanity family in Alabama. Talk about teary-eyed! What we home/DIY bloggers do may appear superficial (burlap! chevron! mason jars!) but I assure you, what is happening in these bloggers hearts and homes and families and their communities AND the blogosphere is much deeper than that. (Mandi, I'm going to start crying again...)
They are creating spaces and places that are inspired. They are making their houses true homes. They are doing for others. And they are inspiring change and improvement and letting people know that they are WORTH having beautiful surroundings, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money is in their bank account. These women have bright minds and fantastic, creative ideas to share with the world, for sure. But they also have good hearts. And it doesn't take long once you start spending time on their blogs to realize that in the end, we are all BETTER for it. They want you all to know that YOU can do it, too. Whatever "it" might be for you - painting a room, making furniture, trying something you've never done before and that scares the bejeezus out of you - power tools for me... They want you to get out there, get your hands dirty, and DO something. And they want to hold your hand and laugh and cry with you along the way.
I hope to go back to Haven next year. It was a kick-ass dance party. It was a good laugh. It was pages of notes that I need to process. It was bags and bags of awesome swag - this is not all mine, btw. It was my roomie's too!
But above all, it was salve for my soul.
After years of moving and working and not working and having babies and raising babies, and loving my family but honestly giving away little pieces of myself to all those worthy endeavors, I needed this. I needed my bucket filled. And now, it's overflowing, people. So batten down the blog hatches. Readers everywhere, prepare to be flooded with good stuff. Several hundred of my closest friends just got a recharge of their batteries. I don't know what will come of all this goodness, but it is going to be epic.
Peace, Love, and DIYing,
Find a bunch of the awesome ladies I met - I'm following as many as humanly possible on Twitter and Instagram.