Friday, March 13, 2015


photo credit to Giedre
Last Saturday I went to the Catholic Women's Blogging Conference in Indiana—at Notre Dame, to be precise. (The hashtag is for Catholic Women's Blogging Network—CWBN—meeting up in Indiana. Woo!)

And guys, oh my gosh, the conference took place in the building right next to my old dorm. The building where I studied almost every day. The building where this blog began and where I wrote my very first blog post.

Can we all just take a moment?

Being there, with my baby, for a conference about blogging of all things, was nothing short of surreal.

This was my first blogging conference. When I've read about them in the past (events like The Hundred or The Edel Gathering), I always appreciate re-cap posts that capture all the little details to make me feel as though I were there. So I took notes throughout the day to try and do that for you guys.

I walked into the conference room—an open, inviting space with cozy fireplaces and couches and huge windows letting in lots of natural light—around 9:15 and plunked down my coat and the diaper bag on the nearest couch while I freed Frankie from his detested snow suit.

The first person I saw was Nell, who was barefoot and wearing some of her own leggings with her adorable baby in a ring sling. It was so cool to recognize her and talk for a little bit. She's as laid-back and sweet in person as she seems on her blog, and went out of her way to talk to everyone throughout the day and make us all feel welcomed. I was delighted to find that her boy is the same age as Frankie, and the two of them had a great time stealing toys from each other all day.

Looking around the room while I grabbed some breakfast, I noticed a lot of us were either pregnant or holding a baby. How appropriate for a Catholic women's conference. ;)

I settled on the floor next to lovely Caitlyn, an acquaintance from my undergrad days, and munched a chocolate croissant while Frankie tried to steal her baby's slice of melon. Rhonda sat next to us and we had a great chat. I was delighted to find that she went to St. John's College in Annapolis—a Great Books kindred spirit!

Frankie playing with cute Celia Jo
Around that time, the organizers announced that Grace actually wouldn't be able to make it that day owing to sickness. We all let out a collective groan. Such a bummer to miss her!

Next I talked to Cat, and I owe her a huge thank-you for the most productive conversation of my day. I forget how the topic started, but she described how her parish has a "welcome committee" that assigns each new parishioner a "welcome couple" to help them feel at home and introduce them to the various ministries and activities of the parish.

I couldn't believe I'd never heard of something so awesome before! I told Frank about it as soon as I got home and he got to work drafting a proposal to send our pastor so we can start something like that at our church. Then I called my sister Lillian to tell her about it and she said, "You and Frank were pretty much born to start a parish welcome committee." So there you go. :)

After I talked to Cat, it was time for the first presentation, with Rhonda speaking.

Rhonda said, "I want to start by giving all of you a personal 'thank you' from a friend of mine." She went on to share how this friend had had a change of heart and ended up changing her life for the better after reading some inspiring and motivating mom blogs.

That meant so much to me because, as you know, I've had some doubts about whether to continue blogging. Her story reminded me that this hobby really is worth it, thanks to the amazing connections it makes and the life-changing inspiration it can offer. While I'm sure nobody's life has been greatly changed by my blog, it certainly gives me something to aspire to!

Next Rhonda shared tips for blog writing design. Some of the advice that stood out to me (mostly because I don't follow it!) was the following:
  • People's eyes move in a "Z" formation when they look at a website for the first time, so keep that "Z" in mind when designing your blog layout. 
  • Don't write blog posts longer than 800 - 1000 words — that's the limit of people's attention spans.
  • Only use one long sentence or two short sentences per paragraph. This is blogging, not a college essay! (As you can see, I'm doing GREAT following this one ... ha!)
  • Use a clear, easy-to-read font and clear, non-grainy images.

She pulled up a few examples of "bad design" blogs she had made for the talk, and I kind of shrunk down in my seat because some of them looked a lot like my blog! Design is not my strong suit, guys. It was a good wake-up call to try and incorporate some of her design principles. I haven't gotten around to redesigning anything yet, but I'm hoping to do some work on my blog's design in the weeks ahead.

Next it was time for lunch. I introduced myself to Bonnie and we talked for a little bit—she is so friendly and down-to-earth in person, just like you'd expect from her blog. It was a delight to meet her!

Nancy made my day when she came up to introduce herself and told me she liked my blog! All day I was walking around feeling starstruck and in awe of all the "celebrity" bloggers, so I was excited to find someone there who had actually heard of my tiny blog. :) I also loved talking for a little about some of the cool things we have in common. Thanks, Nancy.

After lunch, Nell gave a great talk about working with brands. First she encouraged us to introduce ourselves to someone we hadn't met yet, and take a selfie with the person next to us:

Thanks, Caitlyn!
 In her talk, Nell encouraged us to reach out to the brands we love, regardless of the size of our blogs! It was such a great confidence boost. Unfortunately I wasn't able to listen too closely as I was wrangling a suddenly cranky Frankie (nap time!!) but what I heard was great.

We had to leave right after that because Giedre had to get back for her sister-in-law's baby shower. I was bummed to miss Kathryn's talk, as I'd been looking forward to that one in particular. I heard a rumor about it being recorded, so I'm going to keep an eye out for that!

Finally, the last part of the day was "small group" blog feedback. I was especially bummed to miss this part after hearing Rhonda's talk and realizing that my blog needs some work! So I came up with kind of a crazy idea, if you guys are up for it—I thought I'd try to replicate the small group feedback virtually. I'm curious—what would you like me to change about my blog? Or, what would you do differently if it were YOUR blog?

Aaaaaand just keepin' it real over here... I started this blog post on Monday but didn't get a chance to finish it til today. And I only found time to finish it because I gave Frankie a piece of bread to play with, let him rip it into tiny shreds, throw the shreds on the floor, and then crawl around the floor playing with them. Soooo this post is officially brought to you by Mommy Blogger Desperation. ;) (Don't worry, I swept afterwards!)

Last but not least, Frank and I are headed out tonight on a little couples' road trip to Louisville with a few good friends. We've never been there before—any tips for favorite places to go or things to do? Thanks, guys!


  1. Mommy blogger desperation -- hahaha! A parenting technique used frequently in my house!! Loved meeting you and thrilled to follow your great blog.

  2. I took a short trip to Louisville around this time last year! We loved the Kentucky Derby museum and the Louisville Slugger factory/museum.

    Also, it was so great to talk to you, and I'm glad somehow we got around to jabbering about the welcome committee. Here is our page that mentions it: http://seasfw.org/123. The gal who runs it is super-friendly and could easily answer any questions you have about starting one at your parish. I can put you in touch through FB if you'd like to email back and forth, too.

    1. Thanks for the helpful tips, Cat! We went to the Slugger Museum and loved it. Frank was practically in heaven. :) Looking forward to blogging about the trip soon.

      That page is so helpful! We're meeting with our pastor in a week or so to make plans for the committee. Frank kind of took the idea and ran with it, creating a whole proposal and naming it "St Benedict's Guild", but if we have run into any questions or issues I'll let you know!

  3. I really like your blog header.

    The one thing I would change is that you have no way for anyone to follow you. No social media links or blogloving or feedly. Those are super helpful!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Amelia! Ok, social media buttons it is. :) I'm going to try to figure out how to do those today. And I'm really glad to hear someone besides me likes my header, even if it is a bit outdated!

  4. What a great recap! Thank you for sharing this; I felt like I could picture much of what the conference must have been like. Also, I don't think your blog's design is bad! In fact, I find the layout to be very similar to mine, haha (so let me know if you get some helpful feedback ;). If it were my blog, I think I'd try and customize the font of the blog's title - something that feels like it matches a bit more with your header...because your header is awesome. I think the header gives readers some instant insight into your style & personality before they read a single word. :)

  5. That conference sounds so fun!! I wish there was one in the DC Area!

    1. Who knows, maybe someone will plan one! Or you could just come out to the next one in the Midwest—you guys are always welcome to stay with us. :)

  6. One little thing I would change is don't have your pages/posts default to opening in another tab - we can always right click for that :) Otherwise, my browser gets a bit crowded.

    1. Ha!! Thanks, JoAnna. That's a quick and easy fix. I really appreciate the feedback!

  7. This place is absolutely gorgeous, beautiful and stunning. Even though a few halls are equally appealing and fascinating in their decor, food and aesthetics, I'm tempted to still give this place for NYC events a slight edge.