Edel {2014} – A {memorable, amazing, inspiring} Gathering

*If you visit the Edel Gathering website at http://edelgathering.com/about/, this post will make a lot more sense.  If you don’t visit the website, my pitiable summary is that Edel 2014 was a gathering of Catholic women from all over the country (plus two chicks from Canada!) for a unique experience of sisterhood, solidarity, and celebrating the vocation of women in society.*

I’ve deliberately fasted from the Edel recap posts of my favorite bloggers today so that I would be able to compose my own thoughts without the influence of others.  Too often I look at life experiences and try to compare them to others’ life experiences to see if I perceived something the “right” way.  Too often.  Today, my restraint from reading ALL THE BLOGS before authoring my own post is one of many wonderful fruits I hope to see as a result of this weekend.

Like so many women I talked to this weekend, I didn’t think I would really be an Edel attendee.  When I saw on Jen and Hallie’s blogs the first few glimpses of what it was all about, I told myself I would likely have to just read about it after it happened.  We didn’t have the money in our already strapped budget (and I thought that BEFORE I saw the $200+ price tag), and there was no way I could convince my husband that I should go to a gathering of women I’d never met before.  How could he even comprehend I considered many of these women my “friends,” when all we had previously shared with each other had been in the form of Facebook comments, Instagram photos, and Tweets?

I should’ve learned long ago never to underestimate Superman…or the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  The day before tickets went on sale, I casually mentioned that there was “this awesome-looking conference coming up hosted by these two bloggers I really love, and I’ve already preordered the redhead’s new book and I would love to meet some of the other bloggers in person and too bad we can’t afford the tickets.”  I didn’t even give him the website address.  Initially.  Later in the day, he told me to send him the link.  I figured he was just curious.  Valentine’s Day came, and I received my gift – a ticket to what was to become one of the most amazing weekends of my life.

In the days and weeks prior to Edel, I spent a lot of time (too much time) thinking about how everything needed to be perfect when I met these ladies, who I held in such high esteem that I referred to them as “Catholic Mom Rockstars.”  I borrowed dresses from friends, because I deemed my own “too frumpy.”  I triple checked that I’d packed my Spanx.  I agonized over shoe choices.  I was really worried about coming across as a “wannabe blogger,” and that everyone would know my secret – that really all I am is a blog lurker who admires others’ online lives from afar.  I was further intimidated that some of these women HAD met in real life before, and that I would be perceived as a Johnny-Come-Lately who wanted to join the Cool Kids.  I was even more intimidated that most of these women have more kids than me, and are stay at home moms who homeschool their kids – basically, everything I wish I could be – and that I am somehow less of a woman in the Catholic world because I had so many strikes against me.  I was comparing everything, and tearing myself down in the process.  I slowed my rate of posting to this fledgling blog, because how could any of them even take me seriously? [Never mind the fact I’d been feeling God tug at my heart to start this blog for years.]  And then, as the countdown to Edel turned from months to weeks to days to mere hours, I kept convincing myself that I really shouldn’t go, because gas money and food money and parking money and souvenir money and gotta-wax-my-eyebrows money.  I told my husband I wasn’t going, that we could sell my ticket for 1/2 off, that I didn’t belong there.

He smiled.  And then told me I was going anyway.

At the last minute, a ticket became available from a lady who wasn’t able to attend, and it was available for less than half of what she paid. I texted almost every local Catholic mom I knew that might be interested, hoping someone would bite, because I didn’t want to go ALONE to meet these people.  By the grace of God, precisely ONE of the seven people I texted was intrigued and didn’t already have plans.  I was relieved to find a travel buddy, and amused when I learned later that she’d never even HEARD of any of the speakers!  She wanted a weekend away to recharge, and she trusted my enthusiasm enough to take a chance on Edel.  In hindsight, this was the first of 8 million blessings that weekend.  Previously acquaintances (I’d taken her engagement and wedding photos, and worked alongside her mom for a few years), I feel this shared experience at Edel was the cultivation of a future solid friendship between us.

We arrived in Austin around 430pm on Friday, after an adventurous day which included an hour delay to our departure time (because we are both procrastinators, donchya know), a momentary moment of panic where we thought the car’s A/C had given up the ghost, and a particularly gross moment where I stepped in my potty-training child’s poop while I was – you guessed it – barefoot.  The first hurdle to face was meeting our roommates.  As it turned out, they were pretty amazing, and so very REAL.  No pretenses.  We had so much of the Big Things in common.  Wifedom.  Motherhood.  Catholicism.

At dusk on Friday, all of the attendees gathered for the most interesting cocktail party of my life.  The theme was Crazy Shoes, and boy was there ever a spirit of competition!  The very first pair I saw were decorated with actual chicken McNuggets, french fries, and ketchup packets that the designer had gotten after her flight to Austin.  And things got weirder after that.  I have never seen such an eclectic, crazy mix of hilarious and funky footwear.  And because each pair had a story, it was THE BEST icebreaker of all time.  Some of my anxiety began to fade.  In this moment (and little did I know, in all moments to come) we were all equals.  Equals with freaking weird footwear.

My shoes. I call them “Homage to the Toddler Who Got Into Mommy’s Makeup Bag.” Bee tee dubs, this was a great way for my inner hoarder to throw out all that expired mascara!

The night was eye-opening for me.  I felt a spark in my soul during the conversations I was having with other women who were like me in so many ways – women who yearned to grow deeper in their Faith, draw closer to Christ, and to share these goals and their fulfillment with the world.  I saw that these conversations were causing me not just emotional responses, but physical ones, like the tears of joy from discovering that one group of women agreed with my assertion that St. Gianna was the ultimate work outside the home mom, or the goosebumps from hearing some of the struggles of other ladies had to overcome to make it to Edel and conquer their introversion.  And then, I saw Hallie Lord across the room.  I shyly made my way over to her.  I fought with the part of me that wanted to run away. I almost ditched three times.  But I waited until she was finished speaking with some ladies, and I tentatively stuck out my hand.  She reached for it, grabbing it with her enthusiasm, and before I could speak, she said, “You’re Cajuntexasmom!”

I.  was.  floored.  Could it be possible she actually KNEW WHO I WAS?!  ME?!?!?  WHATTTTTTTTT.  Shut.  Thefrontdoor.  Of course, I rationalized.  She studied the attendee bios.  But wait, my photo wasn’t there.  And I wasn’t wearing a nametag.  Whatthewhat?!  [seriously, though, still not sure how she knew who I was…]  The point is that this exchange INSTANTLY dismissed my fears of not feeling good enough, of feeling unworthy to be here.  And that set the tone for the rest of the weekend.  I was taken by how very down to earth she is, talking to me and thanking me for coming.  She was gracious, asking me questions, LISTENING to my answers, and then replying with her thoughts.  (I realize this is the point of a conversation.  It was just earth-shattering that it was happening with one of my favorite writers.) And as the weekend unfolded, I discovered that these pedestals I’d put these ladies on were just that – created by me, and entirely unrealistic.  Not a single one of these ladies thought themselves better than anyone else.  They didn’t care whether you blogged or not, whether you’d ever heard of them.  They were just glad you came!  How freeing to discover this!  How much easier to be me!

The Spanx stayed in my bag.  The borrowed dresses stayed in my closet.  I knew that I needed to be me, that God was teaching me to love my authentic self, even in a room full of people I didn’t know.  He was teaching me to see me the way He saw me.

Swag bag.
Swag bag.

I had planned to sleep “late” [read: later than 6am] on Saturday, and I did.  Right up til around 630.  I was so excited to see what the day would bring!  Over breakfast, I shared a wonderful conversation with my teacher friend and some homeschooling moms over different types of educational models, homeschooling, charter schools, and the decline of quality Catholic education.  I enjoyed a leisurely midday walk down 6th Street.  I had a blast getting creative, making a particularly spunky nametag.  I settled in for the first talk of the day, by the lovely Marion Fernandez-Cueto, who gave a lovely talk on love and how it should impact everything we do.  I had been torn between note-taking and live-tweeting (namely because I knew Dwija, one of my very fave blogresses, was living vicariously through the #edel14 hashtag, and I wanted her to “hear” the talks!)  I decided to tweet everything I would’ve otherwise written down. Some highlights from Marion’s talk, which had everyone weeping and rendering eye makeup worthless:

After the talk, which I am pretty sure Marios wrote expressly for me, we visited with some great vendors, enjoyed massages and makeup tutorials, and lined up for the amazing coffee and tea bar.  I decided to go wild and violate my personal rule about not drinking caffeine after 2pm, and I am glad I did, because while in line I was privileged to be part of an amazing conversation that quickly shifted from pleasantries to a deep exploration about using the gifts God gives each of us to glorify Him, and specifically, MODELING FOR OUR CHILDREN the choice to use those gifts for Him instead of hiding them under a bushel.  Whoa.  Deep.  But oh so necessary for me to explore. Haley Stewart (Carrots for Michaelmas) was next to speak, and I got to meet her just before her talk.  So sweet, so funny, and so real.  I mean, she has a sleeve tattoo of the Blessed Virgin.  She spoke eloquently on mortification, and what it looks like as a Catholic mom.  Some of her gems:

These words meant so much to me, as a seemingly-in-the-minority mom who works outside the home.  Haley wisely reminded me that my motherhood can be my path to sanctity, no matter what my motherhood looks like.  She also drove home the point that I often forget, that Love supercedes all other spiritual exercises.  She noted that many Catholics talk of “dying to self,” and that this is necessary for sainthood, but that if we focus primarily on loving others, the “dying to self will naturally follow.”  Oh how right she is! See 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

I had so much crazy awesome fun, I blew out my flip flop.  Jimmy Buffett, I feel ya, bro.
I had so much crazy awesome fun, I blew out my flip flop. Jimmy Buffett, I feel ya, bro.

Saturday night will surely be sufficiently chronicled well by my Edel sisters, but suffice it to say that there was delicious Tex-Mex, beautifully decorated tables,  dancing til the wee hours, and a karaoke session that will live long in the memories of the attendees (and the DJ!)  And of course, these snippets of awesome by the incomparable Jen Fulweiler, who recognized my “Cajuntexasmom” handle when I worked up the courage to introduce myself to her, as well:

We closed out the karaoke fun around midnight with a rendition of “Sweet Caroline” that would’ve made Neil Diamond teetee in his pants from the ridiculousness.  I sat in the hotel lobby bar chatting with a bunch of amazing ladies  til 2am, squeezing every ounce of amazingness from the night, not ever wanting this experience to end.

Sunday morning, after a mere three hours of sleep, I awoke early and stole away to the rooftop pool.  I was alone in prayer with my God, and reflected on the weekend’s blessings in my thoughts.  I couldn’t help cry with gratefulness.

Sun.  Breeze.  Being still, and knowing He is God.
Sun. Breeze. Being still, and knowing He is God.

At Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral a while later, I was choked up again while pondering the beauty of the stained glass depictions of the Blessed Mother, the ultimate example of femininity.  What a blessing!

I could sit here all week trying to explain what a balm to my soul this weekend turned out to be, but I am already 2400 words into this post, and I fear most of you have clicked away to find someone else’s description of Kelly Mantoan’s epic Flo Rida performance.  I don’t blame you.  To say that I “can’t wait til next year” is the understatement of the millennium.  But seriously, I can’t wait.  In the meantime, I will be asking the intercession of Venerable Edel Quinn, the namesake of the Edel Gathering, to help me on those days when my motherhood seems exhausting.  Wouldn’t it be great if this conference becomes a way to spread devotion to her cause for Sainthood?

Side foodie note:  though I did eat at the hotel all weekend, my last meal in Austin was a delicious Paleo-friendly concoction from Wholly Cow on Congress.  The “Fit Cross” is a delicious burger that boasts portabella mushroom caps instead of a bun.  Oh my word.  And as if THAT wasn’t awesome enough, Hallie came into the restaurant halfway thru the meal to order lunch to go for her and Jen, and she sat with us while she waited for her order to be ready while Jen circled the block.  So, I’m pretty sure this means we’re BFFs now.



27 thoughts on “Edel {2014} – A {memorable, amazing, inspiring} Gathering

  1. We’re totally BFFs.
    I absolutely loved meeting you and think you are amazing. Your spark and spirit and (OHMYWORD) gorgeous eyes had me at “hello!” Thank you so much for spending the weekend with us and for blessing us all with your unique light. xoxox

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for all your tweets during the conference. I loved them enough to ask my husband to follow them. It made it easier for him to know what I was experiencing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cajuntexasmom!! I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my eyes becaus I love your recap…especially the part where your husband for your ticket! My story is really similar. Amy actually bought my ticket and I paid her back in increments….if it weren’t her her and my hubby’s encouragement, I wouldn’t have been able to make it. And the entire week leading up to the event, I wanted to cancel. I really wish there was more time so I could have sat down and talked with you more (Edel15?). And I’m so glad you tweeted, bc I was bummed I didn’t take notes! I only started following Catholic mothering blogs (other than Jen’s) a few months ago and had a lot of insecurities that every one would know everyone and I would feel left out (not the case)….and I’m just really grateful to have read this post right now and be able to follow along now! Your writing is beautiful.


  4. Hey Kelli- not sure if you remember meeting my friend, Elaine and I, the two step moms, and the cocktail hour- I knew I was supposed to talk to you! We did discuss St. Gianna, I believe because we were discussing working moms( I having been one, my friend, currently) just wanted to let you know the next day, both my friend and I received the St. Gianna medal!(we came in second for the game! Darn!) Anyhow, another great confirmation of her intercession in our lives. God is good. 🙂


    • I totally remember…as you can see, our convo made my recap! 🙂 Sooo awesome that you guys received her medal. The Holy Spirit knows His stuff! I really enjoyed meeting and talking with you. Welcome to the blog. Hope you visit often – I am writing primarily for moms like us!


  5. I’m sorry, Cajuntexasmom, somehow from reading the comments, I thought your name was Kelli! Sorry, Kelli, comments were directed toward the blogger! Anyhow, so funny because I have no idea how I found your blog today- I think I googled “homeschooling Edel moms” wondering if I was the only one there who didn’t, and once again, God directed me to you! Anyhow, keeping all the talks, especially the words from Marion regarding different choices for different family situations in my heart. There is no perfect blueprint. 🙂


  6. How did we not meet this weekend?! Another Catholic working mom here 🙂 This is a beautiful re-cap of the weekend! Just scrolled through your archives and love the quotes about work as prayer and being in the moment where we are called to be. So I suppose my extended lunch break needs to end. But i’ll be back, adding you to my Feedly!


  7. Great recap. I’m so surprised you doubted your place there because you looked like an insider tweeting rockstar to me. So glad we got to experience this blessed weekend, even if I somehow missed the chicken nugget shoes!


    • Haha, thanks Julie! True story: on my way out of the ballroom at the end of the evening, one of the chicken nuggets was staring at me from a cocktail table near some empty wine glasses!


  8. Great post! Makes me feel like I was there–I wish I had been able to go! The baby is still just *so* dependent on me I knew that she and my husband would have had to come along and that was too much to figure out last minute. 😦 Hopefully I can make it next year!! Following your blog now, I love your writing!


  9. OMG, YES!>>> “I was further intimidated that some of these women HAD met in real life before, and that I would be perceived as a Johnny-Come-Lately who wanted to join the Cool Kids. ”

    I loved your tweeting so much I got on Twitter to figure it out. Hopefully I’ll get better at it because I totally had to search your tweet history to remember some of the most memorable phrases of the talks. I guess having a wiggling baby meant I didn’t retain as much as I wish I had…


    • Whoa! Glad you liked the Tweets, Michaela! It was great meeting you this weekend. I feel you on not remembering parts of the talks, and I didnt have a wiggly baby 🙂 Welcome to mah blog.


  10. Hey roomie, I found you! Why didn’t we go over these things before we left the gathering? Sorry I missed saying goodbye, sounds like you were poolside when I had to leave. It was such a blessing to meet you last weekend and I can’t wait for the next Edel! (P.S. Beautiful recap)


    • thanks, roomie! I found your blog too! You failed to mention you were fresh off an EWTN interview…I TOLD YOU you were famous 😉 I was sad when I got back to the room and you were gone. That just means we have to cross paths again soon! I had some more thoughts about your FOCUS post too…I will email you about it soon. Loved meeting you and hearing about life in the Rockies. God bless, and #edel15 or bust!


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