#Edel15 – A {Rather Lengthy} Recap

#edel15

After I attended the Edel Gathering last year, I came home and shared how I felt like the shy girl surrounded by over 200 of her best girlfriends, many of whom were her blogging heroes. So many beautiful women, connected by a sense of community grounded in faith and the beauty of womanhood, touched my heart that weekend and invigorated my soul to face the everyday drudgery that often plagues me. The weekend of fellowship, heartfelt connection, and laughter was a balm that would never be replicated.

I was right. It couldn’t be replicated. As it turns out, though, it could be improved upon.  The reunion with old friends and the genesis of new friendships made this year’s experience  more enriching than the last.  Color me stunned.

When the location of Edel 2015 was announced, it didn’t take me long to figure out that well over $1000 for airfare to Charleston, hotel, ticket price, food, etc., was just not in our budget. I found myself crushed, but resolved to be happy for those who would be able to attend and experience the sense of wonder that I so dearly treasured.  When my mom found out I couldn’t go, she and my dad did a little scheming and decided to gift me the ticket as my 30th birthday gift.  Suddenly, the possibility of attending was a reality.  Thanks to some savvy shopping and stalking Southwest Airlines’ website, I managed to score a reasonable airfare. Of course, the hefty price tag of staying at the historic Francis Marion hotel was still intimidating, but after some roommate shuffling I was invited to join Rachael Escandon (foundress of the Dinner Club for Underachievers), Heather Renshaw (blogger at Real Catholic Mom and co-hostess of The Visitation Project podcast), and Jenna Guizar (foundress of the Blessed Is She ministry) and keep my accommodation costs low.  Even with food and souvenirs, I was able to cut the expense down to a more manageable level.

It seemed like this weekend would never arrive, but Thursday afternoon I was standing in line to board the plane to Charleston and heard someone say my name. Unbeknownst to me, three other lovely ladies headed to Edel were booked on the same flight. We managed to get seats together and started Edel 2015 in the air with a glass of wine.

Charleston Strong <3

Thursday evening was a blur. For the first time, I experienced the ride-sharing service Uber, and our driver was amused that among the six moms in the van, we had 35 kids altogether (ok, we were pretty amused, too!)  Our ride set the tone for the kind of kindred togetherness that the weekend would bring.  As soon as we arrived at the hotel, the hugs were prolific. Familiar faces from Edel 2014 whom I’d loved and missed were a welcome sight. These were my people. Like John Denver once sang, it was “coming home to a place [s]he’d never been before.”  Rachael and I ventured out into downtown Charleston, as she Periscoped our adventure and asked for supper recommendations from her followers.  Because it was getting late, our options were somewhat limited, but we settled on Joe’s Pasta, an admittedly odd choice for two gals who don’t really do carbs. We each ordered a Caesar salad and split the most delish fried calamari I’ve ever had, drizzled with a balsamic reduction and served with sliced pepperoncinis.  TO DIE FOR. We got back to the hotel and pretty much collapsed from exhaustion.

Our room at the Francis Marion

Friday morning I woke up and like always, made a beeline for the potty. I took my time, relishing the unhurried pace of a mama without fingers creeping under the door (or just turning the knob and barging in) as I…er…took care of business. As I went to flush the potty, the most horrifying thing happened.  It didn’t flush. At all. It didn’t even gurgle. The handle just sat there mocking me. My pulse quickening, I tried everything I could think to do to get that porcelain nightmare to flush. I remember pulling so hard on the lever I actually shook the housing of the toilet. I was getting desperate, and I had a sickened feeling as I realized I was going to have to wake my roommate and tell her that…um…um…um…anyway, a panicked quick call down to the front desk sent waves of relief over me.  It turns out the entire hotel was dealing with a water pressure issue.  Little did I know how much that would affect all 300 Edelites.  Charleston heat + humidity + lots of outdoor strolling = ALL.THE.SWEAT.  And we couldn’t shower, for like a day.  The pressure fluctuated wildly, but I did manage to get a shower late Friday night (thank you, patron saint of water! Whomever you are!)  Mercifully, the Francis Marion comped every single Edel attendee’s Friday night stay, as the water issues spilled into Saturday.  I should note that while I indeed rejoiced at the thought of a free night, I was more excited about the fact that my spending money increased at the unexpected windfall.  I joked with the Sister working the Pauline Books vendor table that her sales might be more brisk than she’d expected thanks to this little gift of restitution!

After the Toilet Fiasco, I moseyed downstairs and met my Edel ’14 roomie Shannon and some friends for an interesting breakfast at one of Charleston’s only downtown eating establishments that offers breakfast on a weekday – Café Paradiso, a Mediterranean eatery which also happens to be a Hookah Lounge.

Paradiso Cafe, Charleston

Yes. I breakfasted in a hookah lounge. None for me, thanks, but we did observe a lady eating a muffin and having herself some appletini-flavored hookah at 930am.  Afterwards, we wandered through the open-air artisan market, where I picked up some lovely souvenirs for these cute kids I know.  Upon returning to the hotel, I unashamedly shoehorned my way into the peaceful conversation that Mary Lenaburg and Kathy Helgemo were enjoying in the plush hotel lobby.  For years, I have read Mary’s blog as she lovingly and bravely cared for her beautiful daughter, Courtney.  This past holiday season, I stood vigil with hundreds of my online friends as we prayed Courtney home to the Father.  Hugging this mom of a saint was on my Edel bucket list, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Mary is a force of nature, and we hit it off instantly. Words cannot do justice to the kind of bond now shared with this woman, whom I loved from first sight. Her personality is larger than life, really, and she is just so gosh darned down to earth. Her smile, light, and love is a beautiful example of living joy in a vocation that has demanded so much of her. She is the embodiment of what Edel is all about, and I believe each attendee was blessed and strengthened by her presence.

Lunch on Friday with my new friend Kathy was exciting. We dined at Kickin Chicken, a little joint with a lot of flavor. I had the Buffalo Chicken Nachos and a Pomegranate Mojito, and I kinda want them both everyday for the rest of my life, because scrumptious.

Buffalo Chicken Nachos at the Kickin' ChickenPomegranate Mojito

Friday afternoon, I found myself in the live studio audience as Jen Fulwiler and a very very very pregnant Hallie Lord took over Lino Rulli’s drivetime spot on the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM radio. The two hours in the stuffy meeting room passed quickly as we were treated to several special guests, my fave being sweet Mary as she shared her family’s experience of visiting Lourdes; a hilarious on-air play-by-play of Jen and Hallie making their crazy shoes for the cocktail party that night; birth stories; marriage advice for Lino; and so, so much more. Jennifer Fulwiler on Sirius XM

After the broadcast and a quick change of clothes, we all gathered for the traditional Crazy Shoes and Cocktails party, where more hugs and smiles were shared and everyone started to let loose.  The shoes are such a great way to break the ice, and everyone looked positively radiant. Rachael won first prize with her EPIC shoes that included real bottles of tequila and chips and guac, complete with colored lights and maracas.

Rachael's Crazy ShoesShannon won second place with her mom survival kit boots.  We were all amazed at the sheer creativity of the brilliant women in the room. Me? I wore my comfy, moderately crazy Tigger slippers.

My Tigger Slippers

After the cocktail party, some of my favorite peeps and I found ourselves closing down the Swamp Fox hotel bar, laughing the night away as we sipped on Southern beverages.

Friday evening melted into Saturday morning as my roommates and I shared our hearts until nearly dawn. Good conversation and honest struggles laid bare forged iron links of solidarity amongst the three of us that remained awake. Against the backdrop of Edel, we were able to feel safe and heard as we shared our personal challenges in living out the God’s plan for us as women, wives, and mothers.  So empathy. Much edifying.

Saturday morning, several of us joined Rakhi as she led a pilgrimage to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet at the Emanuel AME Church. This hallowed ground, a mere three blocks away from our hotel, was the site of the racially-motivated mass murder that occurred on June 17th.  Praying in the hot sun, we offered our hearts and our tears to Jesus.

Divine Mercy Chaplet at the Emanuel AME Church

Afterwards, I joined Sarah and Christy as they meandered down the streets of Chucktown.  We found several beautiful churches and a quiet graveyard filled with fascinating epitaphs and tributes.

Joseph Manigault House

Joseph Manigault House

Joseph Manigault House

Making our way back to the hotel, we experienced the excitement of the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market. Sarah was craving a good, southern-grown peach, and Christy and I joined her in eating some of the juiciest, prettiest peaches we’d ever seen. (Oh man, that reminds me – I owe you .50, Christy. Dang it.) We also field tested some begniets and a homemade pretzel with a tangy, cheesy beer mustard dipping sauce.  Mouth watering now. Must sop up drool.

Delicious South Carolina Peach

Pretzel from Charleston Farmer's Market

The conference began around 1pm, as super trooper Haley took the stage to emcee while suffering with the worst case of laryngitis in the history of ever. There were conversations that morning that definitely revolved around the idea of implementing the solid plan I like to call Emcee Madness: Pictionary Edition. Our first speaker was the classy Rachel Balducci, rocking her signature pearls as always.  Reprising my role as one of the self-appointed Live-Tweeters of the Edel Gathering, I captured a few of Rachel’s nuggets of awesome:

After Rachel’s talk, we had a leisurely two hour break. Wandering through the vendor booths, purchasing Kelly’s Best Laid Plans planner and the poignant Rosaries Aren’t For Teething, spending time with Jesus in Adoration, sipping some yummy coffee, and then just flopping on my bed for a while felt so…relaxed.  Later in the afternoon, Kelly Mantoan gave us an epic 7-Step Plan to find joy in our vocations as wives and mothers. A few memorable lines:

As we scurried back to our rooms to get ready for the crowning moment of the evening, I have never been more grateful for hot water! I arrived a little early to the ballroom and prepared to help play a small part in the magic of the weekend by hosting the incredible ladies of Table 10. It was humbling to have this opportunity to help some of the first-timers feel welcome and to just let loose. As my table filled, so did my heart.  Our table was blessed to have such beautiful women from all over the country, from many walks of life. I even met a new friend who lives 30 minutes from me here in Houston!   Conversation flowed freely and there was much laughter.  Bless the Lord, O my soul! Audrey Assad served as the dinner keynote speaker, and her talk on struggling with sexual sin and her experiences as a suffocating first-time mother hit just a little too close to home for me.

And then commenced the most anticipated part of the weekend – karaoke and dancing.

Kelly Mantoan rapping

Once again, I stayed awake until the wee hours of the morning, not wanting to miss anything or any opportunity to talk and bond with such beautiful women. Once again, a group of us found ourselves in the Swamp Fox, talking theology and sharing highlights of the weekend with our new friends.  After finally forcing myself to sleep at 4am for the second night in a row, I rose a mere four hours later to wrap up the weekend with Mass at the breathtakingly gorgeous Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and breakfast at the Bull Market.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Charleston

I had to get some Shrimp and Grits, because Charleston.  A few sad hugs later, and I was on my way back to the airport.

I thought the fun would end there, but God had a few surprises in store to ease the ache of leaving 300 of my best friends behind me. The flight back to Houston was made richer by the shared presence of four Edel sisters, one of whom happened to be Audrey Assad!  To make things even more incredible, we were treated to the antics of one of the funniest flight attendants in all of aviation history. Who else would play the theme from the movie “Top Gun” as we took off?

As I stated before you made it through this 2300-word tome (hats off to you – pour yourself a mint julep!), I didn’t think the experience I had at Edel 2014 could be replicated, and indeed it wasn’t. Hallie and Jen instead took Edel 15 to the next level, and pulled it off with grace and class.  I cannot thank these ladies enough for what they are doing for our generation of Catholic mamas in the trenches.  Their tireless dedication has been clearly guided by the Holy Spirit, and the fruits of this weekend will continue to manifest in the lives of the attendees in the coming months and years.

I am honored to have been among them.

Letter to Edel Attendees from Dr. Ray Guarendi

23 thoughts on “#Edel15 – A {Rather Lengthy} Recap

  1. I am so glad you were able to make it work and attend! I was so hoping to read some recaps today, so thank you for letting me scratch that virtual itch. 🙂 It sounds like it was more than you hoped for! That’s awesome. So happy for you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved it! Loved all your little nuggets in the quotes. Loved your potty horrors (see all those opportunities for humility) I so wish I could’ve been there. I truly appreciate my IG feed family. It is hard in the trenches. Especially when you are in the midst of spiritual attacks and feel all alone. Press on friend, I am pressing along with you.

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    • Oh there were plenty of opportunities for humility and grace this weekend! I am sad you weren’t there, but look forward to hopefully meet I you at #edel17! Just remember, mama, that the Enemy wants you to think you are alone. You’re not! He’s such a lying liarface. St. Michael prayer for you coming right up!

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  3. I loved it! Great post! Loved the the little nuggets you tweeted. Loved the potty story! So wish I could’ve been there. I am so thankful for my IG feed family that is so encouraging. Especially when we are in the the trenches and feel terribly lonely. Press on my friend

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  4. Hi Wendy! I love hearing about everyone’s Edel weekend as they all seem to be so different, but the same. I enjoyed reading your recap post! Though we didn’t get a chance to chat at Edel, I’m glad we were able to share the fun weekend together! God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your recap and beautiful pictures. Oh, Wendy, it was SO GREAT to get to hug ya and meet you in person! What a wonderful weekend! I only regret that we didn’t cross paths until Saturday night. You are just as spunky and adorable in person as I thought you would be, and I’m so glad we’ve connected!

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