The Catholic Writers Guild conference last week was a huge success. This was our fifth year and we have doubled in attendance. My job at the conferences was volunteer coordinator. This year was particularly challenging: I had put my back out days before, then three volunteers quit due to family emergencies or illness. I had no idea what I was in for but believed it wasn’t going to be good.
My prayers (and those of Ann Margaret Lewis) stormed the Gates of Heaven. God was in control and would guide, but it never occurred to me He would have so much fun. The comedy began before we left Indianapolis.
I’m a private (slightly neurotic) person and it has taken some time to be comfortable sharing a motel room. Preparing to leave Indianapolis in a few minutes, kneeling in Ann’s living room, I completely unpacked the conference suitcase searching for pajamas. I soon realized that they were still neatly folded at home on my dressing table. Desperate, I lunged into my dirty laundry bag and pull out the previously well-worn pajamas. Rummaging through the matching duffel bag I grab the travel-size bottle of Febreze. Frantically I spritzed the living smell out of the tricot PJ’s, roll the dampened nightwear and shoved them into the suitcase hoping for positive results. Sunday night found them refreshed, badly wrinkled and a wee bit clammy.
Tuesday’s arrival at the conference center brought a flurry of activity setting up the booths. I was of no use because of back problems, so changed clothes into something less durable and much cooler. Touring the trade show floor I found the Ave Maria Press booths. Sure enough, there was the acquisition editor of my book, Bob Hamma. Delightful man, sweet guy, and the kind of gentleman that would never tell you your blouse was inside-out, and it was.
Tuesday night I scarcely slept, stressed out over absent volunteers. In the morning my back pain was fierce and anxiety rocketed from lack of sleep and stress. Ann was justifiably worried, but I assured her wonders are worked with prayers and pills. Soon enough I was showered and after blowing my hair dry, I thoroughly fluffed it with toothpaste instead of VO-5 Silver. Minty fresh, I headed back to the tub.
I ordered cupcakes from Tom McDonald’s daughter, Meg, and expected his arrival mid-morning. The poor man got misdirected and toted two large hot-pink cupcake carriers throughout the conference center and trade-show. When we finally met up, he good naturedly accepted my rather boisterous greeting informing him of what I’m sure he was already aware…he was tall. Sometimes I can be a bit of a social klutz, and have been told that this is part of my “charm.”
I must have seemed pretty charming at the pub that night with the Patheos writers. I got quite a rise out of them when I said I was learning to snark by their example. The lovely Elizabeth Scalia exploded with laughter, and the ever composed Pat Gohn wrapped her arms around me and hooted with delight. I really hadn’t meant to be that funny…but I did feel loved.
My social charm continued into the next day. While on a panel I answered a question that I thought I had heard. And it was a good answer…to the wrong question. We all laughed and moved on.
That night while singing happy birthday to a friend…I…forgot…the words.
Then there was the picture with the paper pope. A mock photo-bomb…and the same shot my boss Elizabeth had done the day before. Gack! So awkward.
But the humbling and laughter didn’t end with the conference. Heading home, we stopped at the Russell Stover’s Candy store in Pennsylvania. Chocolate is always good for the wearied soul. And I was obviously wearied. The sweet Rebecca Willen (aka minion to Ann Lewis) called me back from the men’s lavatory where I stood trying to decide whether to use the urinal or a stall.
Being a hermit by nature and thrust into an environment bursting with activity, energy and life can cause me to be a bit anxious and off kilter. Our Lord knows me well, knows how I love to laugh, and took me in hand, reducing my stress through humorous humbling. I’m grateful for all the friends who laughed with me and their hugs as I bumbled my way through the ten-day trip.
(Images courtesy Tom McDonald, Elizabeth Scalia, and Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB. All rights reserved.)