My Haven Conference Story

I started blogging almost four years ago.  Four years!  Can you believe it?  And it started out as a place where I shared things we were doing around the abode, and also a lot of personal updates, milestones, successes, struggles, family stories, etc...  As my readership grew, I have posted less and less personal updates, and more and more projects and inspiration.  Part of it was because I am guessing that for 99% of you, projects are more interesting than anything happening in my life, and why you visit.  But it is also because it is easier to put yourself out there and share personal things when it is just your neighbor and your mom reading your blog.  Now, it is a bit more scary to open up...

However, I do think that certain things happen that are completely personal and blog related and worth sharing.  They may not be a huge deal to everyone, but they are to me and I really need to be better about taking days to reflect more often.  So today, I am taking a break from projects, and sharing my Haven story.

What is Haven you ask?  If you have been part of the blogging community for awhile now, either as a reader or a blogger, my guess is you have heard of Haven, and probably even read 3,748 recaps within the last two weeks.  However, every recap is a bit different, because Haven is different for everyone.  I don't believe any two people will have the exact same experience, and that is what makes it so amazing.  But in general, it is a two+ day conference in which DIY/Home bloggers gather to share their skills and stories, either through attending classes or teaching them.  There are endless sessions about DIY, decor, organizing {hurray!} and even photography.  And it isn't just about giving you the skills to get more hands-on within the walls of your home, there are also classes for bloggers to learn how to work with sponsors, build your brand, etc...  SO much goodness in two days!

So now, the oh so super personal piece of me that I typically keep locked up.

I suffer from social anxiety.


Not diagnosed, but it is all up in my crazy pants head and I am fairly certain that I am absolutely terrified of crowds and public speaking.  So much so that I lost my cookies before I started filming for our little HGTV appearance.  And there are even times when I won't get up to go to the bathroom at a busy restaurant, for fear of not being able to find it and roaming around aimlessly while all diners point and laugh.  Cuckoo's nest stuff right? 

Knowing that, last year when I finally had the guts to go and purchase my Haven ticket, I felt relief when they were already sold out.  Whew.  I knew I should go, but grew nervous at the thought as I "wouldn't know anyone" and wondered what people would think about "the girl behind the blog".

And then the recaps came.  Tons of my favorite peeps sharing their oh-so-fun stories about their time at Haven.  And I was sad inside that I had missed it.  So many happy faces I had been reading for so long, all together in one place, having a great time.  I told myself in that moment that I would NOT miss the next Haven.  That I knew for sure.

So I stayed prepared and up to date on ticket and conference news, and was sure to jump all over the ticket purchase and hotel stay as soon as it was available.  I got a ticket... I got a ticket!!

I looked at my hubby instantly and said, "Want to go to Georgia with me?".  We don't get the chance to travel alone much, so we figured that not only would he be the support I would need after a long day of socializing, that we would also be able to snag some time away together.  That instantly helped with any nervous feelings I had about the conference.

Then, I found out that my super fantastic local blog buddy turned great friend, Jackie, was going as well.  Suddenly I wasn't nervous any longer, I was downright excited.

So tip number one for those nervous to go, find yourself a buddy.  It helps ease nerves and that overwhelming feeling.  And if you don't know other bloggers, drag along a friend or family member. 

And then it happened.  I got an email.  The beautiful gals running the conference invited me to do a class on organizing.  SO amazing right?  Yeah, probably for someone who doesn't fear public speaking and crowds. Oh boy.

So I thought about it and I thought about it some more.  I could take the easy route, or I could put on my big girl panties and do the class.  In my previous job, I was required to speak from time to time, and although they were always probably laughable moments, I learned something each time, and the more I did it, the easier it was the next time.  Being removed from that for years now, I knew I would have to throw myself back in front of people, before I completely turned into a full time hermit.  I had no choice, I had to speak.  So I said YES!  From there, my mug was plastered on the "Speakers" tab of the conference website and there was no turning back.  First time attending a conference.  First time speaking at one also.  Just breathe.....

I asked Chris from Just a Girl {a super incredible chic also running the conference}, if it would be better if I were to partner up with someone for the class, and she oh-so-awesomely volunteered.  Tip number two, public speaking is FAR easier when you have a partner in crime. 

So we worked together via email up until the conference, on our content and presentation.  I was actually getting excited!  What?

Everything was going really well.  Our life is pretty busy with kids and sports and other work obligations, that I didn't have time to stress about the conference.  Which was wonderful.  But then the week of the conference came.  And at the same time, it started to also feel like my busiest week of the year.  We had baseball to travel for, a presentation to finalize and oh yeah, I also decided to launch my 2014 planner printables that week too!  Needless to say, stress levels were running high and sleep was running low....

And I got sick.

Massive head cold sick.

The day before departure.


So I started sucking down honey and hot lemon water, and asked you all on Instagram for help bringing me back to a happy place.  Thank you to everyone who suggested Emergen-C and Zicam.  Both played a huge part in me functioning at the conference!

The conference ran Thursday through Saturday and we got in Thursday afternoon and thanks to a lack of Wi-Fi on the plane {what plane doesn't have Wi-Fi?}, I had a bit of work to finish up before heading to the Welcome party.

While finishing said work, my Instagram feed instantly was flooded with pictures of the party.  HUGE crowds of people.  Oh. My. Nerves.  Crowd anxiety set in.

Can anyone out there relate?  Anxiety is no fun. I get nerves that I am going to walk around aimlessly and no one will have a clue who I am.  I get nerves that people will love my blog, but meet me and think, "Whoa, nerd alert!"  I get nerves that I will trip and face plant in a plate of hors d'oeuvres.  Nerves that what I am wearing is too dressy, not dressy enough, too bright or not at all flattering.  Nerves that my hair is sticking up, that my makeup is smudged, I have lipstick on my teeth or that I totally picked the wrong shoes.  Nerves that I will instantly blurt out something lame or spew out words that make absolutely no sense {because as we all know, I do that from time to time}.

But you know what?  None of that mattered.  It was all for nothing.  These people do what I do.  They blog.  They love DIY.  They are sweet and caring and smiling and they accepted me with open arms {head cold and all}.

{me, jackie, cassie, courtney, carmel and anneke}

These girls.  Seriously, the sweetest gals around.  I love everything about each of them and they made the first evening of Haven amazing.  I had been working with them all virtually for so long, I was more nervous about meeting them than anyone.  Sort of what I would imagine Internet dating would be like.  You share bits and pieces of yourself and your heart virtually, but meeting in person can be a whole new thing.  They could be an 87 year old man with an odd foot obsession.  But no foot obsessed guys here.  Just amazing, beautiful and talented women.   And I fell head over heals in love with each one of them.

I decided to call it a night early, that nasty cold was just too much to handle, and wasn't going to benefit me for my morning class.  So the hubster {who was enjoying quiet, chaos free moments up in the room} took me out for dinner and I got a pretty good night of rest.

The morning of day two and I nervously walked down to the conference area, and was instantly greeted by a long time reader who was as kind as they get.  Nerves were tamed, I mingled with a few new friends and I found my way to the opening speech by Ana White.

Of course, she needs no introduction, and was a great and inspiring speaker.  She has also grown her blog from her passion, and had a lot to share about that process and ways she has streamlined it so she can spend more time doing what she loves and less time behind the computer screen.  My hat is off to her, she really knows what she is doing.

And then I was up.  It was my turn.  Feeling a little shaky, I sucked on some lemon slices, drank a bunch of water and took a deep breath.  "I think I can I think I can I think I can....."

And I did.  I spoke at a conference.  Sure I was a little nervous, but the second I saw the sea of pretty, smiling faces, I just turned on my blogger switch and chatted about what I love.  Organizing.

{A special thank you to Jackie for snapping photos of me during my class.}

And it wouldn't have been as easy without Chris.

It is amazing how we hadn't even met in person until 30 minutes before our class, and yet, we clicked together like two organizing crazed gals do.  I love her humor and style and gift for making ordinary, extraordinary. 

Above and beyond teaching the two classes {one on Friday and another on Saturday}, I met SO SO SO many readers.  That was my favorite part and it was really great putting a face with a name.  So a huge shout-out {Holla!} and Thank You to those who came up and introduced yourselves and shared your stories and sweet smiles with me.  My heart has never felt more full.

Once the classes were over, I was able to spend the rest of the day mingling, relaxing and enjoying the conference. 

{the lovely Jenna from SAS Interiors}

The conference is a great place for bloggers to meet up with companies and partner with sponsors.  So if that is your jam, you won't be disappointed.  All sorts of amazing DIY companies were there, and although I wasn't personally there for that, I couldn't help but stop and touch the pretty tapes at the 3M booth.

I did, however, really really enjoy attending many of the classes that were offered {and was sad I couldn't go to more!}.

The gorgeous Courtney, Cassie & Carmel offered boatloads of great tips about using Social Media as a blogger.  I picked up a few helpful hints as they chatted all things Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  I also learned that I like to make things as challenging as possible and manually do things that can be done automatically.  Thanks for making my life easier ladies!

Kristin from The Hunted Interior {who is a styling genius and makes it look so natural and easy}, Emily from Emily Clark {who is the tiniest, prettiest gal with the sweetest accent and knows how to rock pink heals and design a room that is magazine worthy yet family friendly} and Sarah from The Yellow Cape Cod {who I was introduced to at the conference and can't wait to start following}, inspired me to re-arrange the items on my kitchen shelves and buffet the first day I was back home.  I also am planning a big furniture swap in the near future, thanks to their super inspiring class.

Ashley and Mandi have been long time virtual friends of mine, so of course, attending their class was at the top of my list.  And they receive the biggest gold star for the best opening presentation slide. Ever.  And they made us all realize that as bloggers and DIY'ers, we will go through phases of learning about ourselves and our styles, and that is completely natural and OK.  They also reminded us that is OK to try things and fail.  That is how we become better and find what works for us.  I have all sorts of fails when working on rooms, and I hope to show those more because those mishaps are how I ultimately land on a room I love.

And no surprise, Ashley is just as brilliant, darling and sweet in person {and she still owes me a girly camp-out in that fab teepee she created - holding you to it girl!}.  And Mandi.  She honestly could be a super model and her personality soars for miles and miles.  Her energy is contagious and I can't wait to partner up with her on projects in the future!

I also attended a couple of other classes that were blog based and learned that I have absolutely no clue what I am doing when it comes to valuing myself and working with advertisers.  Part of me is OK with that because I would blog for free if I could, and the other part of me realized that there is still so much about blogging that I don't know after four years of doing it.

The first night, once classes were over, Jackie and I snuck off with my hubby for dinner.  It was a nice and quiet night with lots of laughs, stories and good food.

It is OK to sneak away from a conference.  I personally believe I enjoyed it more because I was able to take some breaks and spend moments away.

However, by the last night, I told the hubby he was on his own for dinner.  The conference was over and I was going to take some time to soak up my final moments with the girls who I felt like I have known for an eternity.

{courtney, michelle, cassie, me, emily, kristin}

So in the end, if you ever wonder if you should attend a conference, do it.  Don't over think it, just say yes.

I left the conference learning a lot about myself and my blog.  I felt inspired to go home and make changes to my home.  I turned solid virtual relationships into real life friendships and met so many incredible people in such a short amount of time {and was sad I wasn't able to spend even more time with so many of you}.  Nothing can compare to that.  I conquered my fear of public speaking {although I will always be nervous in those situations}, and realized that there was never a reason to be nervous about going.  Sure, the crowds can be a little daunting at first, but when you take a moment to slow down and look around, all you see is people looking to have a great time and wanting to make new friends .   You will laugh, you will learn, you will cry, you will bond, you will feel insane amounts of happiness and you will go home completely and utterly exhausted in the best possible way.

A huge thank you to the Haven team for seeing something in me, inviting me to chat about what I love, and bringing me closer to so many fabulous gals.  Thank you to those who took time from the conference to attend my class and say hello.  I will forever be grateful for the experience, and am already counting down the days until next year!

Pssst!  If you snapped a photo with me at Haven, I would love to keep it in my personal album, so if you could be so kind to email it to me here or tag me on Instagram, I would be beyond grateful.  Thanks lovies! 

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