I’m throwing my two non-M.C.-Hammer outfits into a suitcase and now heading out to the Behold Conference today. (I know, two weekends of travel in a row. I’m insane.) Anyway, it’s been exciting to see this conference evolve. Right now it’s still more of a get-together geared for people who live within driving distance of Peoria, IL, but I predict that soon — probably as soon as next year — it will be more of a Catholic BlogHer, attracting women from all over the country. Keep an eye on this conference; they’re doing exciting things over there.
As I mentioned, last weekend I was in Denver to speak at the LCF Conference. They had a great turnout, with almost four thousand people attending, and everyone had a great time. For me it was a whirlwind of a weekend that involved meeting dozens of people I’ve admired for a long time, as well as having dinner with Supreme Court Justice Scalia. By “having dinner with” I mean “we were in the same room for dinner and he was surrounded by security handlers whose sole job is to keep people like me away from him, ” but I’m getting all the mileage I can get out of the “I had dinner with Justice Scalia” line.
I also achieved my goal of hanging out with Vatican astronomer Br. Guy Consolmagno:
As long as you consider “cornering him after his talk and asking him to take a picture with me” to be the same thing as “hanging out with, ” then, yeah, we totally hung out. (It’s worth noting that our photographer for this picture is one of my all-time favorite writers, Aimee Milburn Cooper, who happened to be at the conference too.)
One of the highlights of the LCF Conference was Br. Guy’s talk in which addressed the question: “Why does the Pope have an astronomer?” I highly recommend buying it to listen to yourself. Throughout the talk he detailed the connection between faith and science, and made a compelling case that modern science grew directly from the worldview of the Abrahamic religions. The two parts I found most interesting were:
- He talked about the Vatican’s four-week camp for young people who hope to be astronomers when they grow up. It’s free, and kids come from all over the globe, many from third-world countries. Over eighty percent of the kids who go through this program end up staying in the field of astronomy. (He showed one picture where one of the students was a young nun in her habit. We definitely need more astronomer-nuns!)
- I loved what he said about the Vatican’s expectations for his work. He mentioned that the Pope’s orders to him were simply: “Do good science.” Because the truth always glorifies God.
You didn’t think I could spend a weekend at a conference without there being at least one epic “Jen moment, ” did you? So, after the first day of talks I went out for happy hour with some of the other folks from the conference. The group included well known voices in the Catholic media world, distinguished members of theological institutes, founding members of important Catholic organizations, a highly respected priest…and me. (You can already hear foreboding Jaws music playing, right?)
I had ordered a gin and tonic when we first arrived, but was so busy socializing that I never got to it. A while later it was announced that it was time to go, and that there was no time to spare because we all had to get to the speakers’ dinner. I was about to leave some cash and walk away when I heard that someone in the group had picked up the whole tab. I looked at the drink. I considered the generosity of the person who had just paid for it. I imagined him seeing the wasted beverage, thinking that perhaps I wasn’t grateful, and silently deciding, That’s what we get for inviting bloggers to classy events! I can’t really explain what happened next, except to say that some combination of instinct, neuroses, and a misguided sense of gratitude took over and I grabbed the tumbler and drank it like a shot.
I slammed the empty glass back onto the table and turned to catch up with the group…which had not left as I’d expected, but was right there. They’d been waiting for me; and, based on the looks on their faces, had had a full view of my handiwork with the drink. I had been introduced to them as “Jennifer Fulwiler, Writer.” But from here on out I think I will be firmly categorized in their minds as, “Jennifer Fulwiler, Woman Who Can Down a Gin and Tonic in Three Seconds Flat.”
This upcoming weekend also promises to have some moments that will get me back to my rightful place at the #1 result for a Google search for socially awkward person. My husband flipped through Style, Sex, and Substance when it first arrived the other day, and paused at the first page. The following conversation ensued:
“Did you realize that, in the introduction, Hallie retold that story about the time you were her personal shopping client?”
“The part she excerpted was the one about how your earrings have been stuck in your ears for five years.”
“I think it’s six now.”
“Don’t you think that people are going to buy the book at the conference, read that, see you, and think, ‘I wonder if THOSE are the earrings!'”
“I don’t think they’ll wonder. I think they’ll know.”
[Looks at me with confusion and concern.]
My husband seemed to see that as some kind of action item for me to finally deal with this earring situation, but I can’t quite seem to get it onto the list of my top 1, 000 priorities. But if anyone wants to bring a wrench and a blowtorch to Behold, maybe we can get this worked out.
I’ve been having a hard time finding good Lenten reading. I’ve now tried three books in a row that I just couldn’t get into, for various reasons. Ideally, I’d love to find something that has challenging insights combined with a clear, direct writing style — in other words, I want He Leadeth Me under a different title. (And yes, I’ve already read the very similar The Shadow of his Wings — excellent.) Anyone have any suggestions?
Okay. Gosh. It’s a Friday in Lent and I’ve spent most of my time talking about perma-accessories and Olympian drinking achievements. And you thought I was kidding when I told you to vote for the Catholic Spiritual Direction blog in the About.com awards.