Hallie and I just did something that is either going to be the best or worst idea we ever had. I’m leaning toward “best,” but I also kind of can’t believe we did it.
Before I go into all of that, a bit of backstory:
Last month I went to a birthday party for a mom friend of mine. It was an adults-(and nursing babies)-only event that took place in a private room of a hip restaurant, which made it very unusual. I don’t know if this is the case in other social circles, but one thing about Catholic culture is that all of our events are family friendly. Every occasion is set to the soundtrack of laughing and playing children, and it’s just part of life to socialize with herds of kids occasionally stampeding through the group. On the rare occasions that we adults see one another without the kids in tow, it’s for an event or conference that’s either centered on prayer or learning about the Faith.
This is all wonderful — I love this aspect of Catholic life. But as I chatted with friends at the restaurant birthday party, it struck me that there is some place for events like this. It’s not something any of us would be capable of doing every week or even every month, but there is a real need for us to occasionally gather as adults simply to have fun together. As I stood at the party, enjoying quality food and a well-made drink, it occurred to me that events like this one meet a very real need, especially for us mothers.
I see many of these ladies regularly at our kids’ events, and have attended prayer groups and conferences with some of them, but we had never spent time together like this. It transformed our interactions to socialize in an environment that was optimized on relaxing and having fun. We laughed when we said hello because we hardly recognized one another in nice clothes and evening makeup. We bonded more in an hour than we normally did in a month since we were able to carry on conversations without anyone having to interrupt to shout “DO NOT LICK YOUR BROTHER’S ELBOW.” And, in the end, I walked out of the restaurant feeling energized, refreshed, and thinking what I’m sure a lot of other people were thinking as well: Hey, I have some really awesome friends!
When I told Hallie about this event, she exclaimed that she had recently had a similar experience and had made the same observations. We realized that there is a tremendous need — especially among moms — for us to be able to do things like:
- Hang out with likeminded women in an environment that’s conducive to getting to know one another.
- Have uninterrupted adult conversation.
- Enjoy good food (that’s not prepared by us!)
- Have an opportunity to wear fun dress clothes.
- Have a day off — completely free of obligations — and simply relax.
I can’t remember who said it first, but one of us joked that we should do a conference. “We could have great speakers, but also plenty of time to enjoy one another’s company,” Hallie said. “Our top priority would simply be fun.”
“Our guests would leave feeling energized, just like I did after the party,” I added. “They’d have that wonderful experience of being reminded that you’re not alone in what you do every day, and that you genuinely like the company of the women who are in the trenches with you.”
And then we laughed at the absurdity of the idea. Sure, we both have event-planning experience from our former lives, and we both enjoyed it, but we each have six young children. I have a book coming out. Obviously, we cannot be putting on a conference right now.
“Just for fun, we should look up venues that would be good if someone were to theoretically host an event like this. Which we’re not,” we said.
And then we found the perfect location. For our non-conference. That wasn’t going to happen. Because that would be crazy.
And then Thursday happened. It was one of those days when I found myself slipping into Incredible Hulk mode and feared what would happen if there was another box of toys dumped out or one more sudden, ear-piercing scream. When baby food ended up on the ceiling, I ordered everyone into the car. I needed to drive, preferably somewhere far. So I arranged to get a tour of this venue we’d found.
When I drove up, it took my breath away.
I stepped out onto the wrap-around deck, and immediately I saw it filled with smiling women holding glasses of fresh-squeezed lemonade and white wine, the image in my mind as vivid as if they were there.
As I chased my crazy toddler across the grounds, I pictured a tent filled with the sounds of upbeat music and laughter — the kind of light, free laughter of someone who feels like a weight has just been removed from her shoulders.
In the outdoor pavilion, I could see friends who previously only knew one another through the online world gathered around a table, basking in the excitement of a long-awaited in-person connection.
I texted Hallie pictures, and her reaction was identical to mine. We both felt, on a visceral level, that our fellow moms need this. We need this.
The tour finished, and the property manager told me that they were hosting an open house the next day and expected most of their 2014 dates to go. If we had any interest in doing this within the next year, this was our last chance.
I called Hallie. She called her husband, Dan. I called Joe. Then I took a second to close my eyes and ask God to make it clear what we should do.
It was one of those moments when I received an answer loud and clear. I was filled with the kind of certainty that I only rarely experience, an absolutely peace that I had heard an answer from the Lord. When I circled back with Hallie, she had gotten the same answer:
(This story also wouldn’t be complete without telling you that when I opened my eyes after praying, I saw that my toddler had taken the opportunity to dash off to a fountain and get herself soaked.)
I discussed the list of available dates with Hallie, we chose one, and I put down the deposit.
On Friday I sent in a signed contract.
It was all so fast and surreal that I woke up yesterday morning and forgot what happened. When I remembered, I stopped with my coffee cup halfway to my lips and had to think for a moment about whether I just put down a deposit for a venue or if it was all a dream.
It turns out that it wasn’t, and I really am co-hosting a conference / gathering / party thing next year. We’ve already managed to rope Grace in, as well as a couple of other amazing women I’m sure you’re already familiar with. As utterly unlikely and surreal as all of this feels, it also feels really right.
It’ll be the weekend of July 26, 2014. Here in Austin. More details soon.