I’m draggin’ my wagon this week, but I can’t complain. My exhaustion is due entirely to the über-blast I had at the LA Religious Education Congress.
LA Congress, as it’s known, is a yearly chance to hang out with 30,000 of your closest Catholic friends in the Anaheim Convention Center. Words can’t describe the feeling of that many people all there for a common goal. It is overwhelming and energizing all at once. They have an incredible variety of speakers, and they have multicultural liturgies like you’ve never seen — you can go to a Hawaiian Mass, an Urban Fusion Mass, a Nigerian Mass. I went six years ago for the first time, vowed to go back again soon, and then promptly had children and never returned.
But this year, my parents heroically watched the boys for two nights so Scott and I could go to the conference. It took us a while to acclimate to the reality of traveling sans kids; we kept looking around the airport and wondering where we’d left the carseats. It was equally odd to be on a plane without having to keep a small person fed/clean/entertained/contained. I actually read a book! Amazing!
The cool thing about L.A. Congress –beside the great speakers they have — is that even in a crowd that size, you see lots of people you know. I ran into (almost literally) my former eighth grade teacher Sister Pat McCormack, IHM, who was one of the speakers. So cool — and I was even wearing St. Simon royal blue!
I also got to hang out with Lisa Hendey of CatholicMom.com – always a treat. (There’s a reason why so many people like Lisa: she’s so warm and fun and real.)
The main impetus for going this year was the chance to connect with folks from Loyola Press. It always feels funny to work so closely on a book without actually meeting the people who are acquiring and editing and marketing it. Loyola (like nearly all of the Catholic presses) had a booth at the conference, and I was so eager to meet the people I’ve gotten to know over email and phone. I was absolutely blown away by how welcoming, passionate, energetic and energizing everyone was. It was an amazingly fun group to spend a weekend with. I wish I could hang out with them a lot more often.
Here I am with my terrific editor Vinita Hampton Wright, who was sharing her new book Praying Freedom: Lenten Meditations to Engage Your Mind and Free Your Soul (which, by the way, I highly recommend if you are looking for a meaningful and manageable Lenten prayer guide). Vinita did an amazing job editing my book and catching the little things I missed. It was so great to meet her in person.
The Loyola people also filmed some video clips of me being interviewed about my book, which they’ll be using for promotion. The last time I was filmed was probably on my wedding video almost eleven years ago, but they were pros and made the whole experience relaxing and fun. (I just hope they don’t do an out-take reel. Ooof.)
And it was a thrill to see Random MOMents of Grace at the Loyola booth! The publication date was supposed to be April 1st, but the books arrived so early that they actually made it to LA Congress. It was sort of a “pinch me” moment, quite honestly. I’m on the same display shelf as Margaret Silf! No WAY!
And, as if the weekend weren’t already off-the-charts fun, I got to finish it off with a visit with my sister Amy. She lives in SoCal and we don’t get to see each other nearly enough. Having lunch with her was the icing on the cake.
As weekends go, it was definitely two thumbs up. I don’t think I’ll wait six years before going back.