Another Amazing Year: My Second Haven Conference

So, if you’ve been reading this blog for over a year (ahem…Mom…) you saw that I went to a blogging conference again this year called Haven. It’s in ATL every year and, for me, it has been worth every penny. Everything has pros and cons, but the pros outweighed the cons BY FAR and I’m so glad that I have a “tradition” of going every summer. My real-life friends call it “that bloggy conference thing?” but my “internet friends” consider it the only time to actually SEE EACH OTHER in person.

Well, that might change for you VA bloggers so- watch out!

This year Chris stayed in the hotel with me and my roomie, Charlotte (family bed?), and I’m so glad he was there. He is, too. He got free wi-fi, a free pool, a gym, and a Starbucks in walking distance. Vacation heaven. Anyway, we got in the car and as soon as we were on the interstate Sunday he said, “So, how does this stack up to last year?”

Gosh. Wow. Umm…I DON’T EVEN KNOW. That is the answer.

What I basically said to him was, in year one I realized how little I knew about blogging. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go into the conference thinking, “I am so smart and such a proficient blogger,” but I left with so many action items and this glimpse that blogging could be like “a thing”. Not like, my hobby, but my THING…maybe even my career? I had a to-do list the size of my arm. It’s still almost that long, but I’m working on it. I was SO motivated…and then life hit. This past school year was full of ups and downs from August to June. I was the most tired and stressed I have ever been in a school year and generally felt like I had been hit by a bus. I feel like blogging could be a thing that I do, possibly (please, Jesus) full-time someday, but I’m going to have to balance my life in the meantime.
In year two, however, I FELT SO AMAZING. I feel like that sounds so weird and conceited, but I had FRIENDS, guys! Like, real-life-in-person-internet friends! I hung out with Bee, Charlotte, Dena (love these sweet, beautiful, REAL-LIFE FRIENDS) and SO many more.

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Some of these are going to be photographically evidenced and I’m going to try to link to all the new people you should stalk follow in the next year before I go back to Haven. With all of this love, though, can you believe I MISSED people?! I mean, some I had a fly-by-night introduction with, but there are people on my “To Tackle” list for next year. Be warned, friends. Be warned.

HGTV's Chip Wade was the keynote speaker! Ahhh! My hand was on his sweaty back. He's married, guys. I'm not hitting on him. Promise.

HGTV’s Chip Wade was the keynote speaker! Ahhh! My hand was on his sweaty back. He’s married, guys. I’m not hitting on him. Promise. Also pictured: Leslie, Amy, and Shanna.

I went to some amazing classes. One of my favorites was Working with Brands. The speakers were Mandi from Vintage Revivals, Brittany from Pretty Handy Girl, and Diane from In My Own Style. They talked to us about pitching brands and developing a relationship that shows that you care about the product. Mandi said my favorite words, “It’s OK to work for free.” I have a bit of an… over-committing issue. It’s a serious problem and I undervalue the worth of my time. However, this said to me that establishing the relationship and reviewing the product, even without financial compensation, is important. It was just freeing for some reason…even though I’m not an experienced blogger who works with brands. Their session really gave me the knowledge to feel like it could be something I pursue confidently in the future.

I loved this navy pillow from Online Fabric Store!

I loved this navy pillow from Online Fabric Store!

Another session I enjoyed was Blogging Trade Secrets. I couldn’t take notes fast enough. The speakers were Dusty from All Things G&D, Erin from DIY On The Cheap, Jen from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, and Laura from Finding Home Online. These ladies. Wow. Such a wealth of knowledge and information. I literally have PAGES of notes of things to improve on…however, Jen said, “I still have to-dos from my first blogging conference years ago…and THAT’S OK.” LIBERATING. FOR REAL.

Me and my love, Amber, from Homes.com

Me and my love, Amber, from Homes.com

There was also a SUPER informative session on Google+ with Jamie from C.R.A.F.T, Randi from Dukes and Duchesses, and Kelly from Live, Laugh, Rowe. Gah. Google+ was something I didn’t think I could navigate. These ladies were SO enlightening and I can’t wait to keep implementing their tips! It was so flipping informative!

So glad this guy was with me this year, even if it was only in the evenings!

So glad this guy was with me this year, even if it was only in the evenings!

I also went to sessions on Ad Optimization (a little over my head- haha), Growing SEO, Making Money Blogging, and Indoor Photography Tips & Tricks. To say I was overwhelmed by knowledge would be an understatement. But, it was amazing and SO worth the money. Honestly, even if I hadn’t gone to a single session, the time spent meeting blog-friends, having meaningful conversations, and meeting with brand reps from the sponsor made it all worth it. Chris and I made it to almost all the brands on day 2 of the conference. They were so amazing to talk with and hear from about their brands and how they work with bloggers.

Me and Ashley from Attempts At Domestication- and we only live an hour apart! Ahhh! :)

Me and Ashley from Attempts At Domestication- and we only live an hour apart! Ahhh! :)

I left Haven with a lot of hope. I really want to pursue blogging more heavily and I say that ALL THE TIME, but I really want Chris and I to make our home our priority and blogging projects can be a huge part of that. I really love writing and I love interacting with “strangers on the internet” and making friends and, mostly, making our house a home of which we can be proud. So yeah, Haven was different this year. In the best way. I was more confident. I spoke to people because I know that, even though my blog isn’t huge and I’m not great at consistency, I have something to offer readers and brands. Usually, it’s that I’m sarcastic and brutally honest. My friend Bethany even said, “You’re so funny. You really need to blog more.” Such a huge compliment. My two best memories are meals we ate in hotel rooms with blog friends. It’s just an amazing and supportive community and I can’t wait to be a more active participant in it. :) Here’s to growth between now and Haven 2015!

I will leave you with more pictures of my amazing blog friends so you can check them out! :) If you follow on IG (@jwgourleygirl) you’ll also see photographic evidence of how ridiculous I am and how great our sponsors were. I’m looking at you, Ryobi, Waterpik, Frog Tape, Lacefield, GMC, Modern Masters, and Thompson’s Water Seal! :)

The sweetest girl in all the world, KariAnne from Thistlewood!

The sweetest girl in all the world, KariAnne from Thistlewood!

Me and Sarah from While They Snooze! Love her!

Me and Sarah from While They Snooze! Love her!

The amazing Lindsay from The White Buffalo Styling Co. and the sweet Whitney from Home Depot & Curtis Casa.

The amazing Lindsay from The White Buffalo Styling Co. and the sweet Whitney from Home Depot & The Curtis Casa.

Cassie- my love!- from Primitive and Proper.

Cassie- my love!- from Primitive and Proper.

I love this girl. She is so far beyond a "blog friend" it's not funny. Sarah from Ugly Duckling House.

I love this girl. She is so far beyond a “blog friend” it’s not funny. Sarah from Ugly Duckling House. Also, check out my Lucy Locket from Lucy’s Inspired. Love it (and Lucy)!

This is an amazing group of DIY couples who asked us to be in a picture! Ashley and Jamin from Handmade Home, Jacque and Matt from DIY Village, Shane and Stacy from Not Just A Housewife, Bethany and Nick from Sawdust & Embryos, and Katie and Jon from Sew Woodsy.

This is an amazing group of DIY couples who asked us to be in a picture! Ashley and Jamin from Handmade Home, Jacque and Matt (and Baby Joss!) from DIY Village, Shane and Stacy from Not Just A Housewife, Bethany and Nick from Sawdust & Embryos, and Katie and Jon from Sew Woodsy.

 

Thanks for reading and for all of you who support us and read the blog and everything else! We’re going to work extra hard to deliver in the next year!

Our Battle With Infertility: 50 Reasons I’m Grateful We Don’t Have A Baby

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OK so, there really isn’t anything to update, physically. No, we’re not pregnant. For one, my mom would kill me if I posted about it before telling her. For two, There would already have been more exclamation marks in the first two sentences of this post and the title. You’d know.

Somehow this week I stumbled upon a new blog. It’s called Barren to Beautiful. Obviously it was about barrenness at some point. I haven’t had time to dive *too* far into the archives, but I was immediately intrigued. In fact, the post I read wasn’t about barrenness or infertility at all. I couldn’t tell you where I started. But I found all kinds of great posts on feeling barren both physically and emotionally. Right up my alley. The first page I actively sought was this. It was very intense for me because, infertility. But also, she decided to be grateful. YOU GUYS, SHE WAS GRATEFUL (ish) FOR NOT HAVING A BABY?!

So, I showed Chris and he said, “Very interesting and well-written,” or something to that extent. Not really a resounding yes-let’s-jump-on-the-grateful-train. So, yeah. I thought about it for two or three days. I read more of her posts about barrenness and trying to conceive (here, here, and here). Some of my reasons are vain, just like hers (read her post, you’ll get it) and others are honest and others are just plain funny. Before I list them, please hear me. I am NOT happy that we don’t have a baby. However, I’m trying *really* hard to trust that there is a bigger plan we don’t know about yet and to find reasons to be happy because being sad/bitter won’t get us anywhere. WE WOULD RATHER HAVE THE BABY THAN BE HAPPY ABOUT ANY OF THESE THINGS. Just to be clear.

So, I did what I do best and made a list.

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I know you can see the first few from the picture, but here’s the comprehensive [for now] list:

1. I can paint without a mask. (I mean, I have a lot on our to-do list this summer.)

2. We have time to pay off debt (without worrying about a college fund, am I right?!)

3. We have time to get in shape. I won’t miss *this* pre-baby body. I do hope that one day soon I’ll have a pre-baby body to miss once I’ve carried a baby (or 4).

4. We have time to figure out where we’re supposed to be. Are we supposed to move? Is Chris supposed to get a different job? Am I supposed to teach forever? Like, where are we physically supposed to be?

5. We aren’t worried about being able to afford a baby. Like, sometimes we have to stretch to buy cat food at the end of the month. Can’t do THAT with a baby.

6. We have time with our roommate. He moves soon, but it’s been really awesome to just get to hang out and not have to push him out because we’re pushing out a baby.

7. No physical restrictions. If I want to pick up T25 and start a workout, I can.

8. No travel restrictions. We have some travel plans for the next few months and it’s nice to not *have* to worry.

9. Saving money by not buying birth control. That jank is expensive.

10. We’ve gotten ahead on the student loan. SO far ahead. Hoping to pay it off completely pre-baby.

11. We have time to finish our bedroom makeover. Yes, I know it was like, January when I started this. GET OFF MY BACK. ;)

12. We have time to clean our house. Chris said, “get our act together…like, actually clean it and it *stay* clean.” I can’t even take pictures. It’s too embarrassing.

13. We have had SUCH good time to be married alone. Sometimes we make me sick because we’re so happy. I will miss that one-on-one time even when we are EVEN happier with a baby (or 4).

14. Growing closer in the struggle. We just ARE.

15. We will definitely not take a baby for granted…or sickness…or labor pains…or midnight feedings…even when they aren’t fun.

16. Truly understanding the human body/reproductive systems. DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY WOMEN CAN’T ID THEIR PARTS?! And don’t get me STARTED on men understanding ladyparts. It’s just…yeah. I’m glad I understand the mystery that is the creation of the human body.

17. I pray more. Not enough, but more.

18. Freedom to sleep whenever I want. Anyone who knows me personally knows this is a legit word of thanks. I love to sleep.

19. I only wipe my own poop.

20. No schedule restrictions. We can go where we want, when we want.

21. I’m still my grandparents’ favorite girl. Sorry, Sissy. My nickname has been “Pa’s Girl” for my whole life and I know a baby will demolish that, ESPECIALLY if it’s a girl.

22. No annoying kid shows on our TV…except when I turn the TV off after Friends reruns and it’s Nickelodeon the next morning. And Girl Meets World is NOT an annoying kids’ show and I watched it tonight. So there.

23. All the adult-appropriate TV I want. Bring on The Bachelorette and Grey’s Anatomy!

24. No struggle to keep a tiny human alive/worry I will mess up someone else.

25. Brunch. Yes. All the brunches we want.

26. Very little vomit in our house. I’m not really a puker.

27. (per my girl, Charlotte) I still have nice boobs. Breastfeeding takes a toll, ya know.

28. I don’t have to watch my mouth…but I should. I mean, I don’t say bad things at work in front of kids, but at home I have less impulse control.

29. I can pee/poop alone.

30. No risk of using baby talk in conversation.

31. Watching the morning news. Chris really likes Good Morning America. I like sleep (see #18).

32. Finishing hot coffee (also for Chris).

33. Only cooking/preparing one meal per night (also for Chris).

34. Not overrun with kids’ stuff…a.k.a. the ability to de-clutter our house whenever we want. Now, if only we WOULD de-clutter our house.

35. I only pick my own boogers. Sometimes you can’t blow the big ones out, guys. Be real.

36. Books. Whenever. For however long.

37. Time to upload pictures. I don’t, but I should.

38. Time with the youth group. It would be hard to go to camp with a baby (but I would try, AM!)

39. Time with my special kids from work. It would also be hard to bring them to/from church or do stuff together outside of school with my own kids, too.

40. Good environmental footprint. Charlotte assures me I will destroy it with kids.

(Stick with me- you’ve come so far!)

41. No tiny toy parts to step on. Chris added “or tiny humans” after he almost tripped over the cat.

42. Speaking of cats, time for pets. My cats will be so jealous of a baby.

43. Getting to meet/love my students. I’d rather not work when we have kids so I’m grateful for all the time I get to form relationships with kids. I never know when it may be my last class of kids.

44. My ladyparts are still ladylike. I know that childbirth is a doozie.

45. I weigh less than 150 lbs. I’d like that margin to be greater, see #3.

46. God may be protecting us from loss and/or something we (I) can’t handle, physically or emotionally.

47. Time to love on my friends’ kids. My BFF just had her second baby and I think her kids are the cutest. My other bestie has two older kids that we get to hang out with and it would be harder if we had one of our own. However, it will be *perfect* when my girl, Payton can babysit my kids. :)

48. No need to babyproof. Our house is decidedly un-babyproofed.

49. Less stress when taking TAG classes. TAG (Talented & Gifted) is a certificate added to my teaching license. I’m trying to be certified and it would be hard to stay up even later doing classwork, have to wake up with a baby, AND go to work…or to have morning sickness and homework.

LAST ONE! GOOD JOB!

50. We don’t know what God may have in store for us that we may not understand yet. So we’re grateful for time to really listen for “the plan” and figure out what God wants us to be doing and who God wants us to be before he gives us a precious little life to care for.

OK- so it’s not all sunshine and roses and some reasons are vain and some are dumb and I WOULD GLADLY TRADE THEM ALL FOR A BABY. But, it makes me feel better. Maybe if you’re a reader who is dealing with this, you can identify with some of these reasons. If you’re already a mom, comment and let me know some other things I might be missing that I don’t even know about yet. :)

As always, thanks for reading/supporting/following our journey. :)

#SwapItLIkeItsHot aka Fun Stuff from Fun Friends

swapitlikeitshot2

Heyyyyyyyy, world! Did you hear that it’s SUMMER?! And the best part of SUMMER is getting more free time to do fun things with fun friends. Today’s fun friends are the 10 bloggers I teamed up with to do a flea market swap meet! Basically, my friend Charlotte from Ciburbanity hatched this amazing plan to have a bunch of our friends send each other thrift store/flea market finds that we could fix up. We each got a blogger’s name and a material to send them (wood, glass, ceramic, fabric, metal). I was lucky enough to receive glass items from my girl, Bee at Windgate Lane. Seriously, check her out. While you’re there, peep her Ikea hack card catalog and her amazing knock-off West End shelves!

A few weeks after Charlotte hatched this plan, I received a box from Bee with my goodies in it.

swap-items-before

I know this might sound dumb, but I was REALLY excited. I loved the bottle right away. The top reminded me of the flower “frog” tops you can get for Mason jars to keep the stems upright. The green of the votive was SO deep, I instantly wanted to revamp my Christmas decor and simultaneously wished I had gotten it in times for St. Patrick’s Day. Who am I kidding? I didn’t decorate for St. Patrick’s Day. But, I would’ve wanted to if I’d had this votive!

I got some end-of-year flowers from kids at school so I decided simplest was best with the bottle and gave the votive a candle and BAM! They were ready. I know you’re like…duh…and you’re right, but I loved them both as is. I paired them with some books and a brass bowl I purchased from the thrift store and it made me want to go around styling basically every flat surface in my house.

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green-votive-brass-bowl-bottle

The cheese plate was MY FAVORITE. Why? I love cheese. That’s not why. I do love cheese, but about a million (three)  years ago I saw this post on Young House Love about them redoing a cheese plate. I loved it and immediately started looking for cheese plates with a glass dome because I’m too cheap to buy a real decorating cloche. I found a cheese plate last year and it was more money than I was willing to pay. So, Bee read my little thrifting heart and sent me one anyway. :) Bee also sent a cute note because she’s the cutest thing ever…but that cheese plate design. I mean, hey 90s. My mom’s old kitchen wants its cheese plate back.

cheese-plate-note

My first impulse was to paint the wood, but I really like a good natural element. My second impulse was to curse because we got rid of our little cheese spreading knives since we never used them. This is how a cheese plate functions at our house:

sad-cheese-plate

Then, I decided to go kinda obvious and cover my cheese plate with scrapbook paper. I’m actually really interested in trying to cover it with fabric, too, but I didn’t have one I wanted to cut a circle out of for this project. I didn’t go quite as permanent as Sherry because I wanted to be able to try a few different things. Really, you could use tacky glue, Mod Podge, double-sided tape, or just lay the paper on there. I used double-sided tape so I could try a few different things, but the tacky glue probably wouldn’t stick *too* badly if I ever wanted to change out the design. I don’t really want this to end up being super food unsafe, but I figured if I really loved a particular paper design I could stock up on it, change it seasonally, etc. I will probably end up using it for pine cones in the winter because I put them in EVERYTHING I can find. Since it’s summer, I decided on two different options.

The first was a simple striped orange paper and the second a fancier light green with some swirly stuff on it. I’m really good at technical descriptions. Spoiler alert: the orange ended up being my favorite.

cheese-plate-orange-stripe

I really like the stripes under glass. I feel really nerdy saying that, but I was really pumped. Also, the only fruit we have in our house is an orange. Pitiful. I also tried this guy out as a cloche with some fake oranges and limes I picked up from Michael’s two years ago and thought it could be cute even sitting up on our floating shelves just to have some color around.

cheese-plate-bird-shakers

 

Then, for kicks and grins, I tried the fancy paper. I figured this might be less casual if I were throwing a shower or we were trying to act like real grown ups. Truth is, I really love the dang stripes with a love that is ridiculous for a cheese plate and scrapbook paper.

cheese-plate-fancy-paper

Ooooh, so fancy, right?! Indulge me.

Here’s an “after” of all of my stuff.

green-votive-cheese-plate-bottle

I realize I didn’t do anything super glamorous and I didn’t TOTALLY change the look of anything, but they’re functional and I love ‘em. I’m sure that you’ll be seeing these items pop up in the future. This cheese plate is going on the counter (with those orange stripes) RIGHT now. :)

In summary, I love blog friends. I love surprise treats. I love Bee. I love cheese plates.

I got to send ceramic items to Lindsay at The White Buffalo Styling Co. No pressure. Kidding, she’s a flipping ROCK STAR. Check out her tie-dye curtains, her amazing master bedroom, and, of course, her swap stuff while you’re there! :)

 

Here’s a list of all the “swappers”. Check them out and see what amazing things they sent and transformed!

1. Dena @ Hearts and Sharts

2. Jen @ The Chronicles of Home

3. Bee @ Windgate Lane

4. Me :)

5. Lindsay @ The White Buffalo Styling Co.

6. Danielle @ Two Little Superheroes

7. Charlotte @ Ciburbanity

8. Melody @ My Passion For Décor

9. Jessica @ Décor Adventures