Faithful. Joyful. Purposeful. {CWBN Ohio Conference Recap}

Screen Shot 2019-05-29 at 1.48.46 PM.png

When I volunteered to host the Ohio region Catholic Women Blogging Network conference, I was confident about that decision... for about 10 minutes. After that, I pressed upon the goodwill of the talented and dynamic Brooke Taylor for help. Good thing she said said yes! Because of that yes, we had the extreme pleasure of hosting about 20 amazing women for what was truly a grace-filled weekend. 

It's hard to know where to begin because there's so much... too much... much more than a blog post. So I'm just going to dump my heart, soul, and photo stash here to give you a peek at what happens when the unequipped, the tired, the overcommitted, and the unconfident say yes anyway. 


                                                                          Photo credit: Jayme Orn Photography

As ladies thanked us for stepping forward to put the event together, I found myself repeatedly laughing at the irony. If they hadn't registered, there would be no conference. For some reason, they felt the nudge to trust that something great could happen even if it was a challenge to attend. Every person there made it happen. I just volunteered to stress my husband out more than some.


For a few of us, the weekend began in the confines of the beautiful and peaceful Sancta Clara Monastery, where the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration live in Canton, Ohio. Saint Clare... the patroness of media. Sancta Clara Monastery... the convent where Mother Angelica, the feisty contemplative woman who transformed Catholic media with her tenacity, faith, and holy boldness, took her solemn vows. (If you haven't yet read her bio written by Raymond Arroyo... Do it! Excellent book.) The significance of the place with respect to our position as bloggers was not lost on us as we entered the doors.


The sisters are cloistered but had a powerful expression of hospitality. We prayed the rosary with them in their chapel, separated by their cloistered wall but united by Jesus' Presence in the Holy Eucharist, exposed between us for all to see. Then we entered their day room for food and fellowship.

                                                                   Photo credit: Theresa of Ordinary Lovely

As different as our vocations seem to be from the cloistered religious, we discovered that, as women, we are not so different. When we found that we had forgotten plates on which to serve the food, Brooke went to the sisters to ask if there was anything that we could use. Sister happily led her into a pantry-type area... and apologized for the disorder. Please ignore the mess! She said. Brooke noted that it was just like any busy mom with kids; different vocation, same desires and stumbling blocks! And don't we always find that our authentic Christ sisters extend us all the grace and mercy that we need? {All gallery pics in this post can be expanded by clicking}

I brought three of my girls with me for the trip. Partially to babysit (boy did they ever!) and also to be near me. These things that we do as moms... sometimes we need to step out alone... but sometimes we need to be mentoring and walking together. So, they came with me and we stayed in the amazing dorm apartments at Walsh University with the wonderful Donna Bishop from What If God Says No. Aside from the pleasant company and comfortable quarters, it was a very short and pleasant walk to the Chapel building in the morning. 


The best laid plans... are subject to change without notice according to the purpose of the Holy Spirit. Our itinerary was set but God had other plans and consequently, what at first seemed like a minor crisis, turned into a perfect schedule. It is, after all, what we had asked for. Hadn't we prayed for God to take the day and make it His own? Indeed, He did! 

The first part of the day was filled with introductions, breakfast, and the joyful noise of the incessant chatter of happy women...


So... about Taylor. I'm still speechless. You really had to be there to understand what she brought to our weekend. She came to be with us and bless us and then had to leave quickly to travel for a family emergency. But she brought the Spirit with her.... and we all worshipped together in the glorious morning. Because isn't that what it's all about? At the end of the day, it's all about Him and so we gave Him our beginnings.

Without having warmed up, Taylor stood with her guitar and worshipped with passionate, talented, and youthful beauty. I had heard her on YouTube. (I also know and love her family and know what a treasure their ministry and lifework has been to the Ohio region.) But it's not the same as being together in person.
Her CD "Be Glorified" is coming out in a week. Please buy it (to keep and gift)... you will not be sorry! 



After we finally got the ladies to stop chatting (a difficult task, indeed!), we moved to the conference room to get down to business.

                                                     Photo credit: Jayme Orn Photography


Full disclosure: I had invited a big beautiful name to come and speak on this topic; a woman known for her holy boldness in the public sphere, grace under worldly pressure, and pursuit of Truth and Beauty. She was eager to come but I asked too late (two weeks is cutting it a bit short, no?) and so... I had to give the talk. It's slightly more challenging to prepare for a talk than I remember, namely because... well... 7 beautiful kids. But I could get used to it again quickly; I honestly enjoy public speaking. It's that introvert quirk that makes a podium less intimidating than a dinner table.

My presentation was about what it means to be a great blogger in the truest sense. About the obligation of bloggers to take their role as leaders seriously - to own it and refine it. To not be afraid to allow Jesus to take you where you might be afraid or feel unequipped to go. Ultimately, we are called to RISE... not on our own power, but Christ's alone. My swag swap contribution (more on that later - pic below) reflected this message that has become so important in my life.

Photo credit and gratitude to Colleen Kessler. I am so glad that I made a deliberate decision to brush my hair that day. It did occur to me that someone at a blog conference might have a camera. The yoga pants stayed home, too. Speaking of which...


Brooke understands evangelization. After spending 10 years on Christian radio, serving as mother of 5 (biological and adoptive), blogging at The Sacred Sink,  founding Mom Squad, and speaking professionally, her expertise is phenomenal; she demonstrated it during her presentation! Her talk really brought home what it means to be Christ to the culture and how we, as bloggers, are conduits of God's grace. I loved her sense of humor and her talent for proclaiming the feminine genius that women possess abundantly. 

Among Brooke's many ministry outreaches is her new family prayer CD which she brought to the conference and is available HERE.  You can also listen to her on Good Things Radio with Jennifer Willits (from The Catholic Next Door) who, incidentally, made all the attendees beautiful knotted rosaries.


Yes, Catholic blogger, you canearn money without losing your soul. Ellen Peppercorn from That Chic Mom knows firsthand and gave a phenomenal presentation on the basics of blog monetization. She is a professional blogger and uniquely qualified to address the issue... but she is also an incredible Catholic mom of 5 girls. I would be remiss if I failed to mention how adorable and stylish she is (even when she's going through a period of child-induced insomnia), which is likely why her blog is called That Chic Mom... because she totally is. You will want her great t-shirts, of course, and can find them in her Etsy shop, That Chic Mom Tees.

Ellen is an excellent speaker and told us how blogging allows her to stay at home with her girls and bless her family with opportunities they otherwise couldn't afford. What does it mean to successfully monetize a blog? According to Ellen, whatever you want it to mean if your efforts at monetizing serve your vocation and you are submitting your work to the Lord each day. "There were times when I worked hard for $25 and a box of Ritz because we needed to eat. Another time, I turned down an $800 opportunity because I could not stand behind the brand." She's the real deal.


After learning how to monetize without losing our souls, we learned from Colleen of Raising Lifelong Learners how to blog without losing our minds. In spite of her toddler-induced fatigue and claims to frequent wandering, Colleen nailed it with truth ("There is no such thing as balance") and love ("Sometimes God does give you more than you can handle... so that you will learn to always turn to Him"). 

She talked to us as sisters and gave vitamins to our souls as well as many practical tips for separating blog time from family time and prioritizing well. She is a teacher, homeschooler, published author,  professional speaker, and a cancer survivor who taught herself to blog professionally in order to afford to stay home with her kids. Now that's moxie! 

Biggest takeaway quote? "Make sure the balls you drop are not the ones that are going to get bruised."  Can I get an AMEN?


Because I wanted to send every attendee home with a stuffed goodie bag but didn't have the cash or sponsor savvy, I came up with an idea for optional swag swap. It turned out fantastic and I hope the other gals enjoyed their bags as much as I enjoyed mine! The idea was to bring something for each bag that somehow represents the attendee and/or her blog personality. And there were some very creative (and delicious) contributions. Our bags were indeed stuffed... almost as full as our hearts. (My 17-year old son would say that is typical "blog mom speak" sprinkled with extra cheeeeze and surrounded by floating happy hearts. To that, I just roll my eyes, cock my formerly-teenage head and say: As if I care.) Some items found in our bags...


(Photo credit for most of these goes to my oldest daughter.)

In between the music and talks, there was an abundance of talking, sharing, laughing, shopping, eating, baby squeezing, and picture taking. And I can't forget the babysitters. They rocked. Lovely young ladies who found the Walsh chapel the perfect place to work on their polyphony. 

At the close of the day, several of us shared a nice meal at the Maine Street Grille while other brave souls drove the hours back home to their people. I could have used an entire week with all these ladies... but I am grateful for the beginning. 

There's absolutely too much to post here. I've got to be content with breaking down different elements into future writing. But I want to finish by linking the blogs of all who attended and encouraging you to visit and like and share. There is so much goodness and joy and faith behind these digital pages and in the women who host them. I don't hesitate to recommend any of them. 

I need to give an important shout out to Carolyn Svellinger of Svellerella (another Ohio superstar) who donated the artwork for our logo. She was all set to attend and then they ended up closing on their first home with newborn and littles in tow. But that logo ended up being a very rich unifying visual part of the event. A great gift. 


Emily Buamgartner / It's the Baum / Fine Linen and Purple

Donna Bishop //  What If God Says No  //  Wonder Doubled   {Donna's recap post}

Theresa Blackstone //  Ordinary Lovely

Michele Faehnle //  Columbus Catholic Women

Emily Jaminet // Motherhood Matters

Colleen Kessler // Raising Lifelong Learners

Kiera Kurak // Contranaut Girl    {Kiera's Recap Post}

Elena LaVictoire // My Domestic Church

Melody Lyons // Blossoming Joy  {Recorded Talk}

Jayme Orn // Jayme Orn Photography

Ellen Peppercorn // That Chic Mom

Melanie Shaniuk // Much Madness    {Melanie's Recap Post}

Andrea Singarella // Velvet Strawberries

Carolyn Svellinger // Svellerella

Brooke Taylor // The Sacred Sink // Good Things Radio // Saint Gabriel Media {Brooke's Radio Recap}

Taylor Tripodi // The Unseen Certainty

Christine Woodruff // A Fly On Our {Chicken Coop} Wall

Lisa Burns // The Fish Mom Squad

THANK YOU! To everyone who cooperated with God's grace to make this event so fruitful. Commence immense gratitude dump...

I am so grateful to the good people at Walsh University for providing an absolutely perfect venue and breakfast. To all of our wonderful sponsors (last on the page but not least). To Brooke for saying yes and stretching far more than she originally intended to (please tell your husband and children that I owe them a solid novena or two in gratitude). To Andrea for the beautiful decorating and so many big and little things (including the jewelry that I bought and my daughter immediately "borrowed"). To Donna Bishop for going all out to make beautiful programs and for being such a great dorm buddy (and fueling my family with morning protein). To Carolyn Svellinger for our logo and support (we missed you so much, lady, but are thrilled that your life is crazy big and beautiful right now!). To Jayme Orn for lending her photography skills and contagious smile (I hope you got your camera equipment out of the impound lot!). To Theresa for driving from New York to bless us with great conversation in spite of your official introvert status (maybe you are really an undiagnosed extrovert?). Christine from Illinois (did you beat your Grandma at euchre?) who did not bring any pigs but we forgive her. To Elena for being such a rockstar mentor and having the holy boldness to get kicked off those crazy forums (your gentle mannerisms are only a cover for your tenacity!). To Ellen for putting together the raffle and wearing those great (free?) shoes all day long (my feet were alternately cringing and wildly jealous). To Taylor for fitting us in even when we were not the biggest priority (and for literally bringing me to tears during worship). To Kiera for getting the food order together and bringing the most adorable play buddy for my girls (so glad there was no ER visit). To Emily (the Baum) for your joyful countenance and great conversation (I'd love to take a poll to find out how many of your delish cupcakes were eaten while driving on the interstate). To Michele and Emily J. for your boundless and youthful enthusiasm and sense of  humor (and the Buckeyes... those went over well with my people). To Melanie for bringing the star of the event and letting people borrow her for a squeeze (and for what it's worth, I'm a spider... can we still be friends?). To Lisa Burns who was such a source of life and light on Friday and who I already missed on Saturday (we simply must meet again.)

That's all. But that's not all. Let the friendships continue and flourish! RISE!

CWBN Ohio Conference Sponsors:

Walsh University
Jayme Orn Photography
That Chic Mom Tees
Cedar Point
Bryan Kemper / Stand True Ministries
TAN Books / St. Benedict Press
Tiny Saints
Columbus Catholic Women's Conference
Big White Farm House
Clarey Clay Works
Stephanie Weinert / Little Bit of Paradise