I've had plans to go to the Soaring Spirits Conference in San Diego for four months before the actual event, but what I didn't plan on at that time was buying a house in LA at the same time as the conference was going on!
I got through the first leg of the trip on Friday - Buffalo to Atlanta, but my connecting flight to San Diego was already boarding by the time I landed, and it was all the way on the other side of the airport. I made it to the gate just in time. However, they changed the gate where the connection was to be made, and it turned out it was on the opposite end of the airport - the same area in which I arrived. AHH! Missed my flight.
I got a stand-by ticket for the next flight out which wasn't scheduled to leave for another two hours (6:40 pm). Found the gate where I needed to be and noticed there was a bar/restaurant right across the way. What luck! I stood in line what seemed like forever for a drink, and so were several other people. Finally, we told the waiter that if we could get seated sooner by sitting together, we're willing to do that. It worked!
The four of us - Bridget, Les and Rich, made the best of our free time at the airport and shared stories, beer, and I even talked them into doing a shot (or two...) of Jager with me! We had an awesome time and exchanged contact information. Good people. Can't think of a better way to spend a layover. I had so much fun that I nearly missed the next flight!
I went up to the gate saying a prayer under my (liquor-smelling) breath that they had room for me on the plane. The woman said nope- sorry. WHAT?? I asked if she was kidding, and she said no. I said, "I'm on my way to a conference on widowhood, and it's only a day and a half long!! This is a nightmare!" I seriously thought I was going to cry, since the next flight out wasn't until 8:00 am the next morning.
Somehow, a seat became available instantly. What a coincidence! She must have felt sorry for me.
On the long, four-hour flight to San Diego, I made another friend, Phil. A 20 year old college student/Navy recruit with great taste in music. We shared his ipod headphones and sang Mariah Carey duets with Luther Vandross and Boyz II Men, and we sounded great! The ick factor from sharing headphones didn't occur to me until later when I told someone about my mini concert on the plane... Oops. For the record, he looked very clean-cut, so I'm not too worried.
Got a little rest before we finally landed in San Diego. As much fun as it was, it was a long ass flight. Thank goodness for the three hour gain - there was still some night left. Took a cab to the beautiful hotel on the Marina, checked in and went up to my room to drop off my bags. I can't remember the last time I stayed at a hotel, so I had a heck of a time getting the room key to work. After about 15 minutes fighting with the stupid thing and breaking a sweat, it finally let me in.
By that time, I could barely wait another moment to meet up with some widows and widower for a drink! I went on a wild goose chase looking for them around the streets of downtown San Diego, only to find out they returned back to the hotel. UGH.
On the way back to the hotel, I heard a man yelling behind me. Turned around, and he's yelling at me. Some crazy dude that was probably about to mug me was within an inch of the back of my head, so I double backed and blended in with a group of people who waved me over to them. They saw the whole thing transpire, and asked if I'd be OK.
Of course I'll be OK!! I survived the death of my husband for 8 months now, I can do anything! Plus, I've got some weird complex that I've had my whole life that makes me think I'm way bigger than I am. I can kick anyone's ass. I confidently (and briskly) walked back to the hotel and finally met up with my group.
By then, adrenaline is pumping, and I'm thoroughly ready for a drink. My friend Matt introduced me to the other widows at the table, and then came to Rachel. He introduced her to me as the only woman at the table who hasn't had a husband die. My reply was, "That can be arranged! Is she married?"
That was the first impression I made to this group... And they STILL like me!
The conference was amazing. Michele Neff Hernandez and her crew did a truly admirable job putting it all together.
I met some awesome women - Jackie, Rachel, Melodie, Candice, Erynn, Kim, Janine and many more not named. Some of which will likely be lifelong friends. They give better descriptions of the weekend on their blogs than I can, but in short, I learned a lot, cried a little, and laughed a whole bunch!! These people know how to party! I fully intend to participate again next year.
By the way, this conference is open not to just widows, but widowers and family/friends of people who have lost a spouse and would like to learn more about how to support the ones they love, including the children (no matter how young) who have lost a parent.
Good thing Matt L. picks up strays, because I was able to hitch a ride with him and Rachel to Los Angeles to see the house I bought sight-unseen a few days before this trip. Turns out, I LOVE IT. I signed the rest of the documents to make it official. My realtor is awesome.
Stayed with my wonderful brother and his family on Sunday night, got some sleep for the first time in two days, and finally made it back to my little family late Monday night. Thanks to my sweet sister who took good care of my kiddos while I was away!
Edited to add: I almost forgot to mention the lady I met while in Buffalo waiting for the flight out... her name was Elayne, and somehow we got talking about Matt's death. She told me that her first husband died when she was in her early 20's when her daughter was two years old. She wanted to tell me her story because she was traveling that day with her husband of 40+ years and is leading a happy life... Her daughter lives in the same area that I bought my house!