Tuesday, April 7, 2015

All About Mount Hermon

Hey everyone! I suppose I should start by apologizing for dropping off the face of the earth. I've been attempting to post about Mount Hermon for over a week now, but between adjusting back to my "real" life, spending time with family, and trying to process everything, time got away from me. Thanks for being so patient. 

I've finished uploading all eleven of my Mount Hermon vlogs on my YouTube channel, so be sure to check those out if you haven't already. You can find all of them on my Mount Hermon playlist HERE

Of course, if you've seen my YouTube videos, you pretty much already know everything I'm going to say in this post. :} Feel free to skip it if you like, or feel free to just browse through the photos. ;)

My adventure began on Thursday, March 26th, just after I dropped my girls off at school. Sarah Bennett, my fellow writing friend, came to pick me up. I loaded her car with my bags and kissed Hubby goodbye. Then Sarah and I were off. 

Sarah was an awesome travel buddy because she travels like I do, with minimal stops. We drove for several hours and didn't take a break until we got to Fairfield. 

We stopped at Chick-fil-A for lunch...

...and then headed over to the Fairfield Mall to visit the Disney Store! :D A month or so before we left, I had mentioned the idea of a Disney Store stop. Not everyone would be into that idea, but since Sarah is a fellow Disney fan, she thought it was a great plan. Yay! :)

I snapped just a few pictures of the displays:

The Frozen display 

It was fun to see the new Frozen Fever items interspersed among the regular Frozen stuff.

The Cinderella display was pretty small, but they had a nice selection of items.

An overview of the whole store.

We went to Build-A-Bear and Hot Topic as well. Unfortunately, most of my Build-A-Bear pictures turned out pretty blurry. 

Especially this one. :}

I did want to be sure to get a few pictures of the newest My Little Pony friends, though. :)

Princess Cadance and Princess Luna are both adorable. Luna has gorgeous coloring!

The wall of plush friends, ready for new homes. :)

Olaf with the Anna and Elsa bears.

Luna and Cadance again with Rainbow Dash above them.

Would you believe I made it all the way through both the Disney Store AND Build-A-Bear without buying anything? ;) It helped that I'd just ordered Shining Armor online, and there wasn't really anything I wanted at the Disney Store aside from the Cinderella and Prince doll set. I still just can't bring myself to spend $70 on two dolls, though. :{ Especially since I'd want to open them and do something about the sour expression on Prince Kit's face. ;)

I did give in at Hot Topic, but you'll understand why when you see the next picture. 

Look what was in a set of Peter Pan bracelets there! It was too perfect. :)

I wore this bracelet every day at Mount Hermon. The idea was to give me a little boost of confidence by remembering what I'd already accomplished through this blog. Plus, it made me think of all of you! :)

After the mall, we drove for a couple more hours until we reached Santa Cruz. We checked into our hotel and unpacked our bags. 

Petal and Dorothy Doe felt right at home:

We decided to go find the Mount Hermon campus so we'd know right where to go the next morning. It wasn't too hard to find, but it was still nice being stress-free the morning of the conference. ;)

On the way back, we stopped at Safeway for dinner. :)

We spent the night talking, reading, and brainstorming my book. It was so much fun that we decided we should get together once a month and brainstorm in our jammies. ;)

The next morning, we woke up bright and early, too excited to sleep in. We parked right in front of this sign and waited for registration to open. :)

We had actually misread things and thought registration opened at 9:00, when it was really 10:00. Thankfully, our room was ready and they let us check in early.

This was our little home for five days, Buckeye 15. :)

It had two beds and a desk on one side...

...and two closets and a sink on the other side. I was really thankful for the sink. The bathrooms (including showers) were located farther down the hall, but it was nice to be able to brush our teeth and wash our faces in our own rooms every night. :)

We got all unpacked and headed out the door, both full of excitement for what the conference would hold for us. :)

The scenery at Mount Hermon was just incredible. I snapped pictures right and left throughout the week, trying to capture the beauty of the trees, flowers, and buildings. Talk about an inspiring place to write!

I did bring my two Zelfs along, as I mentioned earlier, but I have to admit, I kind of lost my nerve once I got there and didn't take too many pictures with them. You know how it is when you're a newcomer and you don't want to be seen as the weirdo. Yep, it happens to me too. :} Next time I go, I think I'll be a little more confident. ;)

I did end up with some great shots of Petal and Dorothy Doe. Here are my favorites:

Yours truly, ready for another great day! :D

Aside from attending incredible classes and listening to the special speakers, we got to do some unexpected things...

...like playing with Play-doh. ;) Or doing a crazy exercise routine with Murphy Felton, leader of the hilarous Mount Hermon improv team. :D

My favorite things about Mount Hermon were making connections with other writers and learning more about my craft. All of the instructors were so generous with their time and knowledge. We came away from our classes with a precious treasure trove of notes and tips. It was so fun to meet the agents, authors, and editors who came, especially when we got to sit at their tables during lunches and dinners.

Okay, to be completely honest, meeting the agents was kind of terrifying the first day. ;) But once we'd pitched our stories and knew where we stood, it was nice to get to know the agents and editors on a more personal level.  

And yes, folks, I did get to meet Robin Jones Gunn!! :D I think I spoke to her about four or five different times, and while I wasn't as articulate and refined as I'd hoped to be, I didn't completely fangirl, either. Well, I did kind of privately fangirl the first day of the conference, when I looked at the next table over and saw her sitting right there! :} I leaned over to Sarah and said, "Oh my goodness, that's Robin Jones Gunn right over there!" I really tried not to stare at her openly, but I might have stolen a few glances throughout the meal. ("A few" can mean twenty or thirty, right?) ;)

When I got the chance to meet her later, she was so warm and friendly. The second time I talked to her, I broke down crying while sharing about my emotional first day (much to my embarrassment). She was very sweet about it and told me God was obviously working in my heart.  Her messages she shared each night were entertaining and insightful. It was incredible to hear how God had used her through her writing. Her message the first night was probably my favorite. It was just what Sarah and I needed to hear after a challenging first day that hadn't quite lived up to our expectations.

Robin is one of those people that makes you joyful just by being around her. She is a beautiful, transparent vessel, letting God's love and joy shine through her. I was so encouraged and uplifted every time I listened to her speak. That's the type of person I want to be: someone who points others to the Lord in a genuine, personal way.

Sarah, Robin, and Yours Truly, looking rather dazed. (It was the last night of the conference, and I was a little brain dead. That's my excuse, anyway.) ;)

Sharing the conference with two members of my writing group was an extra special blessing. Sarah is my buddy and fellow adventurer. I'm so thankful I got to ride with her and room with her. We both grew so much in our writing and in our walk with the Lord. I'm glad we got to share this experience together. Rich Bullock (pictured on the right) is one of the new leaders of our local group. He has a wealth of knowledge about writing that he willingly shares. He's helped me with editing and brainstorming, and is also one of the members that meets in the library every Thursday for writing time. It's been fun getting to know him and getting his insight on my books. He's also a terrific writer. :)

I'm also thankful for my last-minute decision to record little vlogs throughout the conference. It was so fun getting to share my thoughts and feelings about what was happening right as I was experiencing it. :) It will be interesting go back and watch them in the years to come and remember what my first conference felt like. :) When I go again (Lord willing), I have a few ideas of how to improve my vlogging...especially the virtual tours. I'd like to try not to make everyone seasick next time. ;)

Sarah took this photo of me while I was vlogging. :)

Mount Hermon was incredible and life-changing. I'm so thankful I got to go. It wouldn't have been possible without you guys, so thank you from the bottom of my heart. :) I announced this in one of my vlogs, but thanks to my local doll club and a family member, I had enough money to pay a deposit on next year's conference. This gave me a $150 discount. If I set aside a little bit of money each month between now and next March, I should have just enough to pay my admission fee in full! :D 

I'm not sure what the Lord has planned for me this next year. It's been amazing to see His hand guiding me every step of the way through this journey. I go into more detail on the vlogs, but for those of you who don't know already, I do have an agent who is very interested in my writing, and another agent who is willing to see my first three chapters. These opportunities would not be available to me now if I hadn't gone to the conference.

I have a lot to work on in the coming months. Even though I'm only a few chapters away from finishing my first book, my classes at Mount Hermon opened my eyes to some flaws and other issues that I need to fix. I want to make my story as strong as I possibly can before I send it off. To those of you who are my sisters and brothers in Christ, I would appreciate your prayers as I continue this adventure. I would love to share my stories with the world, but I've still got such a long way to go. Fears and doubts often creep in and make me wonder what on earth I'm doing! Please pray that the Lord will give me wisdom and grace as I try to construct the best story I possibly can...for His glory. :)

Thank you for stopping by and reading through my post. I appreciate all of you more than I can say. Posting here is like coming home, especially since I've been stressing out over my WordPress blog. It's hard starting at the bottom again and figuring out a new blogging platform. I'm still trying to discover my voice over there. I love the casual, conversation-like writing I use here. I thought I should be more proper and elegant over there, but it's way too stressful. :} I need to find a balance between proper writing and being myself. I want everyone who stops by one of my blogs to feel as though they've dropped in for a cup of tea with a dear, old friend. 

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter and are having a lovely week. I'll be working on comment responses, email responses, and maps for three of my Kickstarter backers in the coming weeks, as well as my book. My goal is to get as much done as I possibly can before the girls are out of school (it's much easier to type when they're not home). I'd also like to get my manuscript sent off no later than July. Sooner, if at all possible. Keep me in your prayers if you think of it! 

P.S. I do have some doll and toy related posts coming up, so don't despair if you're sick of hearing about Mount Hermon! ;)


Karina said...

Glad to see you back! =) Also happy you had a wonderful time at Mt. Hermon!! It looked like a gorgeous setting. May God bless and guide you as work on finishing your 1st book and whatever comes next! I'll be praying for you! <3

Cindybin said...

Beautiful pictures! Glad you had such a wonderful time. I have watched a few of your videos and will try to get to the others soon!

Sarah Bennett said...

Thank you for leaving out the Snow White story!

Anonymous said...

From what I can see, I think you had a great trip! By the way, what happened to JA&U? Did it end already? I hope Tess, Maggie, and the rest of the doll crew aren't in the "neglected" stage.

MoxieFun said...

I see that you had a great time there! Amazing place and great photos!

Kathleen said...

Oh, yay! I'm so glad that it was fun!
And that's great that you'll get to go next year, also!
Yay! I'm so happy for you! And yes, I'll most definitely pray!


Meritre said...

Oh that Bracelet! It's just so sweet and... perfect! :)
I always want to take my minis along to the theater but than again I'm afraid of being seen as a weirdo. Kids kept staring at me when I once carryed a doll I made myself (it was actually a present for a fellow theater goer)
The zelfies look so beautiful with all those pretty flowers!
I'm so happy for everything you gained and shared during the trip and you are giving us a lot of joy through your posts and personal replies, I can't tell how much they mean to me! :)
I really really hope your book gets published! Fears and doubts are unevitable, I think, especially if someone is as modest as you. Your book will bring joy for sure! :)
You and your blog are indeed old friends for me and I love to drop by to reread some posts or check new comments.

DJwolf-Addy said...

That's so awesome! Glad you had a great time!!!!

beastsbelle said...

Thanks so much, Karina! I appreciate your prayers.

Thanks, Cindybin. :) Good to hear from you!

Lol, oh dear, Sarah...I just pictured it again. ;) Now we'll get everyone curious!

Hi Anonymous, thanks for stopping by! Poor Tess, Maggie and friends. They're quite happy in their rooms, but I just haven't had as much time to spend with them recently. So they're not FULLY neglected. Maggie's probably annoyed with me, though...as usual. ;)

Their last post got lost in the shuffle. I'm hoping we'll be able to finally wrap things up within the next week or so.

Thanks, MoxieFun! It was pretty incredible. :)

Thanks very much, Kathleen. :) I'm glad you enjoyed the post and I appreciate your prayers.

I thought so too, Meritre. :D

It's easy to be too concerned about what other people think of us, even as grown ups. :} Next year, I hope to be bold enough to just have fun and not be so worried. ;)

I loved taking my Zelf photos! :D The setting was just perfect.

I'm so glad to bring joy to all of you through my posts and replies. You and my other readers are all so special to me. It always makes my day to come by and see the comments you've left. :) I consider all of you my dear friends. You always bring me such joy with your sweet words. :)

Thanks so much for stopping by, everyone!

honeysucklejasmine said...

Yay! Love reading about your trip! It's so cool how you had so much fun and got to do a ton of interesting stuff! :-D I'm so glad :)

Mark Patraw said...

Glad to hear that you, and Sarah, found your retreat productive, educational, and memorable, especially after all the work you put into getting there! Mt. Hermon looks like a great place to visit and it's always good to spend some quality time with people that share common interests/aspirations with you. I don't know if it's intentional design or not, but Mt. Hermon's beautiful outside wooden architecture and landscaping has a very Japanese look and feel to it in my opinion.

It's also surprising, in comparison to where I live, to see how lush and green California is right now in your photos--we're (slowly) thawing out here in Upper Michigan, but we still have snow and all of the trees (other than the conifers or course) are bare. Right about now, I wish I was a Zelf lounging in the sunshine surrounded by plants in bloom too . . .

MyLittleMegara said...

Welcome back! I am so happy that after your blogs have been such a blessing to me and all who read them God is sending you your share of fantastic blessings. Thank you so much for your "chat over tea" posts and your support as I started blogging myself! You continue to be in my prayers.


beastsbelle said...

Sorry I missed responding to these last two comments for a while.

Thanks so much, Mark. It was such an incredible experience. :)

I can see what you mean by the Japanese look and feel. I definitely see it in the plant life and the little gardens and things. The buildings don't have as much of a Japanese style to my mind...perhaps the Dining Hall. I see what you mean, though. :)

Lol, we tend to get sunshine and greenery pretty early around here. Sadly, it's looking like we're going to have more drought conditions this year, so I guess I need to enjoy the green while it lasts! :(

Thank you so very much, MyLittleMegara. Hearing from readers like you always gives me such encouragement and reminds me why I love blogging and writing so much. :) Connecting with all of you through the years has been fantastic. :)

Thank you for your prayers, too. I could use them! And keep up the great work on your blog. :)