Haven :: my raw thoughts on an amazing conference and blogging
Wednesday, June 27, 2012 by {darlene}

Being a part of the very first, inaugural, crowning, initial, premier Haven Conference {ta da!} was so. much. fun. I am SO impressed with the fun, professional conference that the Haven team threw.

If you are a big fan of Home bloggers, you may have seen your share of Haven posts already, but I had such a great time and wanted to share my thoughts on the whole fantastic thing. Especially if I can introduce you to some of the amazing bloggers with which I got to spend my time.

What I learned at Haven 2012:


1. My hair and Atlanta are not BFF’s.

Here is a pic, taken by Sew Woodsy during my speaker session. Oh my, look at that poofy hair. My mom would call it the “Jersey Poof Monster.” Folks. I spent 35 minutes straightening my hair that morning. Here you see spiral curls. Now, I love my spiral curls, BUT…. but seriously, who has 35 minutes to throw down the toilet? You will see up-do’s during the rest of my Atlanta stay!

2. Meeting new bloggers is still just as amazing as it has always been:

One thing that surprised me about this conference was that, at this conference, I spent most of my time with newer friends instead of older bloggy friends. And I just adored everyone that I met! Check out the darlin’s below, and I hope you will check their blogs out! Because these ladies know how to laugh and they are genuine and wonderful, I tell ya.

A fun dinner with friends!! top to bottom, left to right: Kristy of Living Life {un}Simply, Moi, Amanda of Amanda Carol At Home, Lori of Lori May Interiors,  Jen of At Home in the Northwest, Angela of The Painted House {I have shared the VERY talented Angela with you before, remember our play date?}, Logan of Life for Dessert, and Carole of Blue Chateau Interiors.

In the pic above: Despite the look on my face that says: “Yes, I was recently tazed with a taser,”  I am actually quite giddy. Meet my sweet, precious, darling new friend: Ashley of The Handmade Home. Do you know this sweet girl already??? Seriously, you need to know her. HEART. OF. GOLD.  And a sense of humor – a total necessity in a friend, don’t you think?!

Above: These girls and I are part of a very encouraging bloggy support network. We call ourselves the Lemonade Girls, and five out of nine of us were there at Haven 2012. How awesome is that? From left to right: Moi, Carrie of Making Lemonade, Kelly of View Along the Way, Cassie of Primitive and Proper, and Natalie of A Turtles Life for Me. You should go and “like” them, because, my word – they are likable!

I did not take nearly enough pics, and I never got one of me and my roomies together: Jessica of Four Generations One Roof {who is also my client. Check out her beautiful dining room before and after!!}, who has a heart of gold and had us laughing with her wicked killa Boston accent, and Logan of Life for Dessert, who I just need to keep in my pocket – this girl is SUCH an encouraging and funny friend. LOVE YOU ROOMIES!!!!! You girls know how to stay up ’til 2 am laughing, which qualifies as AWESOME in my book.

I met TONS of other amazing bloggers, with the cutest dern business cards you ever did see. Really, {darlene}, why did you not take more pics??

3. Don’t be shocked by this…. I was reminded that blogging is a business. An amazing business that benefits me and my readers!

At Haven, I was reminded again and again that Blogs are VALUABLE to advertisers. We are affordable AND we offer honest, authentic word of mouth. No wonder advertisers are finally catching on!! That is like advertising GOLD!

I like to think of FHD like a magazine. This “magazine” {also known as a blog} is a great place where I write lots of free tips, you read it for free, and somehow, I get paid! But, goody goody, it is free for you!! Advertisers, who know how cool YOU the reader are, will pay me for my ad space, etc. And you get to decipher if you are interested…. but all the while, you still get tips and love from FHD for free. That is how it works. How cool is that? And. The perk for me? I don’t have to work my tail off and not get paid. That is also how it works! sweet.

4. Y’all. I have much to learn about this here blogging business.

I learned SOOOO much at Haven. Wow. This blogging business is filled with smart, savvy women who have so much to offer as far as talent and giftedness. And these women are professionals who I highly value. I loved being surrounded by so many women with, as I like to put it, “something to say.” Haven’s sessions were fantastic, and I was taking notes like nobody’s biz. My to-do list curves around the block.

No doubt. I will be a better blogger as a result of the Haven Conference.

5. As a speaker: I learned that I LOVE to speak about decorating.

I guess I can go on and on about it. I truly have a deep passion for getting my friends and clients to stop settling for what they “like,” and seek out {plus trust!} what they LOVE!! And guess what? Despite my nerves, my glistening face, and my Southern Hair explosion… I LOVED every minute of teaching my Design Studio session!!

design studio haven

image via super-sweet-supportive Lori of Lori May Interiors. There I am with the talented Erika of BluLabelBungalow, who co-taught the session with me and the amazing Sherry of Design Indulgence {great interior design blogs. Check them out!!}.

6. I was reminded that I am human. With fears. And gifts.

Finally, I was surprised by myself at this conference. I realized I would rather be speaking or singing in front of a room of 10,000 people than milling around a group of women, trying to find a friend to sit with at breakfast. I was reminded that I can be so sensitive about the responses of others toward me.  In general, I am outgoing, and pretty grounded… but I tend to turn inward when in situations like this. There really can be something intimidating about the power of groups-of-women. Despite the kindest crowd, I had fears. And, like all of us who are growing and learning, sometimes I have to pep-talk myself out of my insecurities. And I just wanted to be honest and share that with you.

I did think, “Do they like me?” and I did think, “I wonder what they think of me?” Trying to keep it real here, friends. And, I am guessing, I was not the only blogger wondering this. But after 3 or 4 days to digest all that I saw, I have come back to the reality of my life, and I am again reminded that I am NOT defined by what I do. Oh, no. I have already learned that lesson BIG TIME {Please don’t let me forget to tell you about that story!}. No. I am NOT defined by what I do, but by WHOSE I am. I am a child of God. Yep. He made me this way. On purpose.

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I am SOOOOO proud of the girls, many of whom I love, who pulled this amazing Haven Conference together. Rhoda, how did we NOT get a pic together?? You too, Beth!!? And Traci?

I can honestly say that Haven has given me tools to be a MUCH better and efficient blogger. It was an amazing two days. Thank you for all of those who made the Haven Conference possible!


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p.s. stay tuned for a post about Atlanta thrifting and my one-night-roomie-stand, with my girl, Angela. FHD + TPH = PYT BFF’s. oh yes.

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For more details on all the fun that was had at Haven, check out the linkup posts at Southern Hospitality.

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Labeled: about me, blogland


  • Dearest Darlene,
    I never in a million and one years would have thought for even a moment you had insecurities! I guess we all learn techniques at “surviving”, putting on a brave face, what have you. I love that you were real and raw and a vulnerable. YOU are such a JOY and I am blessed beyond measure to call you my friend! *MUAH*
    Oh.. and I love you recap! and your hair! ;)

  • Thank you featuring me and highlighting my blog!! Great recap!!


  • YOU, my friend, are way too sweet. And this was very well said on so many levels. ;} The south and my hair are not friends, either. It’s a curse. ;}

  • Hello Darlene…loved meeting you and introducing you to my Annie Sloan Unfolded friends…they loved you too!!

    janet xox
    The Empty Nest

    PS…I feel your pain on the Hair issue…I lived in Houston for 21 years and for 21 years everyday was a bad hair day….can you spell HUMID???

  • Thank you so much for the sweet words!

    I loved your seession SO MUCH. I was struck by how well your heart came through in your speaking. It was so clear to me that design for you is about creating a place of peace and a haven, and that people come before design.

    That, and I left feeling so inspired. To figure out what is in my home because I like it vs LOVE it. I’ve been looking at everything differently! Great GREAT job my friend!

  • Great insight Darlene and I can soooo relate to the being intimidated by the groups of women and found myself many times wondering what others thought of me. But each and every woman I met (especially you) made me feel loved, welcomed and accepted. And what you refer to as “Jersey Poof Monster” we Texans call “Hair as big as Dallas” and I live in that on a daily basis here in Houston-ugh!!

  • What a beautiful post Darlene and I love that it comes across so honest and real! You surely are a forevvaaa friend girl and of course, I loved your vocals while we beautified ourselves. hehe. Thanks for the mention and you to have a heart of gold :)

  • It sounds like a wonderful time! I was just telling Cassie I would have been petrified to be around all those new people.

  • I love this post, Darlene. Love your transparency and honesty.
    I didn’t make it to Haven but I’ve been reading so much about it, looks like everyone had a great time and learned lots!

  • I love YOUR ‘take’ on the conference. Thanks!

    As a brand new blogger (you know me as Longaberger Lifestyle on FB) I’m trying to figure out who I am. I guess I’m more of a lifestyle blogger than a home blogger. But, then again, I’ve just started. This is a process. It would be wonderful to connect with a group like the Lemonade Girls….how did you go about forming the group? I’ve been meeting newbies via comments & SITS Girls…but I would love to have a few relationships with more established bloggers. Everyone seems soooo busy…how would I appropriately reach out.

    And that brings me to how Point 6 ressonated with me. My husband says I can start a convo with anyone. That’s true. But, no one knows I’m shaking in my sandals. (And yes I do focus on the person….it’s just awkward!!!) I, too, am more comfortable in front. In front, I am me and I don’t have time to worry about the things that don’t matter.

    I noticed that you have a questionaire for new subscribers….could I…a for a while subscriber…pretty please take “test?”

    Thanks Darlene! Hope your day is Extraordinary!

    • P.S. This flat haired girl thinks you are so blessed with fluffy hair. {Don’t we all wish we had what the next person has?} Hahahaha!

    • I know Diane! You are wise to wait and see what your own authentic “voice” is in this busy blogland!
      As far as creating a group, we run ours via a private group in FB, and I would actually message some friends who have blogs at a similar “level” as yours, to see if they would be willing to create a private group with you where you can encourage one another and help each other with road blocks and questions.
      The questionnaire is available through a link that arrives in the verification email for new subscribers, but if you have another email address you would use, you could get it that way!!
      Hope your day is extraordinary too, Diane!

    • Thanks so much for your helpful suggestions and encouragement.

  • what a great post and recap! I love your honesty and perspective of it! and I think you and your hair look gorgeous!!! :)

  • Not a Blogger but I am a client of Darlene’s. I do not pick up her insecurities at all but she absolutely spreads possibility and so ‘gets’ your style leanings. Only she doesn’t settle for what is cute, just okay, she has an eye for beauty, the kind that stays, doesn’t disappear with trends and whim. She deepens what a space is.

  • Darlene I like the Jersey poof!!LOL Probalby cause it makes me feel at home. You are so sweet. That’s what makes people like you…being genuine! It made me come here and get interested in what you have to say!

  • hahaha. #1 made me laugh so much. i just got back from the caribbean and straightening my hair was just not gonna happen!

  • Darlene, as I said before, I wish we had had more time together, but the time we had was so precious to me. I know we’d be bff’s if we were closer. So unless there’s a surprise move, I’ll settle for online bff’s!
    Take care friend,

  • Oh friend – I so wish I would have been there and I know that every single person that met you fell right in love because you are authentic, sweet and down to earth, but I AMEN the insecurities. Blogging conferences are honestly the place that bring that out in me too.

  • Thanks for the great recap… have spent many hours checking out the links you’ve posted to it, design is all consuming… in a good way.

  • Darlene, I must say; I was more impressed with you in person than I was on your blog. You’re so lovely! Not only are you beautiful (despite your hair complaints I have zero sympathy for you!) but you were SO VERY gracious and kind to me. I can’t believe you recognized me. Your session was so valuable…thank you so much for sharing your insights. I’m very, very sad I didn’t get a picture with you…although I think I TAKE the picture you included above with Cassie from Primitive and Proper and company! God used you in some deep and amusing ways..you may be getting an email from me in the near future! I can’t decide if I’d rather hire you or beg you to be my friend. So, so, very glad I had the opportunity to meet you and hear you speak!!

  • PS-Just to clarify, I’ve been SO impressed by your blog…the fact I liked you even MORE in person was amazing! You’re a special lady for sure!

  • Girl, that pose you’re striking looking at the screen is the glamour pose of the century!

    How lucky was I to get to play hookie with you on day 2?! You can always twist my arm to go shopping.

    I think I still have PYT ringing in my ears…that’s either you or the ghost of MJ!

    Thank you for hanging with me. You did FABULOUS on your talk! Such ease and poise.

    • your comment made me think: next time we hang, we should go get glamour shots. Do they do those anywhere? It is TIME for the return!

      Thank YOU for hanging and taking me from Peachtree to Peachtree to Peachtree. I had a COMPLETE blast!

  • It was an amazing conference, and you were every inch beautiful, gracious, and kind. So nice to meet you…wish we could have talked more!

  • It was so great meeting you at Haven! I loved your session – seriously you’re a great speaker and I just wish that session was longer – I learned so much! I’m still working on my don’t buy word. ;) Your looked great – and I so relate to that large group -where do I sit – who should I talk to feeling. Thanks for your honesty – it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one that feels that way!

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