Sunday, August 16, 2015

TOFW {Sydney}

Last weekend I had the amazing opportunity of going to Sydney to see one of my dearest friend's Lisa present part of life story thus far at a  Time Out for Women (TOFW) conference. Go here to read her blog post about it including the introductory video presentation put together by her friend Alison, and here to read her talk that she presented after the video intro.

On a side note, if you click on the clips of David Archaleta singing which has been posted to his fan club site, the back of my head is featured!! Oh my goodness, my head is FAMOUS!! ;) ;)

TOFW  presents its conferences mostly in the USA but every second year comes to Sydney and then onto NZ. It probably goes to other countries too, I'm not sure, but it really is about women coming together not just for some time out from their day to day lives but to go away inspired, uplifted and motivated as well as having heaps of laughs and fun.

This was my second TOFW, the first was in 2011 when Flynn was just 4 months old and I went with my Mum and sisters. 

Sydney 2011

Lisa and her Mum picked me up from my sister Lisa's house and we got to the airport in plenty of time. Lisa was worried about making sure she got there and thankfully there were no delays and a whole group of us Taswegians made it on the plane. It was so cool to be on the plane with heaps of people you know  -  and no kids - maybe that was the really exciting part! ;)

Lisa's brother Chrish picked us up from the airport and we set off to the Marriott to drop Lisa off for the night. Within a few minutes she text us a pic of her room. The bed looked nice and big and comfortable but I pretty much knew she wasn't going to get much sleep before the next day. The hotel was right near the Sydney Harbour Bridge so like mad tourists we were sticking our heads out the window trying to take some pics on our phones. Mine weren't so good! 

 Can you make out the Opera House?? :)

Nicki, Lisa's sister had flown up from Melbourne with little Hyrum who is 4 months old and we sat around Chrish's lounge room laughing and talking until about midnight. We were all excited too and found it hard to get much sleep. Chrish was cracking us up about not using the power point in the bathroom or we would be zapped - between us we had 2 hair dryers and a straightener so I'm glad her warned us. 

The next morning we got up about 6.30 so we could leave early and be at Olympic Park well before the conference started at 9am so we could buy some books from the bookstore and get our seats. Lisa's friend from America, Alyson and her friend Holly and I were very fortunate to have reserved seats as Lisa's guests right up the front, smack bang in the middle of the stage. It works out so well when you have contacts!! ;) It was AMAZING. I got so much more out of the day because I was right near the stage. Plus without realising it, my good friend Olivia who I grow up with in Tassie, happened to be sitting right next to me.

The presenters started off by introducing themselves and I was so busy listening and taking it all in that I nearly forgot to start videoing when Lisa came on. I missed the big cheer at the beginning of her intro and loved that our "local presenter" got such a boost of support. Even though I know her story quite well, it was lovely to sit there and anticipate everyone else getting to know her and Aaron and Noah too. We had a cool tote bag given out to each of us as we walked in with a programme and it was very exciting to see Lisa's photo and blurb in there amongst award winning authors, the CEO of Deseret Books, former General Board members, American Idol runner-up and a Broadway star.

I took a few pics of the presenters from my seat. Talking is David Archaleta, then L to R is Elaine Dalton, Sandra Turley, (my favourite after Lisa) Heidi Swinton, Lisa and Brad Wilcox.

It is hard to talk about what the presenters spoke about and I wish everyone could have been there to "feel" what we felt, especially when Sandra Turley who was Cosette in Les Mis for 3 years on Broadway sang a few songs. I wish I had videoed more but sometimes its good to just soak up the moment and not be distracted by anything else.

She spoke about something in her life that really resonated with me and being on the front row after the conference I was able to grab a quick chat, hug and photo with her.

My next favourite presenter wars Brad Wilcox who I refer to as "Braddy" as he is just so darn likeable and had us all in stitches. He has written a few books and I was able to get one signed by him. He seriously gives the best hugs and his presentation was about "if you can laugh about it, then you can live with it" and he gave us such funny examples from his life that the whole room could not stop laughing. It was such good medicine. Thanks to my sister and good friend Lisa 'Woody' Woodward for helping pluck up the courage to approach him. :) Woody and her family got to know Brad when they lived in Provo for a year and her hubby Gaz worked with him in the education faculty at BYU. I'm so jealous!!

But I must admit the person I came to see first and foremost was Lisa. I had already seen her video introduction but not yet heard her talk so I was very nervous and excited for her and of course had my man hanky ready.

I love this shot that my sister Lisa got from further back in the conference auditorium. Who knew she was such a good photographer!! ;)

It was an amazing presentation and the tears were flowing as I thought about what she has been through the past few years and the good days and the hard days, hard days that are so unimaginable and incomprehensible to those of us who have not walked that path. And all the hard stuff that she keeps in her heart that no-one but Aaron will ever know and understand about. It was a bittersweet feeling as I sat there, so proud of her and all that she has become and continues to become but at the same time wishing her two boys were here too.

It was a brilliant day and I wish it could have gone longer. David Archaleta sang some amazing songs including Bridge over Troubled Waters and True Colours. I have no doubt as to why he was in the top two for American Idol.

I love this shot of Lisa and David in the lobby of the hotel before heading over to Olympic Park. He seems like a really nice humble guy, which actually perfectly describes all of the presenters.

During the day I got to chat a bit to Lisa's friend from America, Alyson who lost her husband Cade and her friend Holly who lost her husband Trent. They were such lovely girls and I said to them that I wish there was someone who lived close to Lisa like Holly and Alyson do, who knew exactly how Lisa felt. We got to go out for tea afterward with them and with Lisa's Mum, Nicki and Chrish and it was really nice getting to know them. They were only over here for 10 days and in that time were also visiting New Zealand so it was crazy busy for them.

When we got back to Chrish's house, we talked for ages about the day. I loved hearing Nicki and Lorraine talking about the lunch they had with the presenters and what the food was like. Here they are with my favourite (sorry second favourite ;) presenter).

I laughed at the end of the night as it was so hectic during the day that Lisa and I didn't get a photo together like I did with the other presenters but the one we did was priceless as it shows us all finally relaxing in our pjs and enjoying the spoils of the day and being able to chat heaps about everything that happened. It was certainly a remarkable day and I feel so privileged to be part of a wonderful women's organisation that does amazing things like this and for all the presenters, especially the "local" one, who share a part of their lives, talents and wisdom with us.