This past week was one of the greatest weeks of my entire life. While I have heard countless demonstrators say how Stampin’ Up!’s Annual Convention changed their life, I’ve never quite understood what they mean. How could a gathering of people who enjoy a common craft make that much of a difference? I will admit that there was nothing normal about my first convention experience – it’s not what most people go through – but I totally get it now. Convention has definitely changed my life forever, and I am profoundly grateful for every moment of it. I am so happy to share some of this experience with you today.
My Tour of Stampin’ Up!
On Thursday morning, thousands of us converged on Stampin’ Up! headquarters for the annual tour. I want to share a couple of pictures from our visit. Justin Krieger and I are standing just inside the atrium of Stampin’ Up!’s main lobby (you can see the “Be the Difference” sign in the background – it was the theme of this year’s Convention):
At the main entrance to headquarters, there are two rocks (one on either side of the entrance) that showcase the Stampin’ Up! logo. Thousands of demonstrators have had their picture standing behind the rock, but few are able to mount the rock with just a little hop. 🙂 Justin took this picture of me:
After the tour, I went back to the hotel to prepare for Opening Ceremonies and my big presentation. As I’ve already shared with you, I was invited to speak at Convention. What a crazy honor! I was asked to prepare a board with 15 new projects and to give a 15-minute presentation on the topic of Masculine Projects. Speaking in front of demonstrators from all over the world was amazing! A lot of people came by my booth, and I was so glad I could share with them. Here is a quick shot of my display board. Don’t look too closely at the samples on my display board, though, because they will each be featured on my blog over the next couple of weeks – I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you.
Shannon West is an amazing Curriculum Developer and Trainer for Stampin’ Up! Here’s a snapshot of Shannon and me in the hall where my presentation took place. Behind us is the center of the massive room. I was one of six demonstrators in a tiny booth, presenting my views on masculine cards and some background techniques over and over and over. This room was filled with almost 6,000 demonstrators, many who stopped at my booth to listen to my presentation: This photograph was taken by my great friend, Nicole Watt. Not only is Nicole a talented artist (she is the queen of MDS and can stamp an awesome card), she is also an amazing photographer. Nicole snapped this picture while I was marketing Stampin’ Up!’s line of specialty paper towels (page 49 of the Annual Catalog):
I knew I was going to be offering the same presentation every fifteen minutes or so. I assumed I would have a break between sessions, but that wasn’t the case. As soon as I said, “Thank you for stopping by tonight,” one crowd left and another appeared. I only had time to clear my table to start over while another crowd assembled. I loved every minute of it! My good friend, Kris Kilcoyne, snapped this picture of my presentation (that’s a mirror above me so that everyone could see what I was doing):Kris also snapped this picture of some demonstrators who are watching my presentation. I love seeing my name on a Stampin’ Up! sign (does it get any cooler than that?!). The other thing – and I didn’t know this until I arrived to setup – Stampin’ Up! chose demonstrators from each of the major countries where they have a presence. I was the USA demonstrator. WHAT!? That’s absolutely crazy, and I couldn’t have been more honored.
That was Thursday night. After three hours of presenting to a full crowd, I was done. My voice was gone, and me feet were hurting, but I could have kept going. Again, I loved every minute of it.
Friday was filled with amazing main stage presentations and classes. Friday night was Awards Night. I got to put on my sports coat and dress pants to celebrate the accomplishments of lots of amazing demonstrators.
I worked really hard to have an incredible first year, and I am thankful for every person who supported me and loved me while I worked toward my goals. I earned Stampin’ Up!’s Rising Star Award, which is given to demonstrators who reach certain sales and recruiting levels in their first year. I was one of four US demonstrators who achieved the honor this year, and I am the first male to ever earn the title. How cool is that?! Here’s a quick shot of the screen as Scott Nielsen, Stampin’ Up!’s Chief Financial Officer, made the announcement. Every year, Stampin’ Up! has given the recipient of Rising Star a silver necklace with a star. He explained that they added a watch this year as a gift for the first male. The gracious crowd went wild.
As my name was called, I felt the immediate embrace of the Pals, but I also felt an amazing roar from the rest of the crowd. It was amazing! Here’s a quick photo of Shelli Gardner and me (either before or after we hugged). While Nicole grabbed a photo that looks like Shelli and I are about to be married, that is not one of the amazing things that happened this week:
Here’s a picture with Mary Fish and Lisa Pretto, both Rising Stars during their first year with Stampin’ Up! Mary earned just about every award available that night. She is truly remarkable, and I am forever grateful to her for her support and friendship.
Here’s a quick recap video of Convention. I am fortunate to have been showcased a couple of times in this amazing video – see if you can find me.
While I was super-jazzed about my presentation and thoroughly enjoyed Awards Night, the greatest part of Convention was seeing some great people and making new friends. I have run this blog for over a year now, and I’ve met a couple of blog readers who tell me they read my words each day and enjoy my projects. At Convention, though, a lot of those people were in one place. It was amazing. I finally met a lot of “regulars” on my blog (and you’ll recognize these names): Carol Carriveau, Carol Coneeny, Sharon Francis, Bobbi Miller, Cindie McDuffee and Jennifer Lande. I also met Patti Willey, one of my first dedicated readers:
I was also so pleased to meet a lot of the Pals (Mary Fish’s Stampin’ Pretty Pals) I had never met before (a definite highlight of my trip), and I was delighted to see several Pals I had already met, like Ann Schach:
And Windy Ellard:
Don’t pay attention to the top, left corner of this photo. Pam would kill me if I ever shared this picture with you (she was texting), so please don’t look at it so that she won’t be mad at me. That brings me to Pam. When I joined Pam’s group, I had no idea where this journey would take me. I can’t begin to tell you what a wonderful woman this is. Pam is my “Stampin’ Mom” – and although she is not old enough to be my biological mother, she has done so much to support and teach me at every stage of the way. Here we are, hanging out in the Convention Recognition Room:
I have a million things to be happy for at Convention 2013. I was given an opportunity to address thousands of demonstrators. I met (and hugged) Shelli Gardner. I spent time with Mary Fish and Pam Morris. I hung out with great friends and met new people. Even with all these great things, perhaps the most exciting part of the week for me was making a new friend in Justin Krieger. When I asked Justin to be my Convention roommate, I barely knew him (he and I were Guest Designers on The Paper Players but never got to know each other). Turns out, we had a lot in common and had a great time hanging out at Convention. Justin and I have a similar approach to stamping and are both very grounded and grateful to have a “place” in this craft. He’s a smart guy. He’s a kind guy. He’s a ridiculously funny guy. I enjoyed every minute I could spend with Justin (except for the whole “walking clear across town to find the hotel key he may have left in a restaurant when it turns out it was actually in the room all along). I look forward to a long-lasting friendship with him. This picture was lifted from Justin’s blog at http://www.jkcardsonline.com:
Thanks for stopping by my blog today!
Tomorrow, I’m sharing my card for this week’s sketch challenge from The Paper Players, along with a summary of the new and fresh promotions Stampin’ Up! is offering right now. You won’t want to miss it.