It has taken me a full week to sit down and come down off the high that was #HereWeGrow16. Just about two years ago, I had the idea to bring women together for a weekend of relaxation and sisterhood, to focus solely on ourselves and leave all the obligations at home.
Now we are two years in, and looking at a third. All the stress and frustration that goes into planning an event like this (anyone who has planned anything knows that there is always something that goes wrong!) melted away once I arrived in Virginia Beach.
If there is anything I learned from last year’s retreat, it’s that I simply create the space and the attendees fill it with magic. And sure enough, from Friday’s opening reception to Sunday’s closing brunch, I felt their energy. They came from eight states to be with each other for the weekend, the majority of them first-timers. They had to trust in my vision, and that I could deliver on my promise.
On Saturday morning we got together to begin the retreat. I presented on “Self-Care For Everybody,” giving women the opportunity to understand what it means to keep their cup full. I had them do a tactile game in which they practiced filling up their cups (with marshmallows! LOL) to reinforce the idea that everything they do will either add to their life or detract from it.
Then Trudi Lebron, my dear friend and badass life coach, spoke to them about boundaries. This session was incredibly necessary, as boundaries are about getting clear on “where you end and I begin.” Most of the time when we’re slacking on our self-care goals, it’s because we’re not properly enforcing a boundary that we set for ourselves. Trudi encouraged the women to not only declare what their boundaries were, but to consider how crucial those boundaries are.
I invited Jamie Fleming-Dixon, creator of Black Girl’s Guide to Calm to come to the retreat and lead a yoga + meditation session. We dimmed the lights in the ballroom, spread out in our comfy clothes and stretched and breathed deep for 45 minutes. It was glorious.
Our lunch time speaker, Nikkiah Smith, has been a licensed marriage and family therapist for 17 years and she shared her best tips on developing strategies for self-care, including this tip, which stuck with me:
After lunch (I was so busy running around I didn’t get a picture of the food!) , we got to break for a bit and get our massages. The good folks at Edgar Cayce ARE Health Spa did an amazing job relieving our stress. It was fun to sit in the lobby area and watch as each of the attendees left the room just completely blissed out.
After dinner, it was time for our excursion. I was really proud of the fact that this year we went off premises! Can I admit that I was really nervous about this? It was like being a teacher on a field trip. Can’t leave anybody behind! LOL We piled onto a 27-passenger bus and headed to Respectapole Dance Fitness, 40 minutes away in Hampton, Virginia.
There were a few pole dancing studios that were closer, but my gut instinct was that Respectapole would be the best venue for this retreat. And I was right. The owner Elaine (right) and Andrea (left) were AMAZING instructors and they gave us the confidence we needed to strut, swing, and twirl around the pole. We also got some amazing chair and lap dance choreography (to THIS song) that will leave the fellas scrambling to get their women tickets EVERY year! (Y’all please don’t laugh at how short I am!)
The last day was our sisterhood recognition brunch. Angela Settle, licensed therapist (pictured below), walked us through a self-care contract, leading us in a discussion about where we are and where we want to be.
We ended the brunch by giving each woman a rose, an inspirational letter, and asking her to share with the group one thing she would take away from the weekend. One of the attendees, Monique, had to leave a little early to get on the road, so she went first and then she left.
I continued to hand out the flowers and suddenly Monique came back in the room. “Y’all, we have to evacuate,” she said. “There’s an alarm going off downstairs.”
We all looked around in confusion because we could not hear any alarms. But we were grateful she told us, so we started grabbing items and heading for the door. I grabbed my computer (my lifeline!!) and decided to leave everything else — the decor, all my “stuff” for the weekend. I didn’t know if it was a real fire or not and didn’t want to be slowed down.
But one by one the attendees kept asking me, “You need me to grab something?” as we headed toward the door.
I waved them all off because I wanted everyone to get outside, you know, in case this was a real fire.
We scramble downstairs (luckily we were only on the second floor) and we get permission to huddle in the hotel lobby versus going outside. The firemen arrived and did what they do and I looked around at the attendees.
They were still there. Sitting patiently, talking to each other, laughing.
We were over schedule, there was a fire alarm and they were still there.
So I decided to finish the retreat, right there in the lobby. I looked around for my stuff. “Where’s my computer bag?” I asked everyone.
“Right here,” one of the attendees said. “I grabbed it.”
“Where’s my purse?” I asked no one in particular.
“I grabbed it!” another attendee said, handing it to me.
“Where are the flowers?” I asked. “Right here,” an attendee said, holding up the roses. I turned around and another attendee had scooped up all my vases off the table. “You’ll need these for next year,” she said.
I slowly looked around and realized that everything that I left in the room had made its way downstairs.
And right there, in the middle of the lobby, in the midst of all these thoughtful, incredible women, I lost it, letting the tears flow.
These are my people, I realized at that moment. These women….they did what women do. They look out for you. They support you. They let you know that you are not alone. Monique should have been heading to her car, but she came back to tell us about the alarm. The other women could have scrambled out of the room without worrying a bit about me (which would have been fine — you know, fire and all) but they took a few seconds to grab my stuff.
Did I want the retreat to end in the hotel lobby? NOPE. But it was such an incredible display of sisterhood that I can’t imagine it ending any other way.
I’m so thankful to these women and can hardly wait until next year. The women who attended these retreats…they’re just magical. No other way to put it.
One attendee told me: “What made this event so great is we all were open to each other. Sharing the same desire to retreat and energize. I appreciate this event and I don’t regret any part of it! I definitely plan to be there next year!”
My last note: Every year, we host this event and women tell me, “I wish I could have been there!”
You can be there. Yes. The event is usually held in the fall and I announce location and ticket prices in the spring. I work hard to make the event affordable (tickets are always around $200, covering three days) and I work with women on payment plans and scholarships to make sure the women who need to be in the room are in the room.
Join the mailing list to get all the announcements — location, dates, agenda, speakers and more!
Our sponsors were amazing! I loved the swag bags we had this year, full of items that helped attendees unwind a bit. These companies are almost all fully woman-owned businesses and their products were personally selected and tested by me. You can’t go wrong purchasing from any company on this list:
- Blue Star Coloring (for the second year!)
- Addictive Apothecary
- My Beauty Tea
- Good Night Darling Co
- Kimi LaVadge
- Decadence Body Shop
- the Bloom Beautifully box (of course!)
- Divas In Transition
- My Tee Sharp
- and Maya India Spa!