We’ve been home for over two weeks and it seems time I finally make up for not blogging every dayTired girls! and barely sTired girls!ince. Let me preface what I do write by saying that I really did require one full week to recover. Besides doing the eight loads of laundry, cleaning up the bus and the house (thankfully, Josh didn’t live like a total pig while we were gone), and nursing some very sore feet, I contended with Miranda and Kaity, who each decided to surprise us with some post-convention milestones: Kaity began to crawl (watch out world!) and Miranda finally lay down the bottle. Tee-hee. That last one is an answer to prayer, though it also has meant a lot of trial and error with cups, straws, “choc-ate milk,” spills, throws, tantrums, and prevention of dehydration. Whew!

Speaking of tantrums and dehydration… NQC! No, I’m kidding… and getting ahead of myself. Being home for so long prior to recording our experiences has allowed me to put aside some of the emotions of it, and that’s a good thing. Now I have decided that instead of cataloging NQC08 chronologically or trying to keep track of every funny/poignant/notable thing, I’ll give you a “10 things” list. It’s not a top 10, it’s not “10 things I hate about you…” just 10 things that stick in my mind from our time at the 2008 convention. (Let me add here that these are my opinions, and not necessarily my husband’s. He is generally a more patient and mellow person than I am!)

1. Who cares about our table? Answer: just me

One of the NQC preparation tasks that I personally labor and fret over is the appearance of our booth. The space itself doesn’t seem like a lot until you get to the exhibit hall and see people with faux living rooms (with real drywall) and spotlights and so forth set up, and frankly, our Sam’s Club tables and Ikea stools are just not going to compare. We were successful in using Liquid Stitches (because Mrs. Burton does not sew) to finagle some curtains for the backdrop and a cover for our second table. We had some sweet looking posters (if I do say so myself…), though we lost one of newly purchased easels along with losing a thousand other things during the week! We also “raffled” off an iPod shuffle in an advertised bid to add people to Rod’s mailing list; the winner never came to claim her prize. All in all, it was fine. It was okay. It was not what I wanted it to be. It was probably the only booth with a Disney Princess table and chairs. It was also evident that all most passers-by cared about was our free peppermints and whether we knew the location of the Booth Brothers. Note: the exception here is the people who already knew us… they stopped by just to see us, and that was very touching and pretty cool! And for those who attend NQC? We really don’t mind you taking the mints. They are there for you as our hospitable touch. But if you do take one, or one handful, please: at least SMILE at us or look at us as you walk by.

2. Who cares about the main stage when you have FREE SHOWCASES? Answer: people who don’t know any better

As part of being an NQC exhibitor, we have access to the main stage shows as we see fit. We don’t get great seats or anything, but we can come and go as we please. There were certainly some of my favorites appearing there this year: namely, The Isaacs and Gaither Vocal Band. But… number of times I made it to the main stage to see anyone? Zero. That’s down one from last year. This wasn’t deliberate, but there are two reasons behind it. One was that by the time I worked the Angelic Showcase all day, leaving Paige with Miranda and Kaity, I needed to spend time with the babies at night, let Paige have some “NQC quality time” (she saw a lot of the main stage concerts), and frankly, I was so tired I just wanted to camp at our booth and visit with friends. We had a live feed not too far from us, so when need be, I could walk over and check out what was happening inside the auditorium.

The other reason, thought, was a revelation to me. During the four days of the showcase, I saw approximately 40 different artists perform. Some were “national,” some “regional,” some full time, some appearing at NQC for the first time. And in almost every case, those artists were exemplary, professional, and really kind. And it dawned on me: I would rather see people I know up close and personal sing than hear pretty much anyone on the main stage. This is not to belittle the great and exciting artists who participate in the “main event,” but simply to underscore the fact that Southern Gospel music is, at its core, ministry… and ministry is never better than when it is personal. Our crowds at the showcase ranged from 5 people to about 100 people, and each of the artists there was able to minister in an intimate way. And I, as showcase coordinator, was able to have church just about as many times a day as I wanted… (Our showcase, BTW, was FREE to the public!)

3. Discovering new people, and new friends, is the best part

Last year was our first at NQC (more on that in a later point) and I thought I had never met so many people in my life. This year topped it. Fortunately, I met many of those people beforehand as they registered online and by phone for the Angelic Showcase, so meeting people such as Paul Armstrong, Amy Garwich, Cathy Perry and her family, and The Shireys in person was so great. Paul found us Sunday evening right after we arrived at the expo center, and his help was God-sent as we lugged all our stuff inside to set up… and when we needed BATTERIES! (inside joke… we heart you, Paul). Another favorite meeting of mine was when The Quicks walked into the showcase. I had not communicated with them beyond the mass-registration stuff, but when Tim walked into the room, he came up and hugged me like I was his long-lost Yankee niece. Wow. Another great example: Beth Mexin. By the end of the week, this Sandi Patty-esque singer was taking Kaity and Miranda for long strolls around the convention hall. Another: meeting Marty Bentley from 145 Music Group and his assistant Chris. Not only was Marty as friendly in person as he is online, but Chris went above and beyond by helping us with the girls… even sharing his ice cream with Miranda. I love that when the family of God gets together this way, we really all can and do act like family. So many people blessed me this way through the week.

4. Hierarchy is for the food chain

One unfortunate observation i made this year at NQC is how the “totem pole” works in regards to artists. I heard a LOT of talk differentiating between the Regional showcases and the Spotlight showcases… and let me tell you, when someone is appearing in the latter, they are quick to correct you when you think it is the former. Also, i find it interesting that the access badges people are given, among categories for media, promotion, staff, etc., are split between “Artist” and “Exhibitor.” The only people given an “Artist” pass are those appearing on the main stage, and none of the hundreds appearing in the official NQC showcases are. They are considered “Exhibitors,” albeit exhibitors who spend hundreds of dollars on their spaces, their furnishings, their accommodations, their publicity, and their free mints, in hopes to get the mass of fans there to see the “Artists” to pay a bit of attention to them and in turn, hopefully get to know their music ministries. I am not sure what privileges those with the “Artist” badges are afforded as compared to the others (I think better parking is one), but I do know that it seems a silly distinction to make. I know there are artists – such as my beloved Isaacs – who have reached certain career highlights that have afforded them notoriety and distinction, which they deserve – but I also know that Christian music, at least in my idealistic little mind, is set apart from other music in that it is, you know, Christian. It seems to me that making main stage artists somehow more important than others – when all are purporting to be in the same business: fulfilling the Great Commission – well, that seems counterproductive and potentially divisive and also, kind of pointless.

5. You cannot bring enough clothing, food, paper products, or PRIVACY for a 10 day bus trip with kids

Kaity is a drool bucket who ran out of bibs. Miranda’s pink shoes only match certain things. Mommy was sick of most of our food by day 6 or so. Also, I desperately needed more comfortable shoes. Speaking of shoes, Rod made good natured attempts to push his against the bed and hence not in the way. Result: Miranda and I could not see those shoes and tripped over them countless times. Paige never did find a place to store her bulging school bag, so that was tripped over many times as well. Honestly, we did better than I expected when it came to space and tidiness and general sanity. There was thankfully a dump and a water source available to us; that had been a huge worry of mine. There was also a pretty close Wal-mart, not that we had time to visit it after the showcase started. We thought of almost everything to have on the bus with us, even a printer (sigh. I know we’re dorks). All that said, was I EVER happy to sleep in my own bed, take a real shower, eat without a project plan, and have, you know, 60 seconds without people inches away from me, once we got home.

The next/last ‘5 things’ will include artists supporting artists and uncles vs. girlfriends. Exciting!