My Epitaph, from an 8 year old

 

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An 8 year old friend at our church gave this mug to me last night at Life Group. Isn’t it adorable?

Since then, I keep thinking, If that’s what it says on my tombstone someday, I’ll have done alright…”

Until recently, I have given no thought whatsoever to what I would want carved in granite over my body’s final resting place. The plan is that I’ll be hanging out in heaven (where the events of the past 7-8 years have secured me an EPIC condo with simultaneous views of the Atlantic, Pacific, and a wide swath of the Mediterranean…) So I haven’t considered how I’ll be remembered here on earth.

Then last week, my friend Sonya, in town from Hawaii to speak at our women’s retreat, invited me up to the North Shore to spend a day writing together. We had solid artistic intentions. But it turns out what we both needed was time to talk. It was as if we each had pieces to a larger puzzle of shared experiences, and this was an opportunity to see  how they fit together.

We had a long breakfast overlooking the ocean. Then out of nowhere she asked, “Do you want to see my favorite headstones?”  

Of course, my gut reaction was No. I mean, that’s weird, right? We were by the ocean, drinking coffee, with an endless supply of carbohydrates. Why would we move?

But of course I said Yes. I’ve been at this Jesus thing long enough to know that when a respected friend invites you to do something a bit peculiar, the Kingdom of God is often at hand.

So off we went.

A few winding miles from our breakfast table, Sonya introduced me to two of her heroes:  Ebenezer and Abigail Cleaveland.

They lived on Boston’s North Shore in the late 1700’s. He was a pastor. She probably was too, although that sort of thing was entirely informal in those days.  They lived long lives in a tough climate. What stood out to me most was that they believed in free grace – the idea that we don’t earn God’s love, or Jesus’ salvation, or the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We receive them. We respond to Jesus’ offer of love, forgiveness, freedom and help. And as we respond, we are saved. This was a radical stance in Puritan New England. And yet Ebenezer and Abigail lived long, full, intense lives…and they finished well.

Sonya said something so poignant as she showed me these headstone inscriptions: “We make public statements about who we are and what we stand for every day on social media. But back then, this was your one chance to tell the world what your life was about and what mattered to you.”

I’d never thought of it like that.

She described how, in the aftermath of a difficult season in their lives, she and her husband Jordan found comfort in this couple’s legacy, as well as faith to move forward toward their own. Sometimes when you’re in the midst of betrayal and loss, it helps to have someone to look to who has forged a path through the darkness. You need someone up ahead who is saying with their lives, The Light is real. Keep going. It matters! 

And then I got to tell her how she and Jordan have done that for us.

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We had a good time, there in the cemetery. As we watched the boats fishing out in the harbor (Ebenezer & Abigail have A VIEW!) it made me wonder in a new way what it means to be from a place. Not in terms of preferred sports teams, or whether or not you own winter clothes, or if your reaction to an approaching stranger is to invite them in for dinner or pretend you don’t see them. But to be the ones who were born into God’s plan for a place. Perhaps those things matter more than we realize. Steve grew up in Cambridge. I’m from Southern Maine. In some way, we’re decedents of Ebenezer and Abigail, charged with living out the message that even in the midst of this harsh, beautiful New England climate, God is near and He has something better for us.

This morning, as I look at this mug from my sweet little friend, it gives me vision for how I want to live these days in this awesome place. I’m usually funny – it’s a genetic thing. Sometimes I’m kind because I try. But happy has been a bit of a stretch goal. Enough so that when it comes, I know for sure that it’s God. Telling stories about how that unfolds is a fun way to spend a life.

I want that to be my legacy – that we helped others make that connection, here in this place that I’m convinced really IS the best place in the world to be. It seems like something worth living…and dying… for.

The Amish Nun Strikes Again!

Last night we went to a Gala to raise money for Cambridge Family & Children’s Service, the awesome organization that helped us adopted the Cherubs. Last year, my friend Super-G & I went. This year, Greenhouse Mission sponsored a table. (Next year we hope to WOW THE ROOM with a 40 person roller skating performance to the tune of Stayin’ Alive, but the room has carpet, so we have a few things to figure out…)

mentioned before how I had a bit of a struggle over what to wear to the Gala (and how I don’t do well with dresses generally), and that I turned to Stitch Fix in my hour of need, hoping they’d find me a certain dress. My algorithm/stylist Katelyn tried, she really did. And while I was cautiously optimistic when I opened the box and saw this pretty array of Spring possibility…

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My hopes were crushed in a brutal collision with reality.  Let me remind you…

The dress in a picture:

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The dress on me:

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You know it’s bad when your first reaction to a photo like this isn’t, “I need to delete this immediately…” but rather, “Oh I need to show this to EVERYONE!”

So last night, after trying on all four dresses I own, I went back to the Amish Nun Dress. It IMG_5654really was the best of the bunch, and I knew that I wouldn’t run into the same Everyone  else is wearing a ball gown issue I had with Steve’s holiday party. I wore cuter shoes this time. Honestly, I thought I’d be okay.

I walked into the gala feeling cute & confident. But then, out of nowhere, I was TOTALLY BUSTED.

A nice woman I’ll call D came up to chat. I’ve met her before at other CFCS events, as she’s on their Board. She’s really fun so was excited to see her. BUT THEN she told me, trying not to laugh, that SHE READS THIS BLOG. She even forwards the link to friends (Hi Kathryn!) And therefore she knew that not only was I not wearing the Stitch Fix dress, I was wearing my Amish Nun ensemble. Again.

I was hilariously mortified.

Just as I was struggling to justify my choice (I was working on a line about how Nuns help children, so it was the right thing to wear…) she confessed her own dress struggle, and mine faded far into the background. She gave me permission to share it here, and you should thank her now.

D. told me that, as she got dressed that morning, she thought she looked pretty good. She called to her husband for his take on things, and he (being a wise man of discernment and kindness) told her gently, “Um, something’s not right in the front…” She could see what he meant – things around the tummy area were bunched up in an unusual way. But she couldn’t hone in on the problem and had to get on with her day.

Later, she discovered the problem. She had her Spanx on backwards. 

Her shapewear was diligently doing it’s job in all the wrong directions, lifting and separating her tummy into butt cheeks.

I laughed so hard my face hurt.

I feel like this is a theme of my week – how, when we get together with our hopes and dreams and stories, and lift each other up by sharing the funny things that happen, the atmosphere changes. The world actually becomes a better place.

Thank you, D. for making my night! (I so wish we’d grabbed a picture!)

Here’s part of our Greenhouse Mission crew at our table.

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Behind us you can see some of the young ladies who live in one of the CFCS group homes. The money we were raising will go to support them, and the young men at the next table, as they transition into adulthood. Such a cool thing to be part of. If you want to donate to CFCS and the work they do, click here and be part of the fun.

And if you’re curious about the rest of my “Fix,” here’s a gallery:

 

I liked the purple pants more than I expected. But can’t really see them becoming a key part of my wardrobe, so back they went. I loved the off-white top, until I realized it’s entirely sheer in the back (not nearly as sexy as it sounds). Back it went. And the shorts were so cute! But huge in the waist and, well…bunchy in the front. Back they went. But I kept a blue sweater! I’ve worn it 4 times already and received at least 3 compliments, so I’m taking that as a solid investment.

At last weekend’s women’s retreat, several us us were attired by Stitch Fix, so much so that we had a running joke about getting “Stitch Fix 4 Jesus!” bracelets with the tagline, If we look good, HE looks good!

We won’t actually do that. :)

If you feel like you’re in a style rut, give it a try. (If you place your first order via this link, I get a small discount on my next Fix. Thank you!) You might get a whole new outfit…or maybe just a nice sweater that goes with everything. That’s part of the adventure. And now you know that if something looks wonky, the first thing to do is check to see if you have your Spanx on backwards!

We’ll file this post under fashion tips ;)

The Rest of Yesterday’s Story

Yesterday I had a bit of a rant. I wasn’t sure whether or not to post it. It had the potential to come across as full-on ungratefulness for all I have, and I am astoundingly blessed. It hasn’t been that long since I felt astoundingly NOT blessed (to the point where Steve and I actually had the conversation, “Do you think we might be cursed? Because in the Bible, lives like ours mean you’re cursed…”)  and so I don’t take what I have now lightly.

But here’s the thing: every answered prayer brings with it parts that drive you bananas. And every “here’s a look at my life” blog (or book) brings the temptation to only show the parts where you’re crushing it – not the parts where it’s crushing you.

I don’t want to do that. As disappointing as it is to watch someone who has something you’d give ANYTHING to have complain about it, it’s even worse to witness their seemingly perfect life and wonder why you’re not as constantly chipper and celebratory and just as thrilled to be alive as they are.

I’ve had those thoughts.

Why aren’t I capturing our lives in heirloom-quality candid photographs? Why don’t I have a capsule wardrobe? Or a in-home craft corner? Or a partnership with artisans in emerging nations whose wares I feature on my blog? Why don’t we do game nights? What does it mean that Steve wants to give up on the 1000 piece puzzle we attempted during vacation but I want to leave it out because it means we can just eat dinner in the kitchen? WOULD WE BE HAPPIER IF WE HAD CHICKENS??? 

I’m not even kidding. I’ve actually wondered if our lives might be more peaceful & happy (and heirloom-quality photo worthy) if we installed a coop of pecking, pooping BIRDS in our backyard. Because nothing says SERENITY NOW! and HONEY, TAKE A PICTURE! like your dog’s mouth filled with the feathers of Clyde the Clucker. Thankfully, my sister reminded me of the time THAT NIECE came home from a farm visit covered in bird lice. That cured my chicken fantasy once and for all.

But why did I have it in the first place?

I share about the things I struggle with in an attempt to make my online life look a little bit like my actual life. Yes, I untag myself from unflattering Facebook pictures. But then I circle back and tell you that the tummy rolls are so out of hand, they require professional intervention. 

The other day, someone asked me, “Who reads your blog?” I thought for a moment and realized that in my imagination, you guys are curious about adoption, wondering about what faith looks like in the midst of real life, and/or just interested in an entertaining story.

All of these things have ups and downs, and none of them are true or encouraging or memorable if they skip the hard parts. But to be really good, they also need a satisfying ending that leaves the main character in a place the reader feels good about. So let me do that for you:

My day yesterday was not all bad. Yes, the morning was rainy and rocky and emotionally perhaps not my best (given that whole hiding out on the third floor thing.) But then it was REDEEMED. The sun came out. I had lunch with a friend. I’ll call her JESUS POWER GIRL because she is so openheartedly encouraging everywhere she goes. She was full-on hands in the air praising God for something right there at our lunch table in the middle of Cambridge yesterday (not a common sight, to put it mildly) and the people around us were all smiling and nodding because the happiness is so contagious when she’s around. Then she told me about when she had three teen boys living with her, and how she was grossed out for years by the household aftermath of those sweet, smelly young men. But now they’re successful, launched actual men, and it’s worth it.

And with that, I got my eye back on the ball.

Thanks for hanging with me when there are dips in the ride. I know they’re not as fun as the slow climb to new heights. But if someone told me about a roller coaster and didn’t mention that I’d be terrified and furious for significant parts of the experience, I’d find it hard to trust them.

I’d rather have you trust me than think I’m perfect.

Friendships, High School & Advice for #2 Cherub

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My friends (Amy, Holly, Pam, Me, Theresa, Trissi, & Jodi) in our senior year at Kennebunk High School.

Two related things happened this weekend:

First, I learned that my High School Reunion is coming up this summer (!!!). I’ve never been to one, and I’m surprisingly excited to go. And second, #2 Cherub asked if I would preach a sermon series at church about friendships. Specifically, the friendships that happen during the school years of life, when you have less control over things like who is in your class and where you sit.

This sent me on a wild trip down memory lane, as I pulled out photo albums and wondered where my yearbook landed the last time we moved.

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Senior Skip Day with my best friend, Amy.

 

I don’t remember receiving specific advice about friendship when I was a kid. We were taught as toddlers to share, not to push or call each other names, and that if we could manage an hour or so of outside play where no one came back bleeding, there was often cookies & Kool Aid in the deal to make it worth our effort.

As we got older, we were expected not to be bullies (although some kids were.) We were expected to be respectful and polite (although some kids weren’t.) There was a lot of teaching about behavior, but not much that I recall about friendship. (How you handled the former more or less governed how you experienced the latter.) I think this system served us pretty well and prepared us for life: No one was ALWAYS popular, it was okay to have friendships across different groups, and I gained a ton of abstract understanding about humanity – primarily that friendships have seasons and that somehow in the complexity, things work out.

But #2 Cherub wants specifics. She is very “have a plan and work it” in her approach to life, so I want to give her solid pieces to consider as she makes her plan.

So I ask you, fine readers: What specific, tangible advice would you give about making and keeping (and ending) friendships? 

One caveat: PLEASE don’t say, “Be Kind.”

Let me explain…

Kindness is the primary relationships narrative taught at her school right now. It looks lovely on a banner, but is not all that helpful in the depths of actual tween/teen relationships. It’s a starting point, obviously. But it’s not even close to the total skill set you need to build healthy, fun relationships.

I don’t think my friends and I were always kind to one another. We were pretty real. Caring. Occasionally b*tchy. Supportive. We had spats and subgroups and times when some weren’t speaking to others. As challenging as some of those aspects were, were learned a ton as we figured things out.  Yes, it sucks to go to school when one or more of your friends isn’t speaking to you. But it toughens you up. And you learn that these things don’t last forever, and at some point you won’t remember what even caused the rift. And how to move forward (or, as I learned later in life with different friends, to move on.)

When I look at the challenges my daughter faces now, I wonder if all this pressure to be KIND – nice, nonjudgmental, endlessly accepting to the point that there is no room to consider her actual response to people and situations – is part of the mean girl epidemic we see?

Don’t get me wrong. There have always been mean girls. But you could usually look behind it and see, even as a kid, “Oh, I bet that’s why she’s like that.” I don’t remember it being a norm, or something expected of a certain group of girls. I feel like we limit the development of nuanced skills when all the emphasis is on being KIND.  Because if you’re not KIND, you’re pretty much only left with MEAN. So you might as well make the most of it.

So now I’m wrestling with what to teach #2 about friendships. Because I think they matter so much.

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See this picture? My Dad calls it, “The National Honor Society…and Trish.” :) It’s not even an insult – just a candid acknowledgement of my priorities during those years (shopping, anyone?)

I applied to colleges primarily because that’s what these friends were doing. I first visited Wheaton because it gave me an excuse to see my then-boyfriend at Boston College. So much of life is what you wind up in the middle of because of who (whom?) you’re with. (Cue joke about needing a iufriend who loves grammar…)

I just don’t think “be kind to everyone” offers enough as a governing principle. It’s like an Allen wrench: it’s either exactly what you need in the moment, or of little use at all.

 But what’s the better advice?

Tell me…What would you tell your school-age self about friendships?

What would you tell a school-age kid today? 

Big Hopeful Thoughts From Our Trip to Hawaii!

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I am way behind where I thought I’d be in sharing with you about our trip to Hawaii! We’ve been home for a week now, and each day I sort of wander around and do what needs to be done, but allthewhile I’m lost in kind of a reverie, thinking about God.

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Our friend Jordan preaching last Sunday. He and his wife Sonya (they used to live in Cambridge, which is how we’re connected to them) founded Bluewater Mission.

Okay, that sounds creepy. But it’s not. It’s filled with surreal joy.  These thoughts aren’t dreamy or delusional. They’re the outcropping of the incredible, concrete things we heard and saw and got to be part of in the Bluewater Mission faith community over the ten days we were on Oahu. (When you click on the link & see the slide show of pictures on the home page, imagine me & Steve under that basketball hoop, looking VERY untanned and New England-y, doing church with these awesome people – most of whom hugged us at one point or another. There is much hugging in Hawaii!)

photo copyAmidst all the hugging and warm welcome, we got to hear peoples’ STORIES. We got know men and women who not long ago were homeless, or victims of human trafficking, or strung out on drugs, who are now clear-eyed and excited, working really hard and getting real help – not just prayers and pep talks (although there are lots of those) but also a place to live, friends to love and do life with, a restaurant called Seed in which to work to earn money and learn skills.  Home, friends, a job, hope for the future. That sounds like the recipe for a new life, doesn’t it? I mean, who DOESN’T need these things?

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Shopping for baskets for Seed with our friend Robyn, another former Cantabridgian!

And it wasn’t just this sort of transformation. On a more behind-the-scenes level, we also got to witness the redemption God has brought to the leaders who are making this all happen: how Jesus has taken negative things that have been said to them or about them in regard to their personality/talents/dreams (“That will never work, stop suggesting it,” or “You’re not the person I think of when I consider a project like that…”) and turned the world upside down to create space for them to live into these dreams and THRIVE.  Of course, it’s practically killing them. They’re exhausted and beyond themselves and in water so deep they have no hope of finding land anytime soon, or perhaps ever. But they are swimming. And experiencing, minute-by-minute, that miraculous thing where God breathes air into your desperate lungs and keeps you afloat in the midst of impossible situations, giving you a front-row seat as He rescues people.

I tear up every time I think of it. This is why I’m walking around in a happy daze talking to God, asking Him what this means for us here in New England. Getting excited about transformation and redemption and seeing in real time Jesus’ promise that what is impossible with men is possible with God.  I am so excited about this, I’m having a little trouble functioning like a normal person again. But that’s okay. Being a normal person was never my strong suit :)

If you’d have told me years ago that one day, friends would send my husband and me on a 10-day trip to Hawaii, pay for our flights and hotels (I mean, WHO DOES THAT? Jesus’ people.

That’s who!),  and that the highlights of swimming in turquoise blue surf in late-February

Painting trim at Seed!

Painting trim at Seed!

and drinking mai-tais on the beach at sunset would be more than matched by the wonder of painting trim and washing dishes and shopping for 20 lbs of onions and 25 packages of shabu-shabu beef at a grocery store hidden behind a concrete wall (our credit card balked at this – apparently guests of the Royal Hawaiian don’t often find their way inland to make bulk purchases of beef & produce. Which  is a shame. They should!) for a new restaurant founded to bring justice to a community we’d never heard of and could barely pronounce…I’m not sure what I would have said. It’s all unbelievable, and yet it’s true.

Such is life in the Kingdom of God.

Wherever we go, that’s where the party is

Thank you all so much for sharing in my sorrow as I said goodbye to THAT DOG. It has been harder than I expected. Your words and comments (and voicemails and texts) helped more than I can describe. Thank you.

Okay, on to today!

imagesNormally, I’d post my notes from the weekend sermon. And I wrote a sermon! It was a hum-dinger, guaranteed to change your life and connect you to God in ways that would transform EVERYTHING! Well, I’m kidding about that. But it was a good one.

But on Sunday morning, as we were setting out the bread and wine and preparing to spend time with God (rather than painting, or sawing pieces of old wainscoting to reuse, or trying to figure out what type of sandwich to make for dinner), my friend Pascha called. “We’re at home today,” she said. “Want to come over and do church together?”

We put the glass of wine back in the fridge & repackaged the bread. We spent an hour shoveling our way out of the driveway and went to spend the morning with our friends. It was glorious. A bonus blessing that caught me by surprise.

When we got there, Pascha’s husband Paul pulled out the bible passages from the Book of Common Prayer, and we spent the morning talking about Jesus’ admonitions to stay in our own lane, let his light shine through us, and be salty (one of my favorites of Jesus’ marching orders).  And I was reminded of the verse from a song that I guess was popular 10-15 years ago, but I just found recently. It describes a life where you see God doing cool stuff everywhere you go. The main line goes, “Wherever we go, that’s where the party is!” This strikes me as solid choice for a life theme :)  Paul and Pascha, Gretchen, and (now that I think of it) most of my friends all have this quality. It makes life fun.

Pascha fed us all delicious soup & homemade challah, and I decided on the spot that I also want to be the type of person who has the necessary items on hand to have an assortment of people over for a spontaneous gathering and feed them well.

It was a good day. The basis of the sermon I’d prepped was this passage where Jesus tells us not worry about the things we need in life, but to seek first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness, and all the other things will be added to our lives, too. Dropping our plan to gather with friends felt like step in that direction.

It’s A Start

Not our friends or our living room. But note the squished in-ness.

Not our friends or our living room. But note the squished in-ness!

Steve and I are starting a faith community here in our living room.  We’ll meet for the first time on Sunday, December 29th, at 10:00am.

There will be prayer, a sermon, and some time to quiet the chaos of life and listen in to what God might be saying to each of us.

Steve and I are starting this because we like being in a community where we help each other figure out what God is saying and doing. It adds to life, shaping the rhythm of your week in a way nothing else does. Our approach to faith was formed in this sort of gathering about a decade ago, in what was called a small group – a phrase always spoken with a hint of irony, as those groups rarely stayed small for long, and were comprised of people willing to squish over a bit on the couch or floor to make room for new people each week. We talked and laughed and hoped together, looking at the Bible to help us make sense of it all and figure out how to respond. It was a powerful, transformative thing.

Part of what we learned was that when you explore Jesus together, you become a sort of second family. It’s surprising, actually, how people you may not have much in common with outwardly become allies in your life. There’s something about believing together – that that Jesus cares for us, speaks to us, and has a purpose for our lives…and that a primary way we discover what that is and how to pursue it is by squishing together in the living room to talk and learn and pray.  It’s kind of miraculous…and also very cool.

More than a decade later, we are surprised (and grateful) to realize that these ties are still strong – we are STILL family, still helping and encouraging and being for each other in amazing ways, even though we are all living in different places and attending different churches. The bond still holds.

This feels like a time and a chance to “add to the family.”

If you live in Greater Boston and are wondering what God might be saying to you, or how to respond to what He is doing in your life, this might be something to check out.  Send me an email (TrishRyanOnline AT Gmail dot com) and I’ll give you directions to our house and answer any questions.

So that’s the start: On Sunday the 29th, Steve and I (along with THAT DOG) will be in our living room, celebrating God. You’re invited.

5 or 7 Things

images-2There’s one of those memes going around on Facebook right now where a friend gives you a number and you post that many things about yourself that most people don’t know. I love these. I love learning things about people that just don’t come up in everyday conversation – pet peeves, secret talents, childhood memories that stuck with you. It’s awesome.

Yesterday, two friends gave me numbers after I liked their posts. That’s when I realized that, as someone who has been blogging since before Al Gore was born, there’s really not anything you guys don’t already know.

I’ve covered my deepest fears (the dentist, salad), my weirdest summer job (butter girl), assorted things about the place I grew up (Maine), and all the ridiculous things I tried in my 20s to make my life work (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, now on special for just $3.99!)

As I wrestled with this, I realized that not much has changed about me since I wrote those things. But lots of things have changed about life. So I’m amending the meme just a bit, to be 5 or 7 Things That Have Surprised Me recently. Here we go:

1. A family member I hadn’t see or talked to in 13 years tracked me down online by Googling “Trish, Maine.” It has been so awesome to be back in touch with her.

2. Friends surprised us recently with an act of stupendous generosity. I can’t get over it (and still don’t entirely believe it’s real.) I’m inspired and grateful.

3. I’m REALLY sad that Friday Night Lights didn’t continue forever. We just watched all the seasons, and I care about those characters way more than is rational. I get a little heartbroken whenever I see one of them in some other context and am forced to admit that these are actors, and that Matt & Julie aren’t living in Chicago, finishing school and planning their wedding.

4. We’re packing to move. The more stuff I hide in boxes, the better the rooms in our place look. I think I might be becoming a minimalist. Which is not like me at all.

5. I’m not jealous of authors who are more successful than I am anymore. This wasn’t a big problem before. It was just something I was aware of, floating inside of me, that I chalked up to an occupational hazard. But now, for whatever reason, it’s gone. It feels really good to be super excited about different books and not wish I had written them.

6. We stopped going to church about a year ago and it’s been a pretty good thing for us. Weekends where you have two full days off are kind of nice :)  We’ll go back soon, I think. I miss it. But it’s been healthy to realize that all the stuff written about how if you’re not always in community, always serving, always using your talents for building the church, your faith will slip away…are just opinions.

7. A couple of weeks ago, I went to two gatherings of friends from our old church. It was amazing to realize how those years together knit us into a family, and how that has not changed. We’re scattered all over now, like a bunch of cousins who grew up in the same town & then spread out. But our roots are the same, and that makes us “for” each other in a way I hadn’t considered. It was wonderful.

Okay, there is my attempt at the meme. Even with the change, this took me 2 hours of thinking. In the time I wrote this post, I also took THAT DOG to the groomer and back, packed 4 boxes of stuff, and wrote a book review.  Which tells me that I need to find a way to be much more interesting between now & the next time this meme comes around!

Happy Weekend All :)

Whiplash

I have whiplash. Emotionally, that is. There’s this weird “What next?” question that hits after a big event is over. It leaves me casting about for some fun new distractions around which to organize my free time.

A13042350A friend from the West Coast messaged yesterday and said, “I miss you guys!” She and I haven’t seen each other in person in months (years?) because our lives are on different coasts, so it was so great to watch the games “together”  knowing we and a bunch of our friends would be be glued to our televisions and our computers, trading complaints about the Fox Sports commentators, and bolstering our certainty that Twizzlers served in a Red Sox travel mug are THE snack that would ensure World Series success.  (I credit the 6th inning of Game 4 to our group decision to switch from popcorn to peanut butter-based snacks, a choice that involved fifteen minutes of weighing options and a conversation about Jimmy Carter.)

You can see why now I’m at a bit of a loss.

UnknownSpeaking of Jimmy Carter, I imagine this is how former Presidents feel the day after leaving office. Yesterday, there were so many weighty, vital decisions to make. Today, there are no decisions, and I’m just trying to write my memoirs and wondering what to have for lunch.

Yes, that’s it. My life is JUST like that of the former Presidents! (Filing that under #perspective and #delusion)

I’m grateful for how events like this bring me back together with people from every part of my life.  I’m terrible at keeping in touch. Really, epically bad. The kind of bad that lets loose all the adverbs.  But today, as the first day of the month during which we have platitudes about gratefulness shoved at us from every direction, I’m going to scroll through the comments here on the blog, and friends on Facebook and Twitter, and think about how happy I am to know all of you. I think that will soothe the whiplash :)

It’s a Hoot!

photoI spent Saturday at the Wheaton Alumni Leadership Conference, soaking in the gorgeous foliage (Wheaton is SMART to have us return to campus in October rather than February) and connecting with new and old friends. I’d forgotten how good it feels to get together based on this one shared facet of our life experiences.

One of my favorite moments was in a social media workshop (I’m the social media chair for my class) where Molly Galler from the class of 2006 did a great job explaining Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & WordPress to a group of older alums. The take homes for me:

FIRST, how Wheaton is a place I find mentors, even now. Each time I return, I’m reminded by other alums how part of being a Wheaton grad is an ability to think, grow, and expand your horizons. Not that graduates of other schools don’t have this too – It’s just such a focus at Wheaton that after four years of immersion, it’s sort of in you in a way most of us don’t shake, even after graduation. Returning to campus stirs that back up in a way that’s really helpful. How often do you get to go to a place where people tell you BOTH that you’re doing great where you are…AND that you can accomplish something bigger or new or other if you want to? That’s a powerful combination.  I love how our older alums resist the temptation of, “Oh that’s for the younger folks…”  They’re willing to be beginners, ask questions, and try things.  I suspect this is the work-around for midlife crises: staying engaged and interested, being willing to be the only one in the room who admits you don’t get it yet, but that you’re going to.  I’m grateful for this annual reminder that as life keeps getting bigger, I can grow with it.

images-1-The second thing that made my day was this one alum – I think she’s in the Class of 1977 – describing how a couple of hours earlier, she’d posted her first picture to her new FB page, and had already seen two or three friends respond online.  “It’s Just a hoot!” she said.  At first I just giggled the way you sometimes do when someone uses an expression that’s no longer common. But then later that afternoon I thought about my own first experience years ago, figuring out how to get a picture to appear on my FB page, picking a funny caption, and then watching over the course of that day as friends from all over the country responded. It was a hoot!

Once in awhile (read: way more often), I need to step back from all these things that are now “normal” parts of our lives and marvel at them for a moment. It’s incredible, what we’ve learned and adapted to. And as much as naysayers love to prattle on about how awful screen time is and how online friendships can’t replace connecting in real life over coffee, I’m feeling the urge to celebrate what networks like Facebook and Twitter (not to mention my new obsession, Happier) make possible. Thanks to those, I’m connected with you all, and I enjoy more support, connection, camaraderie, and friendship than any other time in my life. The likelihood that I’ll remember anyone’s birthday has gone up 100% (I’ve never been great with dates) and over the course of a typical day, I get to interact and catch up with great people, and build relationships across a far wider slice of life than I could pull of via connecting in real life over coffee, no matter how many miles I travelled (or how much caffeine I could hold). As a memoir writer, I love how we’re all building our stories here online, one post at a time.

It’s a hoot, and I’m grateful for the reminder.