The Story of Our Staycation

In an Easter miracle that feels every bit proportional to Jesus rising from the dead, we managed to pull off a school vacation that didn’t suck.

Easter 2017

I am awed and grateful. I’m not even sure how to describe it, so I’ll just post a bunch of pictures with a few words to record this moment in time.

First, we had the two year anniversary of the day we met the Cherubs. We did not celebrate this, however. I tried that last year, asking #2, “What do you remember about that night?” to which she replied, “We just cried. We didn’t want to leave where we were to go live with strangers.” Yikes. So this year, we left this one right alone. Next month, we’ll celebrate Adoption Day, and then Moving In With Us day in June. But now we leave Nice To Meet You Day out of the picture. Lesson Learned.

We DID celebrate Easter, my favorite holiday.  At church we had art by Grace & Reena, and music about the incredible things we believe.

I preached about the Boston Marathon, and how cool it is that, four years after the Marathon Bombing, no one talks about who did it or why. Instead, everyone talks about the overcoming that happened in the aftermath, and how the words Boston Strong define who we are and what we love about living here. There are Boston Strong signs and t-shirts everywhere. I love it.

Then we prayed for Gwen & J.J. our two friends who’d be running the next day.  So inspiring.

Speaking of inspiring, Steve & I had a date afterwards! The Cherubs went on an overnight with their grandparents, and we went out for long relaxing lunch, after which we came home and RIPPED UP our bedroom.

And no, I don’t mean that as a metaphor.

Remember I told you about the stairs? And how that led us to some conclusions about the gross, hazmat-y rug?

Well, the project expanded in scope almost immediately. Replacing the floor somehow led to repainting the bathroom sink cabinet, pulling up all the baseboards, and taking down a wall.

Here is my inspiration photo:

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Here is what I woke up to this morning:

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Really, we’re practically there.

But I’m happy to report that there are now 10 contractor bags of gross rug down in a bagster next to the driveway, and our floor is now covered in lovely maple boards on which no dog has peed. I’m taking that as a win.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the week was watching Gwen finish the Marathon. Her friend J.J. flew up from Florida to run with her, and spoke at church about how friends run all different kinds of marathons together, cheering each other on and helping through the touch stretches. A bunch of us gathered in an office space overlooking the finish line to watched them cross, and as they crossed, we all pretended to have something in our eyes. Tissues all around for the big wins.

Finish Line Gwen and JJ

 

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Then Steve, the Cherubs & I walked back over the bridge into Cambridge. It felt like such a long distance, but our attitudes were kept in check by all the tinfoil wrapped people we passed who’d just run 26 miles, and the glorious sky over the city, and the fun of having something like this happen for people we love, in a place we love. Really, it was all the gushy feelings, accompanied by some sore legs.

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Speaking of sore legs – I went to the gym. Three times. My first session was with a trainer who is Irish and seven months pregnant, which means we looked like twins. I won’t post pictures of that. I’ll just say that I’m glad I can slide in my socks across the new wood floors as a form of travel rather than having to pick up my feet for each new step.

Happy Monday, All.

He is risen, indeed.

My Fashion Woes

A couple of months ago, I went to Steve’s company holiday party dressed like an Amish

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If you look closely, you can see the patch pockets! #classycocktail!

nun. I didn’t mean to.  The dress code was “classy cocktail,” which I interpreted to mean, Like you’re coming from work, only a step up. I found a cute preppy dress from Tommy Hilfiger. It was a little big, but I kind of liked that; I’m not exactly in top form right now. I paired it with a jacket & boots because it was about thirteen degrees that night. And yes, I knew that I looked a bit like I was there to serve a warrant. But Boston has a pretty wide professional dress code. I was sure it would be fine.

We walked into the venue a bit early (it’s so hard to calculate traffic across the city) and I knew instantly that I’d screwed up.

Friends, the sequins were blinding. Hair had been professionally done. Hours had been invested in mani-pedi-facials. There were GOWNS. Everyone looked elegant, upscale, and GORGEOUS.

I glanced at Steve and whispered, “Wow. I really miscalculated…”

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I didn’t even realize until later when I saw this picture that we MATCHED. We look like an audition tape for The Real Housewives of Ultra Conservative County.

He looked mortified for me. We checked our winter coats, and took a picture in front of an unavoidable step & repeat that stood between us and the bar. I prayed for a camera malfunction. We walked into the mostly-empty room and I took a deep breath. I knew had a decision to make: I could ruin this night with my embarrassment, or I could figure out another way. So I decided to fight for it. I looked up at the seventeen Buddha statues decorating the restaurant and said, “Jesus, I know you’re here somewhere…I could really use some help…”

We found a place to stand with our drinks & small plates. I made it a point to talk to Steve about things OTHER THAN how underdressed I was. And when he introduced me to people, I did not say a single embarrassed word about my outfit, because nothing makes social situations worse than that.

We had a great night. Everyone I met was fantastic, and we had so many deep, good conversations about biotech, writing, faith, and adoption. Yes, I felt awkward the whole time. As much as we’re not supposed to care what we wear, and we’re supposed to appreciate each other for what’s on the inside, blah, blah, blah… my missing the cues on the dress code meant the night was way more emotional effort than I wanted it to be, at a time (right after the holidays) when I didn’t have a lot of extra fight in me. I’m so glad we went. But I’m not sure I’ll ever wear that dress again.

***

I thought of this the other day as I caught up on the blog of a fellow memoirist who had a baby last year at the age of 46. As she described her woes in getting dressed, and how her body feels lumpy and odd in ways it never was before, I realized: I ALSO have a one-year postpartum body. Only I never gave birth.

It’s pitiful. Don’t you think the benefit of adopting should be that I don’t look like I have kids??? But nope. I got dressed the other day and realized I looked like a big marshmallow covered in denim & 2-ply cashmere. But I think the problem is less about having too much size, and more about having lost my style: Last week when I wore a ponytail to church, one of the teens came up and said, “Miss Trish! You look so different!”

You know you’re in a rut when a ponytail is a bold move forward.

So you can imagine how my curiosity was peaked when that blog friend talked about her clothing woes and how she’d just received a box from a company called Stitchfix that mails you clothes. She was going to POST PICTURES of her in the new items (!!??!) I was horrified/captivated/in awe: wasn’t that the equivalent of taking the entire internet with you as you try on jeans at Target???

She has awesomely sarcastic humor, so I was excited to see how she’d skewer the experience of trying clothes picked out by a complete stranger on a body that shifted daily in all sorts of unplanned directions.

She kept every cute thing in that box. (They send 5 things. You pay $20 for the styling service, which is credited against anything you buy. And there’s 25% off if you decide to keep everything. Apparently, this is a whole thing that’s been happening for years. Enter Trish in her Amish ensemble, a little late to the party…)

(I’ll admit, I was a bit salty that she found a dress, because I have this secret theory that people who look good in dresses and like them have ALL THE DRESSES. It’s like the dresses know. The rest of us get a boy dress with patch pockets. But whatever.)

In a fit of I don’t even know what, I signed up for a Stitchfix delivery of my own. I think I was just excited to leave my problem at the feet of an expert (even if that expert is an algorithm supposedly named “Katelyn”). I knew my blog friend would get a $25 referral credit, and that seemed like a way to thank her for being so honest (her blog TITLE is “An Inch of Gray,” referring to her hairline. I love her!) and making me feel less alone in navigating my fashion challenged state.

I had LOW expectations when the box arrived. I liked that it was pretty, and I was prepared for disappointment. I’ll cut to the chase and tell you the miracle: They sent me jeans that fit perfectly. Length, width, everything. It was like they’d been tailored for me.

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I might even wear them to next year’s company party. If I’m going to be underdressed, I might as well really go for it.

The rest of the box was a mix. There was a blue jacket that made me look like I was there to change the oil on your car, and a pair of earrings like ones I already have. Those I sent back. There was a blue floral top that was unbelievably cute once I tried it on.

And then there was the green shirt.

I haven’t owned anything green that doesn’t say “Boston Celtics” on it since about 1975. It’s just not my color, or so I thought. But this shirt was so pretty! It didn’t fit. But still, I loved it so much that I pulled it back out of the return package (they send you a postage-paid return bag you just drop off at the post office) after I’d sealed it, just to try it again. It was still a no. But now I’m on the hunt for a different top in that shade of green.

What that box did for me had almost nothing to do with the actual clothes. It was more about how it energized my thoughts about dressing in general like nothing in recent (or even distant) memory has. The the little style guide gave me ideas for other outfits from things I already have, and I even got back on Pinterest (which I’ve decided is like going to the Mall with your friends, only while lying on the couch by yourself. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but at least now I understand the appeal.) I’m so glad I did this. It’s good for my style and my soul.

It’s good to find help when you need it, and to be reminded that more is possible in life, IMG_5282even with things that shouldn’t be such a big deal, but are. I kept the empty Stitchfix box on the floor of my bedroom for about four days after it arrived, just to remind me of how happy it had made me. That’s some pretty good return on investment.

If you’re in a style rut? Try Stitchfix here. If you use this link, I’ll get a $25 referral credit on your first go, like my blog friend received when I tried. The Cherubs thank you for making their mom slightly less embarrassing.

Let’s Celebrate National Adoption Day (even though it was last Friday)

Last Friday was National Adoption Day. To be honest, I didn’t think much about it, other than to pray for one great little boy we know who was being adopted that day. It had been a busy week and we were headed into a big weekend, so I was kind of distracted.

Then the pictures started coming in. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. New families. Everyone smiling, slightly dazed that this was finally happening, celebrating the miracle of how God has a Plan B for each of us when we need it.  And a bunch of little kids just being little kids, running all over the place and occasionally bursting into tears or wiping food on their beautiful special day clothes.

I was extra excited to see these awesome sisters get adopted. They were featured on a Wednesday’s Child segment last winter and one of the girl’s former teachers (who hadn’t even known they were in foster care) saw the news and said to her husband, Maybe we could be their family? And look at them now! It’s just gorgeous. After years of waiting, at an age where kids usually give up on being adopted, God placed them in their new family. Love, love, love it.

Then this morning I saw this story about a couple who had already adopted one girl and was preparing to adopt two more children…then they found out their first daughter had two siblings who needed a home. So as of Friday, they’re a family of SEVEN. God. Bless. Them. I mean, how awesome? It gives me chills and tears all at the same time.

But here’s what I find most exciting about this story: at the end of the newscast, the reporter said, “There are approximately 600 children in Massachusetts waiting to be adopted.”

600?  That is TOTALLY DOABLE, you guys. Seriously, that’s not even a thing.

Well, it’s a thing at the personal level. You’ll notice when your cherub leaves toothpaste all over your bathroom sink.  The uptick in laundry will be exponential beyond all reason (unless it’s negligible because your cherub is filing his dirty laundry in the lower drawers of his dresser). You’ll have more routines and inside jokes and personal conversations over things you’d forgotten from your own childhood. And sometimes you’ll get so angry that you won’t even be able to remember the consequence you’d decided on for if this behavior happened again, and it will be all you can do not to blurt, “That’s it! You lose everything! No TV…or electronics…or protein…or socks…or…ANYTHING for the rest of the century!!!” But you won’t blurt that. You’ll pride yourself on how much you’re growing in self control :)  You’ll learn that because you’re the parent, you can calm down, give the consequence later, then sit back and enjoy while your cherub vacuums the whole house and then rakes the leaves in the back yard. You’ll realize that some things are a big deal, but most things aren’t. You’ll get awesome at perspective.

It will disrupt your flow, true. But you’ll be part of God’s Kingdom being made real here on earth. That’s in the Lord’s Prayer. The one Jesus recommended.

YOU COULD BE THE ANSWER TO JESUS’ PRAYER!!!

Bet you hadn’t thought of it that way :)

Massachusetts friends, consider adoption. Seriously. 600 kids. We can do this. It’s the best kind of effortful growth.

Spend time on the M.A.R.E. website.

Email Sarah at CFCS and inquire.

Sign up for a MAPP class. When you complete the class, it’s good for five years.

Practice saying, “I’m thinking of adopting a child from foster care.” And then don’t say that to anyone, because people will try to talk you out of it because of some horror story they read or saw on the news. Ignore those stories. You’re not thinking of adopting a horror story. You’re taking a couple of first steps to see if there might be a child for whom you’d be a great parent.

Ask God if He wants you to consider this. Then, when you totally freak out and panic, write a big check to CFCS or MARE. Seriously. Give them lots of cash. It will give you some breathing room AND a tax deduction. If God wants to put adoption back on your radar screen after that, trust me, He knows how to get your attention.

600…599…598… we can do this.

The Remaking

It’s been an interesting week for me artistically.

I’m listening to three songs from Nichole Nordeman’s long-awaited new project, The UnmakingThe basic theme is that sometimes God tears down all the things we build and leaves us standing there, wondering what to do next. Then He rebuilds in ways we never could have imagined. As she says in a promo video, “This was a song I wrote in great hopefulness, after a season of great hopelessness.”

I’m reading Jenny Simmon’s new memoir, The Road to Becoming, about how she lived this exact experience: how her years of touring with the band Addison Road literally blew up when an RV with everything they owned caught fire and burned to the ground. (There’s more to it than that, of course, but that was the straw that took out the camel).  She admits that a year of things breaking lead to her becoming the worst possible version of herself, after which a friend said, “This is the best night of your life, because Jenny, you are about to see God be God.”

I’m thinking about Ryanhood’s CD, After Night Came Sun, and how pretty much every song on that album speaks of this same agony – dashed dreams, disappointment, wondering what on earth to do next and how to keep believing in God.  And how Princess Peach loved one song on that album, the one where they shout out in the middle of the chorus, “I’m falling apart!”

Amidst all this, as I’m remembering the seemingly endless ways my own life ended between 2009-2014, all I can think is, “Holy sh*t! Did ALL the Jesus-ey artists have our lives RUINED during those 5 years? You mean it wasn’t just me?!?”

It’s incredibly comforting not to feel so alone.

Steve and I are on the other side of this season now, THANK YOU JESUS.  (I say that not in a pious, “I always knew he’d come through!” way, but rather with the grateful fatigue of someone who thought she was taking a gentle 2 mile hike but ended up wandering across some stupid mountain range until way past dark, and is sort of astounded to have finally made it back to the parking lot.) We have a new home, new jobs, new cherubs, new hope in what God can do when all that’s left is ashes and rubble and empty wine bottles and tears.

As I listen to Nichole sing, and read Jenny’s words, and remember sitting up late one night talking to the Ryanhood guys in our kitchen when they were in town on tour with their new album Start Somewhere, I’m encouraged about the second part of the story. How part of the REMAKING that follows extreme carnage is ART: Stories told through paragraphs and lyrics and pictures. Puzzles with all the pieces fit together, revealing and reminding us of how God works: that if new hope has not arrived, it’s not the end. This can be hard to believe, and even harder to live. The Remaking happens despite us, not because of us. I guess it’s like yesterday’s post on forgiveness: we can block it, but we can’t make it happen on our timeline. All we can do is stand there and wait. I don’t understand it, but I’ve lived it. And so I spend my days writing about what that looks and feels like so that maybe, like Nichole & Jenny, Ryan & Cameron, my story might be another little flashlight helping others who are struggling to believe in the possibility of our impossible faith.

The last book of the Bible, Revelation, tells us something about overcoming, how it happens “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.” Jesus acts, we tell the story.

That I can do.

Book Review: Walk to Beautiful by Jimmy Wayne

9780849922107Oh My Gosh I love this book.

I started it YESTERDAY.  Finished it TODAY. It is 376 pages, including a center section with photos I had to keep flipping forward and back to as I got to certain parts of the story.  I gave up sleep to keep reading, and sleep is my absolute favorite thing right now since I’ve given up all good food. If all this doesn’t say Must Read Page Turner, I don’t know what does.

Walk to Beautiful is the memoir of country singer Jimmy Wayne.  He opens with a scene of him onstage at Madison Square Garden as he opens a concert for Brad Paisley. Then he returns home to Nashville after the tour and reflects back on the dark, strange path that led him there.

This is the part of the book that captured me, because Jimmy Wayne was a foster kid. He spent his childhood at the mercy of a mother who was a complete lunatic. She abandoned him time and time again–for men, for mood swings, for a chance to be free of responsibility and chase her selfish dreams. He grew up bouncing from home to home in foster care, mostly raising himself.  The word harrowing is a fitting descriptor for his story, but resilient is equally apt. As I read I was so angry at the adults in his life and what absolute selfish morons most of them were (truly, it’s astounding how awful we human beings can be). But at the same time, I was pulling for Jimmy and inspired by how he kept going.

The best part of this book was seeing how he took advantage of the few opportunities that came his way. He highlights key people who, each in their own way, gave him the pieces you need to build a life: discipline, structure, affection.  His description of how he carried around small mementos of each person who had cared for him in some small way broke my heart and made me want to cheer, both.

This is a both/and kind of book.

Read this book. It is entertaining and inspiring.  A great investment of time and money.  And who knows? Maybe it will make you wonder about how you can play a role, big or small, in helping a kid who needs a good grown up on their side.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I’m very glad about this.

 

 

I failed to fail (it’s not the easiest thing to do)

images-1I am on a fitness plan. It’s been two weeks. I did not undertake this on my own, you should know. This is my friend Spanish Girl’s fault. Her gym ran a promotional where members bring in a friend and you compete for 21 days as a team against other member/guest pairs. Whoever loses the highest % body weight wins a small tablet named after eyeballs & fruit. (Spanish Girl‘s husband saw my prior post about fat jeans & chickens and suggested I might be up for this sort of project.)

Now I live a life filled with tension.

On the one hand, I am veeeeeery competitive. I want to win that prize.

On the other, I MISS my sedentary lifestyle. I miss wine and carbs and being able to declare “pasta night!” when I forget to thaw a protein. I miss walking THIS DOG an extra block or two and thinking of myself as deeply devoted to health & fitness.

This was exacerbated the other day when I overheard our trainer talking about how her legs hurt after her workout. That’s when it hit me: This isn’t just for three weeks…this is forever. I’m supposed to do this exercise/eat good food thing for the REST OF MY LIFE.

You’d think I’d have enough perspective on this to appreciate that at 45, I’m at least halfway through this onerous task, whereas that poor trainer girl is in her early 20s and has no real end in sight.

You’d be wrong about that perspective thing. I had none.

Instead, I had a bit of an interior tantrum in response to this late-breaking realization.  Yesterday was a blah day of grumpiness brought on by gray weather and reading yucky things online, so I decided that I was TIRED of being healthy and I was going to binge on delicious junk food. I envisioned bags full of Snickers bars, and me chomping them down one after another with unfettered glee. I was ready to rebel, I tell you.

I was so caught up in this fantasy that I went to our cupboard looking for a bag of Snickers. Not only do we not have Snickers bars, we don’t have a single item of chocolate anywhere in our house. We have NOTHING binge worthy, it turns out. It was pitiful.

I enacted my rebellion by stirring some Pollaner All-Fruit into nonfat Greek Yogurt.

Sigh.

In our high school yearbook, one of the most popular quotes we wise students listed under our pictures to define ourselves was this: “We never failed to fail–it was the easiest thing to do.” It’s from this song by Crosby, Stills & Nash (which you should watch and learn and internalize, because it is just so musically and lyrically incredible).  I thought of this yesterday, and it made me laugh. I failed to fail!  Turns out it’s not as easy as it looks :)

I guess I’ll soldier on. I’ve got eyeball fruit to win.

A mini-manifesto on enthusiasm and aging

images-1Are you enthusiastic or pessimistic about new things? I consider myself a pretty enthusiastic person, but I had a wakeup call on this recently when I read a post by Gretchen Rubin that said something like, “I’m really excited about the technology for automated cars!”  My first thought was, “Wow-I’m not excited about that at all. I think it’s a terrible idea.” I thought of all the times my computer has gone haywire–shutting down spontaneously, losing documents–and what it would be like to have that happen in a car was taking me Unknownthrough Cambridge at rush hour. BAD.

And yet…

I hate driving through Cambridge at rush hour. I’ve arranged my life so that this almost never happens. So what if there might be a way to do this stress free? So that those of us who live around urban centers didn’t have to reroute our plans after 3:30pm because it’s such a high-stakes obstacle course to get across town? Gretchen’s positive outlook made me consider a whole new perspective. It felt good to be curious and enthusiastic rather than concerned. Seriously, I can’t tell you how much better this little shift in attitude about automated cars made me feel. It was like suddenly, the world wasn’t going to hell in a hand basket.

It made me wonder what else I could look at and respond with enthusiasm rather than concern.

I think this might be especially important as we get older. I’ve noticed a definite drift away from enthusiasm now that I’m in my 40s. And a common characteristic of older people is resistance to change and a certain curmudgeonliness. Now, I hope to become a curmudgeon sometime in my 70s–it produces STELLAR writing when channeled effectively. But that’s a ways away. For now, cultivating enthusiasm seems like the way to go.

StTeresaAvilaThis morning I read a little biography of St. Teresa of Avila that focused on exactly this quality: how she believed happy people could accomplish just as much for God as those who are dour.  “May God deliver us from cheerless saints” was her motto. Amen to that!

This fit right in with this line of thought–I think cheerfulness creates a nice little atmosphere for enthusiasm to grow. I want more of that.  So I’m giving myself (and you!) this little bloggy pep-talk, like a line in the sand. When we step over that linebackpack200-BB into the rest of the day, let’s leave grumpiness and cynicism behind. Just dump them. They’re not earning their weight in our backpack.

Today, I’ll LOOK for opportunities to be excited about the life that’s coming at me. It may take some digging, but I like digging, so that’s no problem.  I will look for opportunities to laugh and get excited about things. I’d rather be happy than doubtful/cynical/faux-sophisticated/worldly. And I believe the shift will be worth the effort.

Thank you, Gretchen Rubin. I know you hate to drive, so I hope you get your automated car soon :)

Thank you U2

UnknownHave you listened to the new U2 Album yet? It blew me away.

I was so inspired…

-by the concept (this album is called Songs of Innocence, and will be followed by Songs of Experience. I mean, they might as well be called “Titles I want to steal for future books…”).

-the tribute to Joey Ramone in the opening track.  I especially like that I thought it was about one thing, then read an interview and learned it’s about something entirely different, and I think the song works both ways. Amazing.

-the lyrics. The lyrics! (Are we ready to be swept off our feet and stop chasing every breaking wave?) Words are what make or break a song for me, and this album is filled with word combinations that are careful and important an real.  The gold standard for any writer.

I was so inspired that it paralyzed me. I did not write for two days. I was blown away by this awesome body of finished work that I lost my ability to participate in the earlier part of the process, the part that’s messy and frustrating where all the profound thoughts in your head look silly on paper.  The hill that divides early drafts from finished product is long and steep.  It makes me think, “Why should I bother to write when I can just listen to other people’s songs and read other people’s memoirs? Can’t I live happily, nourished by the excellent writing by other people?”

Yes, and then no.

Great writing nourishes, there’s no doubt about it. Memoir, novel, lyric, poem, speech, rant, tweet…whatever.  When someone else’s words make you think about things in a new way (Are we ready to be swept off our feet and stop chasing every breaking wave?) that’s one of my favorite things in life. I crave it, like oxygen or potato chips.

Also true (remember my both/and from earlier this week?) is that once U2’s lyrics get tossed around in my mind with some similar ones from Ryanhood, an essay I read in the New Yorker about a ballerina, and a couple I met this morning who are celebrating either 65 or 69 years of marriage (they disagree on this detail, and it’s hilarious how at this point it actually doesn’t matter), new thoughts emerge from this melange that help me finish the chapter I’m writing on my friend’s re-marriage to her husband after they were divorced for 7 years. That’s a cool thing to be part of, even though I don’t understand how it works (or why it it disappears for long stretches of time).

Anyway, not sure what my point is here. Listen to the album. Appreciate the gift of these guys who have been working as a team for YEARS to create this. See what it adds to your life.

Happy Friday :)

 

Capacity

I didn’t know I was looking for an extra bit of inspiration this morning. But then I saw these videos about the creation of Seed, a justice-based restaurant in Honolulu…and here I am, inspired :)

I love this quote from my friend Sonya Seng, general manager of the Seed:

“We all have the capacity to change…even me. And if it’s harder than I expected, that’s okay. Because when you’re building capacity that means you’ve come to the end of yourself.”

Enjoy these videos. They’re quick and fun. Let them inspire you.  Let’s pray for these awesome people and the good/hard work of expanding capacity.

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

Fishbowls-success-means-it-is-lifting-other-companies-with-its-inventory-software

Something that stands out to me as I watch US Open tennis is an attitude difference between the veteran players and the up & comers. The veterans lavishly compliment their opponents after a win, and even more so after a loss. They give credit where credit is due (and sometimes even where it isn’t.)  I used to think this was just part of their media training. Then this year I noticed that some of the new players absolutely refuse to say anything about their opponents. Eugenie Bouchard & Sloane Stephens are the two I’ve noticed this with repeatedly. Not only won’t they compliment them, they often refuse to acknowledge them at all. It gets a bit absurd. “I’m just focused on my game” is what they say. Which is a solid match strategy. But it’s a terrible strategy for life.  And the interview after the match? That’s life. That’s when you’re supposed to open your eyes a little bit and acknowledge that there are other people here. It’s not just about you.

I’m not losing sleep about this.  It just comes to mind this morning because this was exactly the kind of thing I expected to find in the book world. I thought it would be competitive, defensive, everyone trying to shove each other out of the spotlight so they could grab 15 minutes for themselves.

I was wrong.

The novelists and memoirists I’ve met are extraordinarily supportive of one another. I’ve seen Richard Russo read another author’s work at an event. Jennifer Weiner goes out of her way to champion new author’s first books.  Allison Winn Scotch blogged for years, sharing what she’d learned. Gretchen Rubin & A.J. Jacobs are the most generous blurb-ers around.  And I told you earlier about Claire Cook, who is now my role model for reinvention and creative persistence. I expected publishing to be like law school (cutthroat, miserable). Instead, it’s this strange world where we all celebrate readers–we’re readers ourselves–and so we know that readers read lots of books, not just one or two. In this industry, a rising tide raises all boats. And even though it’s been low tide for awhile with much of traditional publishing, there are still these rivers that pop up, carrying us along. Knowing this makes being a reader and a writer so very much more fun.

Whatever world you’re, try complimenting others. Especially people who might be considered your competition. There’s surprising power in pushing against the belief that the only way to hold the spotlight is to refuse to let it shine on others.

In that spirit, I give you two books that launch this week. I’ve read them both…I loved them both…blogged about them both. One is a memoir, the other a novel, and they each deal with the question: “How do you respond when life becomes impossible?”   It’s an important question, and books like these help us think it through.  Read these books, share them with others. They’re worth the investment.

Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whiston-Donaldson

I cannot describe how good this memoir is. I tried here. I still didn’t capture it. Anna is one of my favorite new writers and this book is such a gift. Even if you’re afraid to read a sad book (I was) don’t worry…somehow, it isn’t sad. It’s healing, and inspiring. It reminded me how things turn out okay, even when they’re impossible.

Accidents of Marriage: A Novel by Randy Susan Meyers

Wow, stories of domestic abuse are hard for me to read. And yet this one kept me turning pages. I had faith in Randy to work things out, even though nothing in this book went the way that I expected. She is a master of depth and surprise, and I still remember her characters vividly even though I read this weeks ago. 

Here’s to cheering on the rising tide…may it lift your boat, whatever river you’re in :)