Practice

A good friend of mine recently came to the end of a significant relationship in her life. In her grieving, she reached out for some advice from a trusted mentor regarding being gentle with herself. He told her:

Gentle people never cease reminding themselves to be gentle on themselves. They know that even that can turn into another blame and guilt game. We just practice gently reminding ourselves to be gentle, again and again…

One of the authors who is speaking to me on a particularly deep level right now is Sara Avant Stover, author of The Way of the Happy Woman. She writes (with emphasis of my own):

I’ve met enough women to know that you too have a story. … You too are hungry for a deeper connection with yourself and with those who fill your life; and you too want to remember what’s truly important. You long to return to a simpler way of living, one that reminds you to slow down, simplify, value patient practice over quick fixes, care for yourself first, embrace your vulnerability as your greatest strength, and find true, lasting happiness within.

And tonight, while I was waiting for my takeout order from a downtown restaurant, I read about their Everybody Eats program. Every day, this restaurant offers a simple dish of rice and beans. It’s priced on a sliding scale of $2-6. They ask that those who can afford to do so pay the $6, or more. Any surplus goes to pay it forward to those for whom even $2 is a burden. The sign I read said that if you could not afford to pay, you could take a voucher and “practice being cared for.”

So many good things—some of the best things, in fact—are not good because they come easy. They require practice. I’d like to practice reminding myself of these things.

What I’m Reading

I’ve come across a number of articles this week that I just had to share, for one reason or another. They speak to some things that have been running around in my head lately, and I think they’re really good reads:

  • American Girls Aren’t Radical Anymore: As someone who was a huge fan as a child, and someone who still gets her friend to save the catalogs for her, this piece really piqued my interest. I like what it says about local vs. global injustice and how bold we are willing to teach our daughters to be. As a sidenote: I remember being interested in the “just like me” dolls because they came with blank books for you to write your girl’s own story. Anyone else remember that?
  • Why Progressive Christians Should Care About Abortion: This piece is incredibly well-written, and—like one of the commenters said—it makes me feel like I’m not the only one stuck in the middle of an issue that seems to be so deeply divided. However you feel about the issue, I recommend reading this.
  • Five Reasons Why Odd Bedfellows in Tourism Campaigns Are Brilliant: This one is more work related, but I think these campaigns are brilliant and admire companies that can think this way.
  • Having Trouble Getting Yourself to Write? 9 Tips: I’m trying to get back to writing more often, whether it be journaling, blogging or an actually project. I just joined a writing group, too, so I’m hoping that will provide some encouragement.

In other news, we cut cable a couple of weeks ago. I’ve kind of enjoyed watching some basic network stuff on my lunch break—namely a daily episode of The Andy Griffith Show. So wholesome.

Beautiful Strength

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Tonight I am blissfully tired and my living room smells of peonies. It has been a crazy week full of much hard work and punctuated by good food and time among friends.

On Friday night a few of us threw a baby shower for a good friend of ours. We sat around the back yard, surrounded by paper lanterns and candlelight falling on mismatched china, filling ourselves with sweet cake and nourishing conversation. At the end of the night, everyone pitched in to carry in the dishes, fold up the tablecloths and blow out the candles.

There is something so powerful about a group of women working together to accomplish something, no matter how common. As I watched one of my good friends at the end of a very long day, I was inspired by her inner strength, by the way she just does things, all the time. It doesn’t matter if it is hard, or if it is something she doesn’t want to do or something she doesn’t think she is good at. She does it. She makes things happen.

Nora Ephron died this week. Her films are among my favorites, classics each to their own decades and beautifully quotable. I have never read her essays, but after reading the remarkable obituary in The New York Times I feel I must.

I especially love the quote from Meryl Streep, who said, “She was an expert in all the departments of living well.” I get the feeling that Ms. Ephron—like my friend—was not one to just let things happen to her. She did things. She wrote and directed films because she knew she could tell her stories better than a man could interpret them. She wrote about women who did things, who stood up to the competition, who took on impossible tasks, who lived amazing stories.

I am surrounded by women living amazing stories. I cannot begin to list the ways that they lift one another up, nurture one another and love their families and friends to the nth degree. They are my inspiration, my go-to “experts” when I need a boost. Through them I realize how much I could do, and I want to go and do it. It’s an understated strength, and a wholly beautiful one.

P.S.: I also agree with Nora on the pie.

One SWEET Recipe Shortcut

Spoiler Alert: This “recipe” absolutely BLEW MY MIND! I can’t believe I didn’t know this before, and now I’m never going back.

I can really see this as the key to getting more of the all important dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin B6, which is apparently good for maintaining your sodium/potassium balance (who knew?), something I recently read is important in weight management.

It will also be the key to putting some more color on our dinner plates.

So here it is. You can bake sweet potatoes in your crock pot!!!

It’s so easy! And you can do about six at one time—enough for dinner and some lunches that week or to freeze. Continue reading

Mixing it Up in 2012

It’s odd, if you take a second to think about it, how much stock we put in the New Year. It’s just another month really, something that happens 11 other times every year, countless times in the course of a lifetime. But somehow this is special.

Maybe it’s because it comes just after the holidays when most of us have overdone and when there are so many new things. Maybe like all our other obsessions with time it’s about making the best of what we’re given or putting off the inevitable end. It’s odd that we have chosen this one time of year to be intentional, but I think it’s not a bad tradition, all in all.

We had a wonderful holiday. We got to spend some serious quality time with both of our families and with many friends whom we had not seen in quite a while. There is a lot to be thankful for, and we had many opportunities to look back on a fantastic 2011.

Highlights include:

  • Moving to a new home and making some tough decisions that will make a big difference in our futures.
  • Grabbing hold of opportunities to find mini-vacations, which took us to Chattanooga, Madison, Wisc., Myrtle Beach, and Chapel Hill, reconnected us with far away friends and brought us closer together.
  • Participating in a professional project that took me outside my comfort zone and gave me a real taste of what could be.
  • Writing a book. No really–I was a “winner” of National Novel Writing Month 2011, and writing 50,000 words in 30 days was an enlightening experience.

No blog post can really capture the meaning of a year or of a life. But if there’s one thing I did learn from NaNoWriMo, it’s that putting things in writing makes them real. That, and putting your goals out there in public is the only hope for accountability.

So here it is, some road signs, if you will, for making 2012 another excellent year. Continue reading