the panic before the party

Last Sunday, Allyn and I hosted a book launch party at our new home to celebrate the release of my short story collection, WOMAN, RUNNING LATE, IN A DRESS. {You can snag a personalized copy here!}

We’d been planning this party for months. Even before we found our new home, when we weren’t even looking at houses yet but were planning to move when our lease was up, I said to Allyn, “You know what would be cool? What if we had a combination housewarming/book launch party when my book is published?” Allyn immediately agreed it would be cool, but said what would be even better is if we left out the housewarming part and just focused on celebrating my new book. He’s teaching me more and more how to step into my own spotlight rather than feel like I need to dim my light. One of the 846,748 reasons why I love him so much. ūüôā

Once we found our house and signed the lease on our new place, planning really began in earnest. We set a date for the party and made an invitation on Facebook. We spread the word to our friends and family. I ordered cute raffle prizes featuring the book cover {coasters, a tote bag, a puzzle} and made bookmarks. We felt hugely motivated to get all of our boxes unpacked, our pictures hung on the walls, and everything organized before the party. {Which, if you’re willing to handle a bit of stress, I would totally recommend — never before have I felt “all moved in” so quickly!}

We planned out the food and the drinks, the seating and the mingling areas. I made a display of my books. Some of our guests volunteered to bring wine; others brought beer; others brought appetizers and veggies and sandwiches. The day of the party, I baked mini pumpkin muffins, set out paper plates and napkins, and organized plastic utensils into cups. I took a shower, dried my hair, carefully applied eyeshadow and mascara.

Everything looked beautiful. Everything was sparkling and clean and ready to go. Everything was exactly the way I had hoped it might be, back when Allyn and I began planning the party a month ago in our crammed-to-the-brim-with-boxes apartment.

I felt that excited, nervous energy that bubbles inside you when you are preparing to embark on something that you have been dreaming about for a very long time. Because this party wasn’t just about this one afternoon. Nor was it just about this new house we had claimed as our home, or about the 178 printed pages between two shiny covers of my published book. It was a party that had been years in the making. A party that, for a long time, I had thought would never come.

I sent out my short story manuscript for six long years before it won the Cypress & Pine Fiction Award from Yellow Flag Press and was accepted for publication. Six years of form rejection slips and crushed spirits and doubt. Six years of dreaming that, one day, I would hold this book in my hands and proudly share it with my friends and family. Six years of stubborn hope that these characters in my imagination were meant to leap into the hearts and minds of other people — that they weren’t just meant to live inside me.

And now, here I was, standing on the threshold of that day I had gazed at on the horizon of my life for so long.

My mother-in-law arrived first, bearing enormous platters of delicious sandwiches. We arranged them on the kitchen table and the island. We uncorked the wine. Then my grandparents arrived, with a cooler full of beer that we put on the back patio. We gave them the tour of the house. They helped themselves to sandwiches. Our dear friends Justin & Fawn arrived with their adorable baby boy, and it was so nice to visit with them in the kitchen, catching up on life. And yet, laughing there in the sunshine, an urgent panic began to rise within me.

What if no one else showed up? What if this party — that I had been dreaming about and working towards for so long — what if it was a total lame disappointment?

Allyn squeezed my hand. The minutes ticked by. The doorbell was silent. My phone beeped with text messages from friends and family members, explaining that they were so sorry but they could no longer make it. My panic gained strength, whispering in my ear like a mean girl in middle school:

This was a stupid idea. You never should have planned this party. You never should have put yourself out there like this. Now everyone is going to feel sorry for you. No one wanted to come to your party and no one cares about your book. You should have just stayed quiet and kept to yourself. Why did you even take this risk?

Panic doesn’t only visit us before we throw a big party. It comes whenever we try something new — when we step out of our comfort zones, launch a new venture, share something that is important to us. It comes when we express excitement about a new opportunity or decide to make a change in our lives — take time off work to travel; sign up for Whole 30; start a side-hustle; pursue a passion project. It comes when we plant our flag in the sand, stand tall in our truth, and say boldly, “This matters to me!” Because in doing so, we make ourselves vulnerable. Our high hopes might be crushed. Our beautiful plans might be met with lonely disappointment.

This inner voice of panic was familiar to me. I had felt it before many times in my life, which was actually a blessing because it helped me recognize what was happening. I spoke back to my panic. I talked my nervous heartbeat down from the ledge.

Shhh, shhh, calm down. It’s going to be okay. Look at these people around you. They came a long way to be here with you today. They’re happy for you. They’re proud of you. Focus on savoring these moments with them and loving the hell out of this experience while it is happening. This is precious and special. Right here. Right now. All the rest is just white noise from your ego. Let it go.

I think it is natural to feel that panic-before-the-party in many aspects of our lives. We make a decision focused on all the wonder and magic that might unfold, and then when we’re confronted with the messy reality we feel panicked that maybe we made the wrong decision. But I think that our inner voice of panic is actually a clue that we’re on the right path. That we’re growing.

The truth is, it would be easier to stay safe. To never risk that panic. But I don’t think “easy” is an ingredient in the recipe for a satisfying adventure in this one wild and precious life you have been given.

Another truth: so often, panic is short-sighted. It is focused on the immediate moment and spirals into despair. But so often, even when the reality is messier than you anticipated or there are a few bumps in the road, eventually things level out. You look back and realize that everything turned out even better than you had imagined it would. You are so grateful you made that leap and took that risk and tried that newness on for size. The voice of panic is completely washed away and it is easy to forget that it was ever there… until you plant another flag in the sand and the panic comes to visit again in full force.

I think panic loses its power when we recognize it as part of the process. It is simply part of the journey and we don’t have to listen to it. We can turn our head away and focus on the other voices in our hearts that are cheering us on.

Even if no one else had showed up to my party, it would not have been a disaster. It would have been a lovely intimate gathering with six of my favorite people. But more people did show up. First a slow trickle; then guests arrived all at once. Before I knew it, I looked up from arranging a bowl of fruit salad and realized our kitchen was crammed full of people, talking and eating and enjoying the afternoon. Later, everyone gathered in the living room and I read an excerpt from my book, and then champagne and Martinelli’s were poured and toasts were made. As I gazed around the room so filled with love and support, I felt tears prick my eyes. I kept thinking, This is it. This is it. This is it.¬†

This is what was waiting on the other side of the shore, during those years I swam through the cold waves of doubt and disappointment, wondering if I would ever reach that land I was striving towards.

This is what was waiting through the moments of panic and fear, uncertainty and envy, hopelessness and frustration.

This is what was waiting. And it was more than worth it.

When you finally do reach the shore — when the train does finally come — the struggle of the journey makes the celebratory champagne taste so much sweeter.

 

Your turn {if you want}:

Grab your journal or open a new document on your computer and freewrite about the questions below that speak to you:

  • When is a time you have felt the “panic before the party” in your life? What did the panic say to you? What actually happened?
  • Write about a time you took a risk, felt doubt, but pushed through to a new opportunity.
  • What is a risk you long to take in your life now? How do you yearn to grow?

a year of Wooden: week 34

Good morning, everyone! My uncle Frankie just hit the road back down to L.A. after a nice morning of visiting with me and my grandparents over breakfast. Now I’m drinking tea and taking care of some emails/business stuff before heading out to Starbucks for a writing session. {I always get more productive writing done at Starbucks than at home. I crave the background noise and busy¬†atmosphere.} Then I’m hoping to have a gym session this evening!

Before I get moving, time for¬†this week’s¬†year of Wooden¬†challenge! Since Wednesday is the start of October, we’re going to move onto our October challenge this week…

a year of wooden

  • January:¬†Drink deeply from good books
  • February:¬†Make friendship a fine art
  • March:¬†Help others
  • April:¬†Build a shelter against a rainy day {financially}
  • May:¬†Be true to yourself
  • June:¬†Give thanks for your blessings every day
  • July: Love
  • August: Balance
  • September:¬†Drink deeply from good poetry
  • October:¬†Make friendship a fine art {new friends}

Back in January, we began this year-long challenge with the first item from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Drink deeply from good books. In September, we focused on poetry because Coach Wooden had a deep love for poetry.

Last¬†week’s challenge¬†was to read¬†New and Selected Poems: Volume One by Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver poems

Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets — I shared her beautiful poem “The Summer Day” earlier this year as a mid-week meditation — and for this week I’d like to share her poem about one of my favorite things:

The Sunflowers

Come with me
into the field of sunflowers.
Their faces are burnished disks,
their dry spines

creak like ship masts,
their green leaves,
so heavy and many,
fill all day with the sticky

sugars of the sun.
Come with me
to visit the sunflowers,
they are shy

but want to be friends;
they have wonderful stories
of when they were young —
the important weather,

the wandering crows.
Don’t be afraid
to ask them questions!
Their bright faces,

which follow the sun,
will listen, and all
those rows of seeds —
each one a new life! —

hope for a deeper acquaintance;
each of them, though it stands
in a crowd of many,
like a separate universe,

is lonely, the long work
of turning their lives
into a celebration
is not easy. Come

and let us talk with those modest faces,
the simple garments of leaves,
the coarse roots in the earth
so uprightly burning.

You all know how much I love sunflowers, so it’s no wonder I was drawn to this poem. At first, I simply reveled in the beauty of the lines and the perfect description of sunflowers — their creaky spines, heavy green leaves, bright faces like “burnished disks.” But as I read the poem through a few times, what I was most left with was a sense of quiet strength, confidence, and hope.¬†I love the lines about “turning their lives/into a celebration” even though this is not an easy task. I think that is a noble task¬†for all of us to attempt!

sunflowers

Now, let’s move onto our challenge for October. This is a reprise of our February challenge, from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Make friendship a fine art. For October, we’re returning to this point, but instead of improving existing friendships, we are going to focus on nurturing new friendships.

This week’s challenge is to reach out to an acquaintance you would like to get to know better, and invite them to do something — coffee, lunch, a movie, etc. Reach out and get to know this person better!

friendship quote

Questions for the day:

  • What is your favorite poem by Mary Oliver?
  • How do you make life a celebration?
  • What new friend will you reach out to this week?

on love, faith & truth: the legacy of dr. king

Hi there from a beautifully drizzly morning in the Bay Area!

drizzly morning

We are in the midst of a huge drought right now so are beyond happy for any rain or mist at all… waking up to the pitter-patter of rain on the roof was a truly delightful sound. Fingers crossed for more rainy days around here!

Now I’m sipping on green tea & a green smoothie for breakfast.¬†I wanted to share with you some of the notes I took during the powerful and inspiring talk by Tavis Smiley¬†that¬†I was fortunate to attend yesterday in San Francisco at the Commonwealth Club… {it was actually recorded and the entire talk and Q&A session will be available here in the next few weeks.} The talk was centered around Tavis’s new book, Death of a King, about the last year of MLK’s life.

Death of a King

Tavis said he wanted to write a book “that everyday people can devour and enjoy and get to know Dr. King.” He explained, “I want to do my small part to make the world safe for the legacy of Dr. King: justice for all, service to others, and love that liberates people.”

Indeed, the main message that Tavis shared about MLK {or as Tavis called him, just¬†Martin} was his belief in LOVE above all else. “Everything he did, he did in love.” Here are some more of my notes from the talk:

  • We are too often engaged in monologue and not enough in dialogue. Let’s engage in more dialogue with each other. That means, listening to each other.
  • Sometimes, silence is betrayal.
  • No matter what, MLK always stood in his truth.
  • What happened to LOVE in our public discourse? You can disagree with someone, but still approach them from a place of love.
  • Everyone is worthy just because.
  • MLK knew that he did not have a monopoly on the truth and that he was not right about everything {for example, his views on women were at times a little sexist or patriarchal.} But he was willing to learn.
  • Like water, he was able to go everywhere and relate to all different types of people.
  • Tavis’s definition of leadership: “You can’t lead people if you don’t love people. You can’t save people if you don’t serve people.”
  • Every day you get up, and you get another chance to get it right.

Tavis talk

Tavis always signs off his broadcasts on PBS with by saying, “Keep the faith.” During the Q&A, one of the audience members asked him how he defines faith. I really loved what he said:

“Faith is climbing up a dark staircase, where you can’t see the next step in front of you, but you step forward and trust that it is there.”

Afterwards, there was a book-signing and I went up and introduced myself and asked Tavis to sign two copies of his book: one for me and one for my dad. He gave me a big hug and, echoing MLK’s message — and Coach Wooden’s message, too — signed an inscription to my dad with the word “love.” It was the perfect ending to a really inspiring afternoon!

tavis inscription

Now I’m headed off to the gym, then back home for a quick shower before I meet my sweetheart for a lunch date. Have a love-filled day, everyone!

Questions for the morning:

  • What books are you reading and loving right now?
  • Have you ever gone to a speaker event or book talk before? What did you think of it?
  • What does “faith” mean to you?

new haircut! & other random tidbits

Hello, friends! Just poppin’ in to say hello. How is your day going?

It’s been a busy morning around here… my favorite kind of busy, productive weekday morning. I woke up early and, after a bowl of oatmeal with sliced apple and walnuts, I headed over to Starbucks for a pumpkin chai latte and a couple hours of writing. This afternoon, I’ve got some tutoring and editing projects on the agenda.

starbucks work sesh

Here are some odds & ends on my mind today…

I got a haircut! Crazy how something as simple as trimming a couple inches off my hair can make me feel so rejuvenated.

new haircut

I’m so happy The Good Wife is back! The first episode of the season was a real nail-biter and I am already on pins-and-needles for next week! The Good Wife is one of the only shows I watch on a regular basis. My parents, grandparents, and aunt Annie watch it, too, so it’s fun discussing¬†each new episode every Monday morning. Do you have any shows like that?

On Sunday night Allyn watched my favorite romantic movie, Serendipity, with me! There’s something about autumn that always makes me crave this movie. As I told Allyn: “My love for Serendpity will never die.” I also love the beautiful instrumental theme song of the movie, January Rain by David Gray.

Serendipity

Yesterday Grandma and I watched the movie Iris on TV about the life of British writer Iris Murdoch. I thought it was heartbreaking but really well done, and now I’m inspired to read Irish Murdoch’s books — I think I might start with her classic The Sea, The Sea.

Speaking of books and writers… I tweeted to JoJo Moyes about how much I loved her book One Plus One, and she tweeted me back! September must be the month for celebrity encounters… remember last year when I ran into Casey James at Starbucks?

jojo moyes tweet

I made a batch of my favorite pb cup brownies {I gave most to Allyn but kept a couple for myself, too!} and I’ll probably polish off the last one tonight.¬†Treats like this just make the week feel more special.

pb cup brownies

Questions of the day:

  • What are your favorite TV shows?
  • Has someone you admire every replied to a tweet you sent? Or have you ever had a celebrity encounter?
  • What treats make your ordinary days more special?

a year of Wooden: week 33

Good morning, everyone! Hope you’re feeling recharged after the weekend! I slept in a little this morning, which felt SO nice after a busy weekend of travel and commitments. Now I’m easing into the day with a hot mug of tea and some pb + banana toast, sprinkled with chia seeds on top for a bit of healthy crunch!

pb banana toast

What do you have going on today? I am¬†hoping to get LOTS of¬†productive work done on my novel.¬†Then, later this afternoon I’m meeting with one of my favorite students for a tutoring session. But for now, time for¬†this week’s¬†year of Wooden¬†challenge!

a year of wooden

  • January:¬†Drink deeply from good books.
  • February:¬†Make friendship a fine art.
  • March:¬†Help others.
  • April:¬†Build a shelter against a rainy day (financially).
  • May:¬†Be true to yourself.
  • June:¬†Give thanks for your blessings every day.
  • July: Love.
  • August: Balance.
  • September:¬†Drink deeply from good poetry.

Back in January, we began this year-long challenge with the first item from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Drink deeply from good books. Now, in September, we are focusing on poetry because Coach Wooden had a deep love for poetry.

Last¬†week’s challenge¬†was to read¬†The Soul of Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks. {Thanks to my brother for letting me borrow his copy!}

Rumi

I love how Rumi’s poems are so wise and filled with imagery and meaning, while also being accessible to the average reader like me. Reading this collection, I felt like my spirit was lifted up. His poems made me feel more in touch with the greater meaning and spirituality of life. It¬†was really difficult to choose just one poem to share, so I ended up narrowing my favorites¬†down to these two short poems:

One Song

What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
many jugs being poured

into a huge basin. All religions, all this singing,
one song.

The differences are just illusion and vanity. Sunlight
looks slightly different

on this wall than it does on that wall and a lot different
on this other one, but

it is still one light. We have borrowed these clothes, these
time-and-space personalities,

from a light, and when we praise, we pour them back in.

I love this poem because it makes me feel hopeful and it celebrates the unity between all of us as living beings. Too often, I think, we focus on our differences. We use those differences as reasons to divide us. But, like the poem says, deep down we are all singing one song, together. I love the metaphor of the same sunlight on different walls. And the end of this poem gives me goosebumps every time.

rumi quote

The Most Alive Moment

The most living moment comes when
those who love each other meet each

other’s eyes and in what flows
between them then. To see your face

in a crowd of others, or alone on a
frightening street, I weep for that.

Our tears improve the earth. The
time you scolded me, your gratitude,

your laughing, always your qualities
increase the soul. Seeing you is a

wine that does not muddle or numb.
We sit inside the cypress shadow

where amazement and clear thought
twine their slow growth into us.

At the end of this poem, I can’t help but¬†sigh with contentment. I feel a release within me. Do you feel it, too? I think this poem beautifully captures the wonder, refuge and delight of loving another person. I especially love the lines: “To see your face/in a crowd of others, or alone on a/frightening street, I weep for that.” And the ending image of slow growth and understanding is an important one — love not as a lightning bolt in¬†a fickle rainstorm, but something steady and nurturing like a tree.

rumi love quote

This week, I’ll be reading New and Selected Poems: Volume One by Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver poems

Next week, I’ll share my favorite poem from the collection, and I’d love to hear yours as well!

Questions for the day:

  • What is your favorite poem of¬†Rumi?
  • What makes you feel alive or inspired?

a year of Wooden: week 32

Hi, friends! How are you doing on this marvelous Monday? Hope your week is off to a great start!

Time for¬†this week’s¬†year of Wooden¬†challenge!

a year of wooden

  • January:¬†Drink deeply from good books.
  • February:¬†Make friendship a fine art.
  • March:¬†Help others.
  • April:¬†Build a shelter against a rainy day (financially).
  • May:¬†Be true to yourself.
  • June:¬†Give thanks for your blessings every day.
  • July: Love.
  • August: Balance.
  • September:¬†Drink deeply from good poetry.

Back in January, we began this year-long challenge with the first item from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Drink deeply from good books. Now, in September, we are focusing on poetry because Coach Wooden had a deep love for poetry.

Last¬†week’s challenge¬†was to read¬†Good Poems, an anthology of poetry selected by Garrison Keillor.

good poems

There were so many poems I loved in this collection! It’s hard to choose just one to share. But I think I’ll end up going with this one by Tom Hennen, “The Life of a Day”… I really love the message.

The Life of a Day

Like people or dogs, each day is unique and has
its own personality quirks which can easily be seen
if you look closely. But there are so few days as
compared to people, not to mention dogs, that it
would be surprising if a day were not a hundred
times more interesting than most people. But
usually they just pass, mostly unnoticed, unless
they are wildly nice, like autumn ones full of red
maple trees and hazy sunlight, or if they are grimly
awful ones in a winter blizzard that kills the lost
traveler and bunches of cattle. For some reason
we like to see days pass, even though most of us
claim we don’t want to reach our last one for a
long time. We examine each day before us with
barely a glance and say, no, this isn’t one I’ve been
looking for, and wait in a bored sort of way for
the next, when, we are convinced, our lives will
start for real. Meanwhile, this day is going by perfectly
well-adjusted, as some days are, with the
right amounts of sunlight and shade, and a light
breeze scented with a perfume made from the
mixture of fallen apples, corn stubble, dry oak
leaves, and the faint odor of last night’s meandering skunk.

My favorite sentence in the poem is, “For some reason¬†we like to see days pass, even though most of us¬†claim we don’t want to reach our last one for a¬†long time.” That line struck me as so honest and true. Why do we behave this way? Why do we like to see the passing of days? One thing I have really been working on lately is enjoying and savoring the ordinary routines of my days. I also like this poem’s message of treating each day as a beautifully unique entity, and to appreciate each and every one you are given!

This week, I’ll be reading The Soul of Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks.

Rumi

Next week, I’ll share my favorite poem from the collection, and I’d love to hear yours as well!

Questions for the day:

  • What is your favorite poem in Good Poems?
  • Have you ever read poetry by the ancient poet Rumi?

fabulous friday #25 + GIVEAWAY!!

Happy TGIF, friends! Coming at you with some Fabulous Friday action … and a little giveaway the end of this post, woo hoo!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. My summer camp students. So adorable, hilarious and hard-working! It warms my heart to see how kind they are to each other. And they crack me up! Today when we were walking back to the classroom from recess, they all ran to beat me there and when I walked in, they were all hiding from me under their desks, giggling at their sneakiness. I wish I had taken a picture to share with y’all. Today was my last day teaching this particular group, and I will miss them!

2. The fresh fruits & veggies of summer. I have been a produce fiend all week, and I love how eating so many plants makes me feel vibrant and energetic. I don’t know about you, but the less sugar and processed food I eat, the less of it I crave. These days I am craving… watermelon! Mmm. To me, nothing says summer quite like a thick juicy slice of fresh watermelon.

watermelon

3. This beautiful and inspiring blog post by Nicole Antoinette: just start.

4. This quote, which I found in the pavement in Jack Keroac Alley outside of City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco:

love hate quote

5. The release of this new book that I am very excited to be a contributor for: Chicken Soup for the Soul, Home Sweet Home! The story I wrote, titled “My Perfectly Decorated Apartment,” is featured in the book alongside 100 other inspiring, touching, sweet¬†and funny stories about “hearth, happiness, and hard work.” And I am delighted that I have a signed copy to give to one of you!

CSS Home Sweet Home

The giveaway will stay open until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, June 26. Good luck! And thanks for celebrating with me!

Click on this link to enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Questions of the evening:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • Do you have any fun¬†weekend plans?
  • What food says “summer” to you?

fabulous friday #20

Happy TGIF! Can you believe it’s already May? I am in awe of how quickly this year is flying by. A reminder to make the most of each and every day we are blessed with!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. The gorgeous, summer-like weather we’ve been having around here … warm and sunny, the days are long, and I can sit out on the porch with a book and a glass of iced tea reading even after dinnertime. On Wednesday Allyn and I went to a Giants game and I didn’t even need a jacket! I didn’t know San Francisco EVER got that warm, especially down by the water. It was glorious! And I love the energy and happiness in the air at this time of year, like everyone is more carefree and open to the world.

giants game

2. The latest collection of short stories, The Color Master, by one of my favorite writers {and people!} Aimee Bender, author of the previous best-selling novel The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. Aimee was my professor at USC and she is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. She definitely was, and continues to be, a huge influence and inspiration for my own writing. I am savoring her new book–the stories are by turns delightful, dark, funny, serious, and always surprising. I would highly recommend putting this on your summer reading list!

the color master

me and aimee

3. I wrote a short story that has been published in the online literary journal Superstition Review! I’m so excited and honored to have my work featured as part of this publication I have long admired. You can read it here.¬†{Note: the story is fictional, and a little dark/sad… just be warned!}

4. These berry + cream cheese muffins I made a few days ago and have been enjoying as breakfast, snacks, and dessert … zero refined sugar, zero white flour, and absolutely delicious! I will be sharing the recipe on here next week, stay tuned!

cream cheese muffins

5. This picture, shared by my dad on Facebook:

reason someone smiles

BONUS: Vote for my friends Mike & Bob Bryan, who are amazingly kind and generous Philanthropists of Giving and are in the running to win $100,000 for their charity! You can vote up to 3 times a day and it takes less than a minute! https://givkwik.com/campaigns/2014-asu

review of “half the sky”

HTS-book-cover-200-300My brother got this book for me for my birthday, and I am SO grateful that he introduced this book into my life. It seriously has rocked my entire worldview. I had no idea how many women are living in terrible, oppressive situations around the world. Reading this book makes me feel so grateful for things I’ve taken for granted: having enough food to eat and a warm bed to sleep in, feeling safe when I walk down the street, being able to get an education and pursue a career I’m passionate about… and on, and on, and on. After reading the remarkable true stories of survival and strength in Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, it is impossible to even feel a moment of self-pity. Instead, you will feel empowered to take advantage of all the blessings you have been given.

I also really enjoyed the writing style of the authors, husband-and-wife team Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn: detailed journalism combined with personal stories that touched my heart. The book was surprisingly uplifting at the end, with a passionate call to action and a list of ways you can help. Here are the four main ways the authors list:

1. Go to www.globalgiving.org or www.kiva.org and open a microlending account to help women entrepreneurs in developing countries. {I’m planning to do this today!}

2. Sponsor a girl or woman through Plan International, Women for Women International, World Vision, or American Jewish World Service. The authors add: “Sponsorship is a great way to teach your children that not all children have iPods.”

3. Sign up for email updates on www.womensenews.org and/or www.worldpulse.com.

4. Join the CARE Action Network at www.can.care.org which will assist you in learning more about these issues and becoming a citizen advocate for women’s rights issues around the world.

The authors also have a website for the book, called the Half the Sky Movement, where you can learn more and also watch a trailer for the film version of the book.

I’ll leave you with this powerful informational poster I found on the Half the Sky website:

violence against women

What books have you read that changed your life?

wisdom from “abide with me” by elizabeth strout

abide with me

This weekend, I read Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout — what a beautifully written, poignant, luminous novel! I loved it. The main character, Tyler Caskey, is a minister in a small New England town in the 1950s, and the book explores what happens to him — and his congregation — in the wake of terrible loss. If you’re looking for a good summer read that will make you think, I’d highly recommend this book.

I wanted to share some quotes with you from the novel that really struck me:

“Oh, we are far less important than we thought we were, and we are far, far more important than we think we are. Do you imagine that the scientist and the poet are not united? Do you assume you can answer the question of who we are and why we are here by rational thought alone? It is your job, your honor, your birthright, to bear the burden of this mystery. And it is your job to ask, in every thought, word, and deed: How can love be served?” – pg. 268

“No one, to my knowledge, has figured out the secret to love. We love imperfectly, Tyler. We all do. Even Jesus wrestled with that. But I think — I think the ability to receive love is as important as the ability to give it. It’s one and the same, really.” – pg. 285

elizabeth strout

“I tell¬†stories because life fascinates me, baffles me, intrigues me, awes me. And by writing about the world — the natural, human world — I experience these feelings in a way that makes me both joyous and sad, and that brings me face-to-face with what I believe lies behind the mystery of our existence. I can only hope that readers will not only be entertained by the stories I tell, but be moved to reckon with their own sense of mystery and awe. Through the telling of stories and the reading of stories, we have a chance to see something about ourselves and others that maybe we knew, but didn’t know we knew. We can wonder for a moment if, for all our separate histories, we are not more alike than different after all.” – pg. 299-300 (Author’s Note)

Have any of you read Abide with Me? What did you think?

What books have you read and loved lately?