Category Archives: Story Telling

What is a “sphere of influence”, Alex?

–News Bulletin–

A-a-ron Rod-gers just won celebrity Jeopardy… so that was kind of awesome. And got me re-hooked on Jeopardy. Which I love love love. Even though I don’t know anything about classic literature or operas of the twenty-fourth and a half century. True story though, one time I took the online Jeopardy test. They never contacted me. I’m convinced that it’s because in a moment of complete and total idiot-level panic I typed in “positron” instead of “proton” for “this positively charged atomic particle…” or something along those lines. Such a ridiculously dumb answer, and for a chemistry major no less. This has been my secret Jeopardy shame for many a year.

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Even more secret a shame than the fact that I was all about middle school Quiz Bowl once upon a time and took great delight in the fact that 1) I was the only girl on the team (boom!) and 2) that I wore the most gloriously denim jumper that ever denimed to the competition in 8th grade. Holy crap did I rock that thing. In my own mind anyway. Smart. Denim-clad. Barettes in my hair. Maybe I’ll make that my story if I ever do get on Jeopardy. I hope I can tell it awkwardly enough– lord knows that people with legitimately cool stories at the break never get very far. Just, next time around, it’s proton… proton… proton…

Proton.

Anyway.

Seth and I are headed to SoCal to visit the Lemas over the long weekend and I’m crazy crazy excited about it. SoCal because that’s where they live. Like all the time. Can you even imagine?

One of the coolest things about the Lemas is that we have never lived any closer to them than whatever the astronomical distance between Michigan and California is (but also never further than the even more astronomical distance between DC and Cali, so we’ve got that). And yet, we’ve remained super close. I’m sure it helped that Chris was Seth’s boss for a good long while… but he’s not any more and we still super love them and I’m pretty sure that was never the only thing. Regardless, as a result of that distance, our relationship is completely and totally travel-fascinating. FASCINATING! We have gotten together to hang out all over this lovely country of ours (plus Mexico!) and that makes any and all of my Lema Memory Montages extra special and fun.

This weekend, I spent a TON of time doing yard work. I got a bug up my butt about needing to remove all the plastic lining from the garden beds in our back yard and replace them with brick and for some reason, I decided that removing all the plastic, trenching the sod, pulling all the weeds, and purchasing, laying, and securing 126 individual 10 lb bricks would be a one person, one day job, most certainly… and when I was done, I was going to maybe mow real quick and use the string trimmer around the trees and along the fence line.

Completely delusional. Also, my hamstrings are still KILLING ME.

But, in my delusional state, I had lots and lots and lots of time for mind-based montages. And the Lemas kept popping in on account of, as I said above, 1) we’re going to see them this weekend and 2) such montages are especially brilliant.

During one such sweat-soaked, sun blasted (because, guys, it got up to like 75 degrees this weekend– snap!!!) montage, I stumbled upon Chris’s notion of “sphere of influence” and realized that finally, after something like7? maybe even 8? years… I think I finally get what it means. Finally! And it’s not even ridiculous at all. In fact, I love it. Just like all love every other thing that is Lema. Of course.

I don’t remember what hotel or what city or what year it was… but once upon a time, long ago and far away, Chris mentioned something about his desire to have influence. To have a sphere of influence, I believe, or at least that’s how it imprinted in my brain. I don’t know that I was necessarily even part of that particular conversation, I may have just overheard something between Chris and Seth, but it was such a weird thing to say (I thought) and such a foreign concept (to me) that I really did just kind of let it tumble through my mind over and over and over again over the last several years.

Like a pebble in the sea, that idea is smooth now.

(And that’s a particularly appropriate metaphor here because I have been to not just two oceans with the Lemas, but also a legitimate sea — The Sea of Cortez.)

Sea of Cortez
Sea of Cortez

At the time, way back when, I knew Chris as Seth’s boss. At a software company. He was different, of course, because he’s from California and really introduced the whole “working from where you are” concept to the company. He put a lot more emphasis on intelligence and value and culture than most (well, any) other “boss” I’d ever known and he super appreciated all of those things about Seth, so naturally, I loved him. At the same time, Chris also had this little side life that I was vaguely aware of… computers, internet, WordPress, something…

And in that arena, influence was his goal.

Sooooo… what? Like he wanted to be the boss of computers and the internet and WordPress or something? Because that’s what influence means, right? Being the boss, in charge, in control, telling people what’s what and how’s how and who’s who.

Not to Chris. And not in reality. Where Chris lived.

Turns out, influence is not synonymous with power or control or position. If it’s forced or mandated or manufactured, it’s not genuine influence at all.

What Chris has taught me is that influence comes from sharing your story, building trust, and cultivating interest.

Chris taught me this not by actually saying any of it (although he probably has, because Chris has basically at one point or another said all the words— kind of like, if you give enough monkeys enough typewriters and enough time, eventually they’ll stumble on a literary masterpiece… but seriously, most of Chris’s words are on purpose insightful, I believe)… nope. He taught me this by doing it. By letting me hang at his beach house for a week as crazy fascinating and ridiculously “California” people came and went to celebrate my husband’s birthday and smoke cigars and play in the sand. Then again when we went on a cruise with a bunch of WordPress folks that scared me (on account of coolness). Sometimes they talked shop, most of the time they laughed and told stories. Built trust, relationships… influence. More recently, Chris transitioned full time into the WordPress world. He’s no longer technically Seth’s boss, but it wasn’t really ever about being Seth’s boss. He and Seth had a relationship that really transcended work roles and that lives on, regardless of what company Chris calls home. And when Chris did join a new company, he did so with a big old sphere of influence spread out in every direction (because that’s what spheres do) and that meant sooooo much more than his new fancy job title, high up position, standing in the company.

Like I said, completely fascinating.

So yeah, being an influencer, that’s a pretty worthy goal. Not a weird one at all. Watching Chris do it was kind of spectacular. And I think building a solid sphere of influence is kind of my goal too. Not power or position. Not fame or fortune or money. Definitely not in the WordPress community (I mean, thank goodness for WordPress, allowing me to blog without understanding a dang thing about it, but therein lies the problem in that sphere, you know?) Not even an appearance on SNL. Rather, to have a sphere of influence because I shared my story, I built trust, and I cultivated interest.

Anyway, I’m off to SoCal… got to go pack a bag! Woot!

A Pinterest-Worthy Birthday Bash in a Church Basement. Also cake.

Of all the months on the calendar, April, May, and June seem to be the biggest months for birthdays and such in my year– my sister, my dad, my mom, my husband, my sister-in-law, several friends plus Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and I feel like I’m constantly falling behind on cards and calls and celebrating. (Also, I’m bad at mail and phone calls and such. Real bad.) Fortunately, all those people know how much I love them (so so much!) so I don’t think it’s a problem.

October was kind of like that this year too… not the norm, but when you turn 90, it calls for a big celebration. And a big celebration turns HUGE and relatively difficult to coordinate when it’s a Stankowski-style celebration, so my grandmother-in-law’s birthday party was moved up from December 17th to a weekend in October. We celebrated in Halder, Wisconsin, the same day my Grandma Rita celebrated her fourth annual 73rd birthday (how nice that she stopped aging at 73 years gorgeous!) in Lansing, Michigan, and my friend Krystal and Aunt Susan had some celebrating to do shortly after that.

So, as you can imagine, October became a month for celebrating some seriously amazing women… although, I’ve got to admit, that first party in a church basement in Halder was mildly panic attack inducing (yes, it’s an oxymoron and I know it) because I looked around at 90 years worth of a life well lived and thought “wow” followed shortly by “crap! I am so behind!”

Rational me: “Behind at what?!”

Crazy me: “Ummm… life! Obviously!! I should have at least” [pause for mental math…] “four kids by now if I want any hope of my 90th looking anything like this!”

Rational me: “Good point.”

And it was all over from there. Crazy is always more convincing.

You see, my father-in-law is one of 12 children, 10 boys and 2 girls. Not to take anything away from any of the boys because they are very talented at many things, but the two girls are absolutely reee-dic-u-lous at throwing meaningful and gorgeous parties. (Also they both try to give the other all the credit, but I have a sister of my own and I know that they are synergistic as a pair. That’s how sisters work. Btw, did you know that the term synergy was originally coined based on combining the words “sister” and “energy” into something even greater?! Seems reasonable, right? Maybe it’s even true…)

All 12 Stankowski sibs with their parents... just two of twelve girls. Good looking bunch, eh?
All 12 Stankowski sibs with their parents… just two of twelve girls. Good looking bunch, eh?

So Nancy (left of center) and Margie (right of center) did their thing and when I walked into that church basement I was absolutely floored.

Each table was decorated with a centerpiece carefully selected to represent some part of Lucille’s life.

From left to right, top to bottom:
From left to right, top to bottom: cookbooks and a hot pad, gardening tools, a rosary and favorite hymn, hummingbird nectar and canning rings, clothespins and clothesline, cookie cutters, buttons and a zipper for repairs, canning tools, lemon drops and a deck of playing cards, and denim for patching.

A childhood photograph of each and every one of Lucille’s nearly 30 grandkids was made into a flower.

Love, love, love these sweet pictures! Is this not the most Pinterest-worthy decor you've ever seen?! But it gets even better!
Love, love, love these sweet pictures! Is this not the most Pinterest-worthy decor you’ve ever seen?! But it gets even better!

Handmade Happy Birthday bunting.

The color scheme, the handmade-ness of it all, so in love!
The color scheme, the handmade-with-love-ness of it all!

Streamers, balloons, photos, food…

It's a big family-- hence the church basement.
It’s a big family– hence the church basement.

So much good going on!

Except, amidst all that good, I got a little sad, because like my crazy brain said, what on earth would my 90th look like? I’m (sniffle) not going to have any of that. It’s hard to have grandkids and great-grandkids if I can’t even manage to have kids. And spiral.

(Please note that I completely recognize the self-centeredness of the above. For real, my husband’s grandmother is amazing and she is the matriarch of an incredible crew– I’m super lucky to have been welcomed into the clan and I was really happy to spend the day celebrating Lucille. Unfortunately, my own truth has to be based in self-centeredness (see this post) so it’s going to sound that way for a little while… but I think we’ll get to a happy (and delicious) point and you’ll forgive me for the pity party, k? k.)

Later that month, Seth and I dropped our crazy fur baby off at my in-laws and headed to Green Bay for the weekend to celebrate our friend Krystal’s birthday and to meet their sweet new baby girl Amelia Mae and see her sister Charlotte Jean (I use their full names here mostly just to brag about what pretty baby girl names my friend Krystal picked). We had a blast with our friends basically doing nothing, as per usual. Their girls are incredible and so so so much fun and we always have a super relaxing and generally hilarious time when we hang out with the Kussows here, there, or wherever. But I have to say, and self-centeredly so (see disclaimer paragraph above), that the highlight of that weekend for me was the puppy chow.

Me, Seth, Krystal, and Justin… we have a problem with puppy chow. A delicious problem. Justin had made a big batch for us to munch on when we got there and when we finally got around to singing to Krystal and cutting the cake, here’s what she found:

Did I just learn how to make collages for Instagram? Why yes, yes I did...
Did I just learn how to make collages for Instagram? Why yes, yes I did…

A puppy chow pinata! Yessss!!!

So we ate and we laughed and we drank and snuggled Amelia and played with Charlotte and her puppy (and some of us got mani/pedis and went shoe shopping because it was Krystal’s birthday, after all) and basically just had a good time.

And that’s when this blog post started writing itself. Because I’m pretty sure that Justin and Krystal (they’re younger than me) and Charlotte and Amelia and Charlotte’s and Amelia’s someday babies will all come to my 90th birthday party!

They may not be blood, but family often isn’t. It’s nice when it is, of course, but family can be so much more. I blurred the lines between family and friendship just the other day, albeit in the other direction, but today I want to point out that the opposite can also be true. It’s what happens with in-laws, and you know I wouldn’t trade my bro-in-law Stuey or Uncle Ed for anything, so what’s the difference here? Not a thing.

On my Grandma’s previous 73rd birthday, I told you about how amazing she is and how welcoming a place her house always is, even on big “family” holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving. There were always friends and neighbors and other people amongst the crowd. I always thought of them as other people though. I imagine that my Grandma probably does not. To her, they’re probably just more family. Because family is a choice and can be built and blended in any which way.

So, when I turn 90, I want tables decorated with mason jars full of things that remind you of me (oh look, I’ve already got one full of rocks to get you started)… you’ve got 60 years to be my friend and make more babies for me to love and then let’s celebrate just like the Stankowskis did one recent weekend in October.

 

Isn’t that just like me? Bootstrapping my way up out of a pity party day after day? (And she’s humble, too…) You should consider filling a mason jar with bootstraps at my party. What are bootstraps anyway? I’ve always imagined them as boot laces, but then why bootstraps? And why is boostrapping suddenly a genomics/bioinformatics term too? I really don’t even get the concept. I ought to stop using the word. Maybe wiki can instruct me… huh… that is enlightening… the intro is worth a read if you’re interested. Idioms are hard.

Age is just a number; it cannot touch your soul.

A couple stories to get us pointed in the right direction.

First story:

My little Marshfield-based book club took a recent turn for the non-existent with the start of the most recent academic year. I suppose that’s bound to happen when you base a book club too heavily on transient people like med students and residents and young marrieds, but determined to begin anew, I started recruiting again.

After begging my friend Kristen to join (over and over and over again over oh so many coffees) she finally agreed to participate so long as she wasn’t the oldest person there.

Ugh. Not a good caveat given the people I had been focusing my recruitment efforts on. But we’re working around it. My invite went a little something like this:

“Also, rest assured that you will neither be the oldest nor the youngest there, should that be an issue for you. I am both–youngest in capacity to be socially un-awkward, oldest in nerdiness, trust me, I cannot be outdone. So just come.”

How can anyone argue with that? Also I sent everyone a copy of the book with an invitation book mark– nothing more powerful than a guilt trip!

Second story:

Maybe a year or so ago, my friend Melissa told me about how her daughter, Emily, had discounted me as a “friend” because in her mind, I was actually just Melissa’s friend. Melissa assured Emily that I was indeed her friend and I confirmed Melissa’s assertion. I am indeed Emily’s friend. She’s nine (today!!! happy birthday, little friend!) and I’m thirty, but I think if you’ve been reading along for a while, you know without a doubt that Emily is one of my nearest and dearest on account of me talking about her here and here and here and here.

Also, my therapist knows her by name. Not joking.

And third story, because three always seems like the appropriate number:

Just last week, I had a big grant due and my sister sent me a text message (filled to the brim with excellent emoji) that I showed you back here. What I didn’t show you, because it would have destroyed a surprise I had been carefully crafting for months was my response to her:

caption

 

The part about my dad and my two besties over 50. That’s the part I’d like to bring to your attention today.

Because age, as big of a thing it is in popular culture, in the media, in our minds, is really of very little consequence when it comes to friendship, and I’d like to chat about that very much.

I recently went to a talk given by a woman who described herself as vintage and she said, “I see you out there in the audience– some of you have a little vintage on you!”

Vintage. I loved that.

I went to the talk with three of my friends: my dad, Marie, and Margaret.

Yes, I include my dad in the friend category and that’s kind of the point of this whole post. In adulthood, my dad is still my dad, the man I’ve loved since I was an itty bitty baby and the man who responds instantly and instinctively to the word “daddy,” but also he is my friend– he turned me on to Call To Action, a progressive Catholic organization, and we talk about the church and about social justice and kindness and generosity and love and faith and all those things like friends. Because we are friends.

Just hanging out, eating ribs with my dad-friend!
Just hanging out, eating ribs with my dad-friend!

My friend Marie is in her 50s and has a daughter my age. We work together and hang out besides and the 20 something years between us really makes no difference. (In fact, I suspect we’re basically married to the same man one generation apart, it’s bizarre!)

Ha ha!
Ha ha… look at the face I made Marie make! So spectacular!

My friend Margaret is in her 70s and started off as someone my dad was friends with… but I think I can legitimately call her my friend now too. We’ve spent Christmases together, after all! I just adore Margaret and her honesty and her joy and her clearly innate ability to recognize good in people.

seriously
Guys, Margaret is just the best! You’d love her!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I made another new friend on Wednesday. Her name is Lola and she’s 11. She’s the daughter of a physician I work and he suspected that she and I would hit it off– correct! We’ve started our own little mini book club. She’s reading West of the Moon for an enrichment program at school. I picked it up at the library yesterday and we’re going to chat about it. So there’s 20 some years between us the other way… I’m super lucky to know how little that actually matters.

she brought
She had her book with her at the event– how could I not love a girl like that?!

Why doesn’t it matter though? I mean, it always seemed like it did… growing up, when friendships were based primarily on life stage and experience, I suppose age did matter.  And some of the friends I met because of life stage and/or experience are still some of my nearest and dearest even today. But that’s partly because it wasn’t always so ok with me to have friends across the continuum of age. At the age of 23 or so, I remember going out with a friend and a friend of hers, both of whom were in their 40s, for a belly dancing class and drinks afterward and despite having an absolute blast, some of my same-age-friends thought it was a little odd. I may be odd, but I’m also crazy insecure and I don’t love people knowing about it… so, you know…

Then I met people like Kristen I. and Emily W. (book club book ends, age wise), Melissa and her daughter Emily (one a little older than me, one much younger, both my friends), Michele and Marie F (co-workers sent from heaven, my two besties greater than or equal to 50), Margaret and Marie K from Call To Action (Marie was 95 when we met!), and Lola (my newest young friend). I also recently recognized my dad and my mom and my Aunt Susan and my little sister and little brother as friends. And none of it was weird. Because when friendship is based on attraction between two souls, age has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Age matters, of course, in other ways. It affects the container that houses our soul and it changes the lenses in the glasses through which our soul sees. Time puts a little vintage on them. But the soul, I believe, remains unchanged– no matter the vintage. And that’s why, now, at the age of 30, I can happily say that my friends, my dearest most amazing friends, range in age from 8 to 80. (Eighty because, sadly, Marie Kennedy passed away a few years ago. She was so incredible though, even at 95!)

If I’m honest, it’s the vintage I’ve picked up myself that has allowed me to see this fact. And to recognize that maybe, even as a little girl, I had some adult friends that I ought to be a little more grateful for– Grandma Roz and CJ and Janet and Joy. As un-vintaged as I may have been at the time, my soul recognized another like it in them.

 

I don’t want to discount all of the time- and place- and life stage- and experience-based friendships I have made over the years– in high school, in college, in grad school. Those friendships are crazy important too. Interestingly, though, sometimes I didn’t even fully recognize the impact of the people I met in those places until later– I told you about Nicole and Dawn. But also my friend Sarah, who was my roommate at the 2001 Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference (another nerd camp for political nerds… I’ve been to a lot of nerd camps, for real), and who I still find to be absolutely, completely, and totally fascinating, inspiring, gorgeous, amazing, etc, via social media… I feel like our souls just clicked and I’ll never ever forget the girl who introduced me to what this Midwestern girl can only describe as urban A-MAZ-ING.

Tapered pants from Ypsi-tucky, Midwest, USA on the left... super cool Sarah from Hoboken on the right.
Fashion Bug (not kidding) tapered pants from Ypsi-tucky, Midwest, USA on the left… super cool Sarah from Hoboken, New Jersey, on the right. Supreme Court in the background. Obvs.

And perhaps that’s what it really is– Nicole embraced her curls and her intelligence and her otherness in a way I never dared in college, but I recognized her anyway. Dawn was Army-style intimidating in her camouflage fatigues and combat boots, but I recognized her anyway. And Sarah owned a bright blue wig at a fancy inaugural ball and proudly voted for Ralph Nader (and I was, gasp, a wannabe Republican at the time– silly girl, thankfully only 17 at the time), but I recognized her anyway. And the older I get, the more vintage I accumulate, the easier it is for me to recognize the lovely soul underneath the otherness, the camo, the blue wig, and that’s what attracts me now, every time.

I told you-- she owned that blue wig! I've never been more impressed with anyone in my entire life. Ever.
I told you– she owned that blue wig! I’ve never been more impressed with anyone in my entire life. Ever.

No matter the age, the place, the time, the person.

So, thankfully, at 30, I can see Lola at 11 and know that we’ll probably talking about books until the end of my days and I can make plans to push Marie’s wheelchair around when I’m in my 70s and she’s in her 90s.

Except who am I kidding? Marie will probably be 90 pushing my wheelchair around when I’m 70. It’s much more likely to happen that way. She’s tough like that. And I’m not. Either way, we’ll still be friends.

 

Home from Phoenix, Stories to Tell

Phoenix City Hall
It’s a scientifically proven fact that crooked pictures are at least 47-times more artistic than straight on shots. See?

I went to Phoenix last week for the HMO Research Network (HMORN) conference. The science was fascinating, Phoenix was gorgeous, but my body gave me an awful lot of grief and it was all-in-all a pretty rough trip. I am very glad to be home.

On Saturday morning, my sister-in-law Kayla, the professional Body Pump Instructor, came over to teach my other sister-in-law, Trista, and I the newest Body Pump release. It was an awesome work out (too awesome, even, said my quads the next day), but halfway through I was pretty sure I was going to vomit. I thought maybe it was because I ate breakfast about an hour before and that may have been a mistake (go ahead, ask me if it’s because I’m pregnant, I dare you), but it turns out it wasn’t the breakfast, it wasn’t the intensity of the work out, it was a VIRUS! Or something. And it was miserable. The bathroom pretty much became my home.

Bitty little fever to go with the nausea and diarrhea. Joy.
Bitty little fever to go with the nausea and diarrhea. Joy.

Except… we had to go down to Madison to pick up Curly after surgery and there’s no way Seth could have picked her up on his own. I had to go. Thank goodness for rest stops, Immodium, and Pepto. It was just enough to get me down and back, although it was certainly pleasant for no one. And I’m sure I was not the most uncomfortable person in the car. You see, the ultimate outcome of Curly’s surgery was good, but repair requires use of an external fixator for at least four weeks. (At least— we’re hoping for more like 6 – 8.)

Love when she sits like a person. Not loving the incisions and pins and pain killers and all that.
Love when she sits like a person. Not loving the incisions and pins and pain killers and all that.

Poor baby is having a rough time, of course, but is doing incredibly well. Leaving for Phoenix was particularly stressful on account of leaving Seth on his own to take care of her. I know she’s a dog and normally that means food, water, potty, but not this time. It means 7 different drugs 4 times a day, cleaning of the entrance sites of the pins, and all of the effort required to keep this “high energy” dog extremely calm and as comfortable as possible. No easy task.

The good news, though, is that Seth did exceptionally well. We had Curls into our local vet to check everything over yesterday morning and she was thrilled with how it all looks. I’m particularly pleased with the incisions. She has a big long incision down the outside of both of her legs (on the right to repair the damaged knee, on the left to harvest muscle fascia for the repair) and the difference between this surgery and the last three is truly night and day– clean, dry, beautiful stitches running neatly down each leg. No oozing, no gapping, no swelling, no redness. Definitely a good sign.

Looking cozy, eh?
Looking cozy, eh?

Meanwhile, in Phoenix, I was busy subsisting on the blandest food I could find (lots and lots of dry cereal and bananas, seasoned with the pink stuff, of course) and locating (and destroying) the nearest bathroom until 4 am on Wednesday morning. Bad enough, right? Except on Tuesday night, during a viewing of The Grand Budapest Hotel (which was absolute Wes Anderson brilliance, by the way) I noticed that my hands started to feel kind of bad. Swollen. Puffy. By Wednesday morning, the virus had subsided, but my hands no longer even looked human and finding an urgent care became priority number one.

After presenting our posters in the morning and listening to a few talks, I could no longer bare the spreading and the throbbing (and the concern that my wedding ring may end up resulting in auto-amputation of my finger) and I sought out medical care. Fortunately, there was a walk-in clinic a mere two blocks from the hotel and I headed there for a prescription of oral steroids and some ice packs… three people, ice, and lots of petroleum jelly also helped to get my ring off and my finger was saved. Whew.

I cannot even tell you how kind the clinic staff were. It was amazing. Minnerva, the lovely NP who treated me, has even been in contact since I left because she wanted to 1) make sure I was doing ok (I was under strict orders to seek emergency care should I develop shortness of breath– immediately) and 2) to find out if I’d gotten a diagnosis (medical curiosity– love it). And I did! After a visit first to family practice and then to dermatology yesterday, I was diagnosed with dyshyidrotic eczema and was prescribed a big, fat steroid “blast and taper” to deal with this flare up and a steroid cream to be used at the first sign of blistering in the future.

Done in time to make it to the Desert Botanical Garden-- whew! Itchy hands, but lots of cacti for scratching. (I kid.)
Done in time to make it to the Desert Botanical Garden– whew! Itchy hands, but lots of cacti for scratching. (I kid.)

If you’ve known me a while, you know that this hand rash business is not new. It started happening back in 2009 after I had the swine flu (or, as Seth and I like to call it, the piggy pigs) and didn’t stop happening until I graduated and moved to Wisconsin in 2011. But since then– nothing. Not even once. Sweet relief. So you can imagine my panic when it came back in Phoenix– with a vengeance.

Likely, this is something I’m going to have to deal with on and off forever, but having a diagnosis, knowing some of the triggers (female gender (not much I can do about that), stress (such as traveling on the heels of my dog’s fourth surgery… a surgery that took 9 hours and two faculty surgeons to complete), extreme weather conditions (Wisconsin to Phoenix? that’ll do it), other illnesses (like the piggy pigs or an intestinal virus), and frequent hand washing/transitions from wet to dry), and having a plan for how to deal with it makes a world of difference. At least I feel pretty relieved.

So, lots to whine about, as the 1,000+ words above demonstrate… but also lots to be happy for. Seth did so great with Curly (seriously, he’s going to be such a great dad someday– but again, not preggo, I promise) and it was really nice to travel with Trista. She and I had lots to talk about and I think we’ve come to an important conclusion about some important things to say– lots and lots more to say about all of that at a later date. A series even. Additionally, my poster spurred a lot of really interesting debate. It presented evidence in direct contradiction to the 2009 United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines for mammography screening and someone who came up for the purpose of discussion worked for the USPSTF at that time. Yikes! We had a spirited and interesting debate and I was really pleased with my capacity to have nerve-wracking scientific discourse (with crazy hands) without getting worked up or personally offended or anything. Lots of other poster traffic and I was pretty pleased with the outcome– I’m really looking forward to sharing some of the suggestions and comments with the docs I worked with on the project. Lots of good stuff to think about. Trista and I got to have dinner with she and Seth’s cousin Ginni and her little boy Keegan. The restaurant was a hole in the wall, but an absolutely gem, and then we went for drinks in the spinning Compass Room overlooking the entire city. And finally, last but not least, I came home with four mini cacti from the botanical garden for planting! Pretty dang excited about that!

St. Mary's Basilica in Phoenix. Gorgeous. And look at that sky?!
St. Mary’s Basilica in Phoenix. Gorgeous. And look at that sky?!

I hope you’ll stick with me… and that Trista and others will join me in the upcoming series we’ll talk about tomorrow. It’s important and I’m really looking forward to the discussion. See you then!!!

I have a hard time getting over things… cannolis help.

I’ve worn a lot of different uniforms for a lot of different reasons. I played t-ball, soccer, and basketball as a kid. I ran cross country and played soccer in high school. I was in the marching band (the magic of polyester, topped with a big black hat, and a half foot tall sparkling silver tassel to top it off) and marched around the Lincoln High School football field and through parade after parade in the city of Ypsilanti dressed in some seriously crazy stuff.

Please take a moment and enjoy this ridiculous-ness... I'll wait.
Please take a moment and enjoy this ridiculous-ness… I’ll wait.

I also worked at Showcase Cinemas Ann Arbor and wore the uniform for both concessions (again with the polyester, but at least no tassel) and ushering/cashiering (where I swapped out the plastic apron for an additional layer of polyester by way of a vest).

{Source-- omg, you can find anything on the internet!}
{Source— omg, you can find anything on the internet!}

But none of those uniforms compared to the one I didn’t realize I was wearing.

When I was in middle school, I was super uncomfortable with the way I looked. Getting dressed was the worst and I spent hour after hour after hour trying on outfits for school the next day– trying to find the thing in which I looked the least fat (vanity plus insecurity in a 13 year old, good stuff). Unfortunately, there was never an outfit that was good enough and I ended up reverting to the thing I felt most comfortable in: a jacket.

We weren’t actually allowed to wear coats in the school, so that was somewhat problematic because the thing I felt most comfortable in was a sleek running jacket my dad let me borrow. But I managed to outsmart the system. I had gotten the coolest (to me) University of Michigan wind suit set at Meijer and that was the thing I felt most comfortable in. And the jacket, as part of a set, was, at least in my mind, innerwear not outerwear. So I wore it. I wore it pretty much every day, over every stressed-over jeans and t-shirt kind of outfit and with my matching pants at least once a week.

I guess I never really thought about what that jacket looked like to other people. All I knew about that jacket was that I didn’t feel fat in it– and at that time, that was enough.

It was only several years later (like several, several, maybe 10 or so) that I found out that I was being made fun of… pretty much always… by a lot of girls who called my jacket my “uniform.”

Look, there goes Rachel, in her uuuu-ni-foooooo-rm.

Sigh.

I knew I wasn’t a cool kid. I knew there were a lot of mean girls in my school. And I knew better than to think I wasn’t the butt of many of their jokes. But it still hurt. And bad. Even though it’s been a whole lot of years since and I never actually heard it, I frequently think of those comments… those girls… those feelings…

It’s like in Harry Potter when Dumbledore lets Harry gaze into a memory in his Pensieve– it’s so much more than just a memory. It’s an experience, full of feeling. That’s what it’s like in my mind’s eye every… single… time… that memory strikes.

{Source}
{Source}

It struck this morning. I got dressed, I put on a gray turtle neck sweater and black slacks. It’s kind of a go-to outfit for me, but I was feeling pretty ugh about it this morning. I wanted to put that jacket on– to be comfortable. And the memory came back. The mean girls were talking about me behind my back.

But when I walked in to work this morning, my friends were all gathered in one office and busy planning our Italian-fest lunch. I was instantly struck by how much I adore all of these women… not one mean girl in the bunch! When they tease me, it’s totally to my face, and it’s nice to be in on the joke!

I thought about the contrast between the Micheles, Maries, Aimies, and Debs of my life as an adult and the Connies, Kellys, Lauras, and Taras of my past. As we grow up, our community becomes driven more by choice than by circumstance. Today I feel that very poignantly… and I have chosen well (and not just because Marie made us homemade cannolis today… although that’s part of it).

Pure delicious-ness!
Pure delicious-ness!

This afternoon, I ate a lot of Italian-ish deliciousness to say “ciao!” to my friend Marie as she heads off on a two week adventure of a lifetime (to Italy, obviously)… I could have used my jacket. And in my new, friendly girl world, everyone would have said, “There goes Rachel in her comfy jacket— she’s awesome for doing what feels right! Dang!” Because that’s what friendly girls do.

I’m still not a cool kid, but the people I have chosen to surround myself with really don’t care. The facts are these:

  • I have bushy, early-books-in-the-series-Hermione-like hair.
  • I use way too many Harry Potter references.
  • I get nervous around people I like and ramble uncontrollably.
  • I sweat copiously when nervous. And I’m often nervous.
  • I wear the clothes that I feel most comfortable in, stylish or not. (Usually not.)
  • And sometimes I hang on to my magic wand while I’m watching tv or talking on the phone.

But I like my curls (raise the roots!), Harry Potter is sheer genius and I plan to love it and read it again and again for the rest of my life (always…), some people like the way I ramble because it means (1) that they don’t have to do all the talking and (2) they certainly can’t sound worse than me, black is pretty much my favorite color to wear anyway and sweat really doesn’t show, confidence comes from comfort and confidence is always classy (stylish or not), and the wand… maybe that’s just a little bit weird. But it’s fun, I like it, and I really don’t care.

I know I’m 30 years old and I know I should be over it. But words HURT. And I wish I didn’t even know that those words existed. But I do. And I’m going to have to move past it. Especially considering that it’s likely I’ve hurt someone in that same way– we all say hurtful things at times. Especially when we’re young. But I know without a doubt that I’ve grown up to be a much kinder person than that. And I hope that those girls did too.

I hope that they grew up to be kind. I hope that they don’t feel the kind of hurt I still frequently feel when those memories creep up on me. And I hope that if they have children, they’ll help them to be kinder people than they were as kids. That’s my plan for my own someday babies, anyway.

 

Fun fact: the movie Mean Girls is actually based on the book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman. Tina Fey knew the basic premise of the book, but hadn’t actually read it yet when she won the bid (is that the totally wrong terminology???… perhaps the rights? the opportunity? the chance? something?) to write the movie script. Fascinating, right?! I fully intend to read this book… eventually. It’s on my “Women’s Interest” book club reading list. Its the fourth book club on my list of “Book Clubs I Want to Start” because I really am that girl of all the characteristics listed above.

 

PS: I know these posts about getting made fun of, and perhaps what might be considered “bullied” this day and age, can be something of a downer. I really don’t want you to think it was all bad though. I really did have some great friends all throughout elementary, middle, and high school (see Emily, Kelly, Stephine, et al) and despite (literal) wedgies in the hall (I really wish that weren’t true) and the occasional overheard negative comment or two, I was a happy kid having a good time at my school. I cheered for the Railsplitters, I played on the teams, I went to the dances, and painted my face for pep rallies. All American kind of stuff. It’s just impossible to extract the mean girl (and boy!) stuff from all of that and unfortunately, as an insecure chubby girl, a lot of that is what really stuck.

 

PPS: Ok, I actually wasn’t even chubby. Not after like 8th grade anyway. I just thought I was and let people tell me I was. But from where I sit now, dang, I was svelte!! (Kidding, I just looked up svelte and it means “slender and elegant”… I was slender, not elegant. But svelte sounds so good there, all italicized, doesn’t it? Let’s just leave it and move on.)

An old compliment, a new manicure. Also, a purple monkey.

One time my friend Erika said something nice to me. (Actually a lot more than once, I just want to tell you about one of those times…)

It was a small compliment. But it made me feel oh so good.

We were in grad school and I had just painted my fingernails with my newest shade– OPI’s Pamplona Purple. (Small pleasures, you know…)

And my friend Erika… she told me she liked it!

And not just that, she told me that it was the “perfect shade of purple” and asked me for the name.

I didn’t invent the color. I only even picked it because I thought the name was cool. But I still felt so much pride in my pretty purple fingers. I felt so good!

It was seriously such a small, itty, bitty, likely not even terribly well thought out compliment. And yet, I still remember it… several years later.

I thought about that compliment on Saturday as I removed the remaining bits of my silver sparkles from the crazy week before and put on a couple coats of vibrant, shiny, Pamplona Purple– fingers and toes!!

Here, I’ll show you:

Pamplona Purple
{Source}

Kidding! Those totally aren’t my nails! This is the cool way to show off a manicure though– perfectly painted fingers wrapped around the bottle.

I’ve also seen it this way:

{Source}
{Source}

Perfectly manicured nails wrapped around something pretty and similar in color. But those are (obviously) also not my nails.

These… these are my nails:

Purple Monkey Manicure

I wrapped my pretty purple nails around my pretty purple monkey. Just like on the rest of the internet. Because I’m cool like that. And because Erika made me feel nice when I painted my nails like this the first time.

Amazing what such a small thing can do for you, isn’t it? You never really know when that nice thing you’re thinking could be exactly the nice thing someone needs to hear. And if you do let it out– maybe it’ll be something worth remembering in a year or two or five when that person needs a little pick-me-up.

 

Anyway, I’d love to stay and chat, but I’m watching Crazy, Stupid, Love. and it’s almost the part of the movie where Cal realizes his daughter is the girl Jacob is dating and a big, hilarious, four-man, backyard brawl breaks out. I love this part, it’s too funny. So I better watch it. And if you haven’t seen Crazy, Stupid, Love. you should really consider watching it too! (And I turned it on right before Jacob took his shirt off, double bonus. It wasn’t until I saw this that I got the Ryan Gossling “Hey Girl” Pinterest phenomenon. I totally get it now.)

Later gators!!

Did you see the unicorn porn?!

So yesterday, I treated you to a hilarious picture of a unicorn with a unibrow on a unicycle. We all laughed. Remember?

Under the auspices of making sure that posts are being posted properly, but truly as the result of extreme narcissism, I subscribe to my own blog on Feedly. (It’s super satisfying to see the posts pop up in my feed– I get to see them how other people get to see them and I love it!) This morning, my unicorn picture popped up.

O-M-G

Any other Feedly subscribes out there? If so, my sincerest apologies!

Except obviously I’m not that sorry, because if I were, I wouldn’t be posting it here:

Unicorn Porn
Unicorn Porn

Oh dang. That bike seat plus cropping. Well, that’s just unfortunate.

And hilarious to me.

I’ll forgive you if you click unsubscribe now…

(please don’t unsubscribe… please don’t unsubscribe…)

Also yesterday, I want kind of crazy with alliteration. I just love writing that way! And I kept thinking about it all night last night… until the reason I love it so much popped into my head. One word:

Scattergories!

{Source-- because of course there's a whole Wiki page on it!}
{Source— because of course there’s a whole Wiki page on it!}

Growing up, this was truly my favorite game (and I totally want to play it right now… can we at our next game night, friends? I will buy it and bring it AND bring a bottle of wine so you don’t all hate me!) and we played it all. the. time.

It was a blast. For me, anyway. In large part though, the blast was had because I took advantage of young children. Let me tell you how.

My cousin Spruce and I are relatively close in age (fun fact: Spruce was born on the exact same day– month, day, and year!– as my husband!) and we loved more than anything to gang up on our little sisters. Fortunately for us, our little sisters pretty much worshiped us and were willing to play just about anything even if it meant that they had to be Swahili nerds that got electrocuted by a phone cord, run around as Dr. Pig and Dr. Snort, or get their butts handed to them in a rousing game of Scattergories.

Have you played Scattergories before? The basic premise is that you have to come up with words that start with a given letter and are in a certain category. For example, you roll the letter D, the category is Movies, you could write Die Hard for one point or Dirty Dancing for two. If someone else writes the same thing as you, they cancel each other out and neither of you gets any points. What you couldn’t write would be something like dumb Disney movies. The Disney might get you a point if your companions are feeling generous… the dumb? Not so much… it’s an adjective.

As an evil, conspiratorial child, the trick was knowing what adjectives were, how to use them, and how to lie. Spruce and I went nuts with the alliteration. Letter S, category scary things, our answer: seven slippery snakes slithering slowly (5 points!), but when our poor little sisters wrote down sand storm we’d scream adjective!!!!! and allow them, appearing to be benevolent, a point for the storm. Even though the sand would totally have been a point because it describe a particular type of storm. (For the purpose of distinction scary storm would legitimately not have counted).

We’ve chatted before about how I’m a jerk because I love (oy, my poor, poor little sister! she has put up with so much! and btw, you can click on the hyperlinked “jerk” if you want to see her underwear again… just saying…) and I think this is just another example of that. Because to be honest, there can’t possibly have been any pleasure in beating the pants off our little sister when we’d cheated against them so very, very badly… and yet… I remember these events with great, great joy. Therefore, it must have been the torture and the cheating itself that I loved. In-ter-es-an-te. (Dis-tur-ban-te???)

 

***All sample categories and answers are purely fictional, made up for the purpose of story telling and to protect the innocent. The letters? Not so much. Like a D needs any protection. Please.

Hoggle Goes Organic, Makes Friends

(Like my newspaper-style title? Made me feel pretty clever…)

Have you ever seen The Labyrinth?  Please say yes… because David Bowie plus the Muppets, it’s too good!

The Labyrinth
{Source}

In case you haven’t had the pleasure, let me give you a very brief synopsis:

Angry at her parents for leaving her home to babysit her little brother, fantasy-loving Sarah wishes that the Goblin King would come and take him away. Which, unfortunately for Sarah, he does. In order to get her brother back, Sarah has to make her way through a massive labyrinth, replete with many interesting characters, both good and bad… on a deadline. I’m sure IMDB does a better job here.

While I love the movie for a lot of reasons (like I said, David Bowie AND the Muppets… what’s no to love?), I’m especially fond of the character Hoggle and I found myself thinking about him the other day.

Hoggle Face
{Source}

Hoggle is the first person (or person-like thing) Sarah meets in the labyrinth and she immediately clings to him as a friend. To which Hoggle replies:

“Friend. Huh! I like that. I ain’t never been no one’s friend before.”

But Hoggle messes up. A couple of times. And ends up reassuring himself that he doesn’t need friends and that the only person Hoggle needs is Hoggle. But you can see that he’s totally dejected and lying even to himself as he says it. (Hoggle may be a classic introvert, yes.)

The best part is at the end, when Hoggle realizes that not only is Sarah his true friend, but so are the others in their unlikely band of heroes– Didymus and Ludo. (Didymus is a little foxish dog-like thing who rides a dog around as his noble steed, I just love it!) Ludo even says in his slow, sweet, growl-y voice:

“Hoggle and Ludo frieeeeends…”

{Source}
{Source}

It makes me so happy; that organic growth of friendship out of shared experience and necessity.

And I’m delighted to tell you that I’ve somehow managed to scrape together a similar sort of (heroic) band right here in Marshfield.

As I partied with my crew on Friday night (ugly Christmas sweaters and white elephant gift exchange*) I thought about this group of people and how it came to be and the word that kept springing to mind was that old, standby buzz word:

ORGANIC

Organic growth is a good thing in business. It’s also valued in the marketplace. People are pretty into organic fruits and veggies, meats, cleaning products, and personal care items. The idea of something being natural, or as-intended, generally has a very positive connotation.

And I guess I’m not sure why I ever thought that friendship would be any different.

I had a really great group of friends in grad school and it was hard to leave and go to a place where my crew wouldn’t be quite so ready-made. And I wasn’t really sure what to do about that. I signed up for several fitness classes, I scoured craigslist and meetup and the library bulletin board for some sort of group or club to join or get involved with, and nothing really worked out. I even got overly excited about a new potential friend after we ran together at an early morning conference 5K and invited her to go fly kites with me (I’m not even kidding… I’m such a nerd…), but it was so forced and just didn’t work out. I was so sad. And somewhat resigned.

I had essentially decided that I would forgo friendship for the time being and focus on family. I assumed that someday I’d have kids and they would make friends and I would become de facto friends with their parents. Problem solved.

As I pursued that route of action (or non-action, really), hanging out primarily with my husband and his sister and brother-in-law, something rather curious happened. We got involved in sand volleyball at a local supper club, Sister Doctor invited people she knew from the clinic, Seth invited another soccer referee and his wife who were also new to the area, and things kind of just… happened. Turns out, one of Sister Doctor’s resident friends lived next door to the soccer ref and his wife. The wife is a teacher and had another friend from work interested in getting together… the weather got cold, volleyball ended, and we started playing board games… and then started a book club…. and then had a Christmas bash… and planned another for New Years Eve… and look at this. Friends.

Hoggle has friends.

It wasn’t fast, but it also wasn’t forced. And I think, for me, that has made all the difference.

 

*A white elephant gift exchange is something I was not familiar with. I assumed it was a small secret santa-style gift exchange. Wrong. But I didn’t bother to google it until after I’d already bought gifts for Seth and me. So I was the nerd who brought a homemade pan of apple butter cinnamon rolls and a jar of cream cheese frosting to go with and a lovely little Christmas cactus and box of frosted Christmas tree pretzels. White elephant fail! Although, I walked out with a sweet inflatable ninja turtle punching bag, I don’t that’s a tacky gift at all!!

A jerk! Because I love…

I have an amazing little sister and I love her so very, very much.

And because of that… this:

Abby's UndiesUNDERWEAR!

This is a guided tour of my little sister’s underwear that moves from conservative granny panties on the left up to butt floss-style thongs on the right.  She came home one day to this.

I’m not sure if my favorite part was the anticipation of Abby walking up the stairs and finding the underwear or the moment I heard her scream… knowing what it was about.

Either way…

MWUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

And this was how it always was and probably always will be.  I tease.  A lot.  But for me to tease, I’ve got to be comfortable.  And for me to be comfortable, I’ve got to love.  So in a round about way, I’m a jerk… because I love.

It’s funny, really, how crazy much I love my sister these days.  Because it’s a far cry from when she first came in to this world.  I still remember the day she was born.  I was so mad that the stupid baby was making my mom stay in the hospital when she should have been home with me.  I was angry with her before I even saw her, despite the big sister classes with baby dolls and all of that.  My 3-year-old self could barely stand it.

And then she came home, and things went steadily downhill from there.  Not because there was anything wrong with my baby sister (except for the biting… there was a lot of biting…), but because I was no longer the center of the universe and I didn’t like that feeling.

So, in my desperation, I developed a series of mysterious medical maladies that our rather astute pediatrician eventually diagnosed as Abby-itis.  (Blast!  Foiled again!)

And so it went, for many years.  I must have been some sort of torturer in a past life, because I delighted in tormenting my little sister… and eventually my brother when he came along.  Evil was my middle name and I wasn’t even allowed to laugh in the car since it usually indicated I’d done something awful.  (Rachel Ann!  Stop it, whatever you’re doing!)

But, despite all of that, my sister and I grew into inseparable friends and it is my mission in life to make sure that if I ever have a baby girl, I’ll never stop having babies until she has a sister.  Because truly, there’s nothing better.

Nothing better for me, anyway.  Ask Abby, owner of all that underwear taped to the wall, and you may get a different story 😉

 

I suppose as long as I’ve got that picture I should really tell you about what you don’t see…

In addition to being a grade A jerk face as a child, I also tormented my younger sister by being exceptionally territorial.  And our room was always split in half one way or the other.

Did you notice the glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling?  Right.  Those were only on my half.  And I refused to share.  Refused!

However, I did throw Ab a little bit of a bone.  My rule was this: if a star fell from the ceiling and she got to it first, she could have it.  We had bunk beds in our room and Abby was on the top.  So on that rare occasion that a star fell, she’d come scurrying down the ladder and head for the star– Smeagol-style.  (My preeeeeccccious…..)

And the evidence is still there on the ceiling in my parents’ house to this day.  It always makes me laugh… an evil, evil laugh.  Because I still love very, very much!

What’s in a name? Everything, if it’s Grace.

 

Dang– I’ve been missing a lot of posts lately.  Last night’s detour was completely necessary though.  I made four accidentally enormous candy corn jello shots last weekend and I needed to trick some people into eating them last night.  Only Sister Doctor fell for it.  At least they looked nice and festive even if they were mostly disastrous.

20131030-165013.jpg
Seems awesome, right? It’s not.

I have a nice story for you today to make up for it– get ready to find some grace!

————————————————-

When I was in fifth grade one of our first classroom assignments was to draw a self portrait… but with a twist.

First, we had to look up the meaning of our name and then incorporate the meaning into our drawing.

So, I looked up Rachel.  The meaning?  Ewe.

Ewe?

So, I looked up ewe.

Lady sheep.  Nice.

My teacher was excited and thought I should draw myself with short, curly hair (wool, if you will) and little sheep ears.  Or not!  I was in fifth grade and I was a nerd.  I was not about to draw myself as a sheep.  Can you even imagine?  (Incidentally, that was the year of the shroom-cut.  Wool for hair?  Yeah, it could be worse…)

So Plan B: middle name.

And I looked up Ann.  (Which was my middle name before the Social Security Administration let me change it to anything I want– nothing too exciting here, but it could have been!!  I chose Vonck, my maiden name, just like my mom did.)

The meaning of Ann?  Grace.

Grace?  That was something I could work with.

So I drew my fifth grade version of grace.  I was wearing a long, red, Disney princess style dress and white, elbow length gloves.  Pearls around my neck and sparkly, dangling earrings from my ears.  Hair in a fancy up-do and perfect make up.  (All of this as a fifth grade illustrator, mind you, so nothing amazing.  I‘m sure it included blue eye shadow. It was nineteen-ninety-something after all.)

That fancy pants version of myself was what I thought of when I heard the word grace for a long time.

I think perhaps I had confused the idea of grace with the ideas of elegance, class, and finesse… to be graceful.

Or maybe confused is the wrong word.  Perhaps the real idea of grace was just beyond me at the time.  Which is likely considering that it’s still hard for me to grasp even today… many, many years removed from 5th grade.

Fortunately, I have spent much of the last… umm… approximately 20 years?  Yeah, about that.  So I’ve spent the last 20 or so years slowly figuring out what grace really means.

And WOW.

Even the limited understanding I have of the concept is enough to leave me somewhat floored.  It’s a powerful idea really, that you can be “flawed” and still be perfect.  That you can do “bad” things, but still be a good person.  That you can sin and yet you still have infinite opportunities to be forgiven and to be loved— even at your most unlovable moments.

Perhaps it’s cheesy to put too much stock in song lyrics, but I really think that Mumford & Sons say it so crazy succinctly and brilliantly and understandably in their song Roll Away Your Stone:

It seems that all my bridges have been burnt

But you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works.

It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart

But the welcome I receive with every start.

The whole song is great really, but I’ll play it on repeat again and again and again (especially while I’m running) just to hear that line.  I love it.  It resonates with me so strongly.  That idea, that we can always try again, no matter how bad it seems, is what I’ve searched for for a long time.

Want to know something kind of crazy?*  My little friend Emily, the one I keep telling you about– the amazing girl who colors my vision, survives my attempts at destruction, and is in so very many ways just like me… her middle name happens to be Grace.  And she is grace to me, because she gives me a chance to start over loving myself… and giving myself grace from the very beginning.  It’s powerful stuff.

Now, when I talk to her beautiful and amazing mama and hear about Emily’s struggles, it’s so meaningful to me because I can give Emily grace in the same situations in which I’ve so long been unable to give it to myself.

I really think we all deserve that from ourselves, even though it’s hard to do.  Forgiveness is difficult, even for other people, but I know I tend to hold myself to a ridiculously high (and largely unattainable) standard.  (But I’m sure you’re not like that…)  Life seems a little better with a dash of grace though.  When I can stop the second track for just a second to give myself a break, knowing that I can try again and do better next time.

I suggest starting with a pair of elbow-length satin evening gloves.  You can only go up from there.

 

*Ok, ok… that wasn’t really crazy.  Grace isn’t a terribly unpopular name.  But to me, it’s quite meaningful.  And if you knew Emily’s parents and knew how unbelievably graceful AND grace-giving they are, you’d really appreciate how big of a deal this is to me.  It’s big.  Bigger than my hair on a rainy July day in New Orleans.  Big.