Knuffle Bunny, Worlds Expanding, and the Danger of the Single Story

If you have young children, know young children, or have ever been in the children’s section of a bookstore, it’s likely that you are familiar with the books of Mo Willems. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus or Elephant and Piggie are basically household names. When my boys were young, they were obsessed with the Knuffle Bunny books. You might be familiar with them, but if you aren’t, they center on a character named Trixie (based on Mo’s daughter in real life) and her beloved green stuffed animal, Knuffle Bunny. The second book in this sweeping trilogy is called Knuffle Bunny Too, and it’s been on my mind this week.

In Knuffle Bunny Too, Trixie’s world is about to expand – she’s going to school for the first time. But when she brings her beloved Knuffle Bunny to school, she learns that he’s not the only Knuffle Bunny in the world. A fight ensues, a mix-up occurs, and a middle of the night rendezvous saves the day.

I pulled this book off the shelf as a mentor text for something I’m working on, but when I reread it, I saw this metaphor for something we are experiencing collectively on so many levels in this country. This week, our newsfeeds have been full of women (and some men) sharing their experiences with sexual assault, sexual harassment, and the smaller, insidious ways women walk through the world in de-escalation mode daily. In my small corner of the world, most of the conversation has been productive, but I’ve also seen a number of posts derailed by people chiming in to negate someone’s personal experience. These statements, in short, say “That’s not my experience, so therefore it’s not reality.” And this made me think of Trixie.

Trixie, like most young children, started off with a small world – her immediate family. Her world, like most children’s, grows as she gets older. It begins to encompass neighbors, friends, perhaps church, then school. As she grows older (spoiler alert!) it will even encompass foreign travel. This isn’t exactly revelatory stuff here – all our worlds expand as we age.

But what I’m seeing right now, what I’m struggling with, is how many of us seem stuck in a childlike mindset, unable to accept something as real because it hasn’t entered our personal world yet. Trixie assumed her Knuffle Bunny was the only one in the world because she hadn’t seen another one, but when her world expanded, she was able to accept that it did, in fact, exist. But so many of us don’t want to see the other Knuffle Bunny. When someone says, let me share my experience with you, if it doesn’t match what we have already experienced ourselves, we are rejecting it as fake. Instead of accepting that perhaps our own reality is limited, and being open to listening, we’d rather maintain our bubble.

From a psychological perspective, this is the height of narcissism. The insistence that the world’s objective reality matches our small existence couldn’t be more self-centered. And while it’s natural for young, growing children to have a self-centered view of the world until they go through the stages of development that expand their thinking, it’s not okay behavior for adults. It’s harmful, it’s shallow thinking, it displays a desire to remain ignorant, it lacks empathy and imagination.

I know we can do better. We can be better listeners. We can take baby steps in this direction by resisting the urge to insert ourselves into someone else’s narrative. If a friend tells a personal story online, and we can simply listen without responding. If the story doesn’t match our own experiences in the world, instead of writing it off as false, perhaps we can try expanding our worldview to include it as part of a bigger story.

I’m going to leave you with this TED Talk that I share at least once a year because I believe it is that important. I believe in the power of story to connect us, but we have to be willing to listen.

Carnation Days

“IMAGINE YOU HAD ONLY ONE DAY LEFT ON EARTH. WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH IT?”

 

I read Ms. Bixby’s Last Day in a single sitting, on an airplane en route to California for 
vacation. My mind, filled with excitement of the week to come, full of big events and 
exciting outings, slowed and focused as I turned the first pages of 
John David Anderson‘s novel.

 












Three hours and many tissues later, I set the book down as we hit the tarmac, looking 
at vacation in a new light.

There are many things to say about this book. I could write about teachers and the 
tremendous impact they have in the lives of our students, or tell you about the ones 
that mattered most to me. I could write about boy friendship and the way it is honestly 
explored and depicted in Topher, Steve, and Brand. I could write about the ways our 
small acts of kindness to one another have a ripple effect, beyond our wildest
 imagination, or about what it means to be truly seen by another person and 
celebrated for who we are. All of these themes appear in the pages of this at times 
vulnerable, at times laugh-out-loud funny, always perfectly voiced novel.
But instead, I’m going to write about carnations. As in, the flowers.
Please continue reading at All the Wonders

Bring a Book!

I’m delighted to be featured at All the Wonders this week talking about one of the most often heard phrases in our home – bring a book!

Summer has always been analogous with reading for me, as far back as I can remember. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the other summery things too—the swimming pools, the backyard barbecues, the roasted marshmallows, summer camp, the fireflies, the road trips, all of it. But for me, those things all had one thing in common—the book that was (and still is) always tucked safely in my bag. Just in case.

Now, as a mother of two young boys, these are the reminders as we get ready to leave the house:

Did you brush your teeth?
Yes, you have to wear shoes!
Bring a book!

And at least one member of our family takes that last reminder very seriously.

Reading at Six Flags…
and at Go! St. Louis marathon…
poolside…
in between customers…
and at the beach. Like mother, like son here.

 

 

Today, I’d like to share a few book recommendations for all the places you or your children might find yourselves this summer. They range in age from picture books to young adult. So, brush your teeth, grab your shoes, and above all, bring a book!

Please continue to All the Wonders to see my recommendations for books for the beach, summer camp, the pool and more …

Finding Courage in Raymie Nightingale

My very first post at All the Wonders is up today, and it’s been such a joy to work with this team of talented and creative people who love to talk about children’s literature as much as I do.  

Today, I’m on the site exploring the theme of courage in Kate DiCamillo’s newest book, Raymie Nightingale.  I adore Kate DiCamillo’s work.  For me, she is right up there with Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume when I think of authors who authentically capture the heart of children in their writing.  Her latest book is no exception, and I’d encourage you to pick up a copy to share with your kids.  It’s a perfect summer read.  


“Have you ever in your life come to realize that everything, 
absolutely everything, depends on you?”
Raymie didn’t even have to think about the answer to this question.

“Yes,” she said.

Raymie Clarke is certain that absolutely everything depends on her. Everything having to do with getting her dad to come back home where he belongs, that is. And she has a plan. She is going to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, and when her dad sees her face in the newspapers, he will realize he has made a terrible mistake and come home.

Please visit All the Wonders to continue reading …

Eleven Books for Eleven-Year-Olds (Recommended by an Eleven-Year-Old)

Some of you may remember when my oldest son Ronan became my first guest-blogger last year with his Ten Books for Ten-Year-Olds (Recommended by a Ten-Year-Old).  I’m excited to welcome this voracious reader back again to share eleven books for eleven-year-olds, now that he’s a year older and hundreds of books deeper in his reading repertoire.   Ronan recently started his own (private) blog in which he writes about cats, books, D&D, video games, and as he puts it, “all things geek.”  I’m excited to have him here today!

Also, keep an eye out next week for my youngest son Liam’s first guest post – you guessed it – Nine Books for Nine-Year-Olds! 



Hi, I’m Ronan and I’m here with a post that introduces eleven books I recommend for eleven-year-olds, or anyone of any age willing to expand their literary palates.  Here they are, in no particular order. 





The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak 
by Brian Katcher

When an academic girl meets a fun-loving, nerdy boy at a comic con on a quest to find her lost brother, a series of strange events follows.  A great book that references a lot of geek culture, including Star Wars, RPGs, trading card games and other geek stuff. 



Eragon
by Christopher Paolini

If you do not read this book you are missing out on a good portion of life.  I named my cat after this book.  Also, here is my cat:





The Age of Miracles
by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles is about a girl who faces the side effects of a world-wide catastrophe that effects the entire population.  An awesome, if sometimes confusing book that is a must read for anyone that watches Doctor Who.


See You at Harry’s
by Jo Knowles

A very sad book about a girl named Fern who feels alone in a busy family managing a struggling ice cream business.  When a family tragedy happens, Fern wonders if her family will ever find happiness again.  Don’t forget your tissues!


Magisterium Series
by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

There are only two books so far in this series and I’m waiting for the next book.  These are amazing books about a boy with an injured leg who is accepted into a school of magic.  But it’s NOT Harry Potter!  (Harry Potter is also awesome though).  The books have a powerful plot and a surprising twist.



Thing Explainer
by Randall Munroe

A hilarious book in which web comic author Randall Munroe explains complicated stuff in simple words, like cells (“tiny bags of water”) or ISS (“shared space house”). 


The Amazing Spider Man (the new version)
by Dan Slott (writer) and Humberto Ramos (illustrator)

Following an already dramatic story line, the Amazing Spider-Man learns new things about the spider that gave him his powers and the future of all of the Spider-Men in the world. 


Counting by 7s
by Holly Goldberg Sloan

A beautiful book where a girl genius named Willow faces emotional struggles when her parents die.  Again, with the tissues.


The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

A dystopian novel about an evil future in which the president has split the population into twelve districts.  Every year, two children from each district must face each other in a fight to the death as a punishment for an earlier rebellion against the wealthy Capitol.  When the main character Katniss learns that her sister has been chosen for the games, she volunteers to go in her place, setting off an unexpected series of events. 


The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman

This book has an amazing author and story in which a boy raised by ghosts tries to understand the world outside of  the graveyard that is his home.


The Chronicles of Narnia
by C.S. Lewis

When a group of children find a wardrobe in a mansion where they are staying during the London Blitz, they are surprised that it leads to another world filled with magic and mystery.  The children become unlikely heroes aided by a mystical talking lion who travel to stop villains from corrupting the magical land of Narnia.

The Measure of a Year


I have thousands of photos sitting on my computer and a decade old abandoned promise to myself of making digital photo books out of them.  I have this pipe dream of sitting down in front of my computer and choosing a handful of favorites to represent each year, tossing them onto a pre-made template and hitting the order button.  Nothing fancy, no text, not letting perfect be the enemy of good enough, just simply done.  It has yet to happen.

I just sat down and started scanning through the photos of this past year, thinking maybe I’d start now and work my way backwards.  As I scrolled through them, I couldn’t believe everything that transpired in 2015.  It feels like the year just started, yet I have tangible proof that a very full year has indeed passed.  I also have tangible proof that I take way too many pictures of my cats.

But without these pictures, my own introspective year in review would be left to the whim of my ever-changing emotions.  Catch me on a good day, and I could tell you it’s been a banner year.  I could rattle off the things accomplished, the lessons learned, the trips taken, the babies born, the lives joined in marriage, the highlight reel.  Or, following a week of rain and dreary skies, my vitamin D deficient self might tell you that it’s been a hard year.  A year of difficult parenting moments, challenging medical diagnoses for many that I love, a year of loss, a year of global struggle, a year that brought me to my knees on more than one occasion. 

But my pictures tell the whole story.  I can look at any random picture from this year and remember how the moments almost always held multiple emotions. 

Like this one, when I hit the road with my two boys in January and drove to Texas, excited for an adventure. How we got derailed nine hours in by a migraine, trying to recover at a booth at a Braum’s in Oklahoma.  Trudged the last two hours to Dallas, feeling relief and triumph upon arrival.  I look at this picture and think, oh Jess, you don’t know what’s about to hit you.  Maybe don’t call Jason from Joplin and brag about what great time you’re making so you don’t have to eat your words later, over ice cream and Imitrex.

Or this one, at my aunt’s bed & breakfast in Texas, helping my granddad settle in for a winter’s stay, his first winter without his wife of 64 years by his side.  We were so grateful to be with him, yet we all missed her so much behind our smiling faces.

This could have been any mid-winter’s day, escaping the house for a change of pace.  We had so many good days in our first year of homeschooling, but this one probably wasn’t one of them.  This one was probably a hard day, a second cup of coffee day, an “I need a break day.”  

This picture, of my basement after I got rid of over 40 bags of stuff in 40 days.  That was a process, and it was a highlight of my year.  I loved hearing from all of you about your own journeys with your stuff. However, my basement doesn’t look like this now, and I’m still processing that.  Which means you’re probably going to hear about it later.  😉

The boys on our family farm in Indiana.  My first visit back in many years, to celebrate the life of my grandmother Gigi.  A realization that our family gatherings are likely to continue to be marked by loss for years to come, that the co-mingling of joy and grief is an ever-present thread in life. 

My happiest place is always by the water, but this picture was taken on a day that we received bad news about a family member.  Liam is joyful in this shot, and I am heartbroken.  He jumps off the dock again and again, and there they are, joy and grief, holding hands.

It rained incessantly this summer in St. Louis and this was my favorite of those days.  I laughed so hard that I cried as we started kicking puddles at each other, riding our scooters in the gutters, watching cars drive by, passengers staring at us like we were crazy.  Maybe we were.  But this day felt like healing.

A failed attempt at a photo shoot in crazy wind during a beautiful week away at the beach.  Strike that.  Not a failed attempt.  This looks about right for my family. 

Our sweet new kitten Eragon (left) with our Ginger cat (right), who we lost this year after 14 years together.  Joy and grief, grief and joy.

When Jason comes home from work and we are accidentally wearing matching clothes.  And I look up at his smiling eyes, with the lines around them that remind me how damned lucky we are to have had so many years together, and how our house becomes home again every day when he’s here.  

The pictures tell the whole truth, if we let them.  We get to choose which pictures we keep and curate and catalogue, much in the way we choose the way we view our memories.  We get to choose the way we measure a year.  And since I often find my truth in the lyrics of musical theater, I’m going with Jonathon Larson on this one.  All of it can be measured in love, if we let it.  There is no grief without love, no loss without love.  No moments of loneliness or frustration without love.  The joy stems from love, the laughter and the tears.  And when I look at my pictures from 2015, that’s what I’m going to remember.  I’m going to remember a year that I fiercely loved. 

“In daylights,

in sunsets,

in midnights,

in cups of coffee…

  
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love.”

Redefining Optimism

About a month ago, I sat down in a university auditorium with several hundred thirty-something year old women including my own teenage bestie to listen to my favorite childhood author, Judy Blume, speak about her new novel and writing process.

I might as well have been a eleven-year-old girl at a One Direction concert.

I took surreptitious pictures from the audience, choked back tears as she spoke, refrained myself from jumping out of my seat when she answered the question I had submitted, and could barely contain the shaking in my hands as I waited in line to meet her afterward.

Please read the rest of this post over at Mamalode … 

The Deal of the Year for Book Lovers


I’ve got THE BEST money-saving, freebie deal to share with you today.  This is the big one friends.  A completely legit, no coupon code required, money-saving deal that will blow your mind. 


What if I told you that by using this deal, my family has saved over $4,000 dollars in the last six months alone in free books?  Free books!  We don’t get to keep them of course, this deal is more like Netflix, where you pay a monthly subscription to get access to all of these books but you do have to give them back when you are done. Except unlike Netflix, this deal is absolutely free. 

It’s called….wait for it….the public library.  
You probably have one right in your hometown.  It’s this completely magical building where anyone can just walk in off the streets, and regardless of credit history or the size of  one’s bank account, can gain access to as much free reading material as he/she wants.  The library in our town is so magical that even if they don’t have the book we are looking for, they can use some kind of wizard summoning spell to make it appear in the library, sometimes as quickly as the NEXT DAY. 

Wait, there’s more.  If I can’t make it to the library, I can get on my computer and press a few buttons and then the next time I visit, all of the books I want will be waiting on a special shelf with my name on them.   For FREE! 

Did I mention how all of this is free? 

My youngest waiting for the library doors to open so he could begin his summer reading program.

Listen, in all seriousness, I can’t sing the praises of the public library loud enough.  Our local library has been a cornerstone to the experience of raising my children.  I started started bringing them to story time as babies, and by the time they were precocious preschoolers, they knew some of the librarians by name and these wonderful ladies knew them too.  They knew what books my boys would want to read, and before long, knew which children’s books I would want to read myself.  I met mamas and their kids at the library that are still friends today.  Our family has had the opportunity of meeting some of our favorite authors in this public space, and the privilege to be inspired by their stories.  These experiences are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what our local library offers.  If you want to start a business, the library offers myriad resources on how to go about doing that.  Want to know more about your family tree?  The library has people on staff that will help you sort out your genealogy (but they won’t help you sort out your family … there has to be a limit to what these wizards can accomplish).  Need to use a computer?  They have one for you, for free!  Test coming up?  The library offers practice exams for academic, civil service, military and many professional industries.  Need help with your taxes?  The library has accountants on hand during tax season to answer your questions.  Our local library even brings in adorable, furry dogs to snuggle up and read to if you just really love dogs.   

I feel like I forgot to mention that all of this is free.


In the last six months alone, our family has checked out over 300 books from our local library system.  I found this handy calculator on my library’s website, which is how I found out that we had, in fact, saved over $4,000 in materials and resources.  In six months.  While there are books I am so thrilled to own, and bookstores I love to support, our budget simply cannot keep up with our reading habit without our library.

 Our library habit is so intense it requires one of these really large rolling carts.  And that’s just the books for the kids.


There is substantial research illustrating the direct correlation between reading aloud to our babies and children and their academic success down the road.  If you are research-minded, I’d highly encourage you to check out this article or this one.

If you’ve already had the experience of raising a reader, you may already know this intrinsically.  You’ve felt the weight of your baby’s warm body snuggled into you while you read Goodnight Moon, or the wiggling, giggling toddler squirming on your lap while saying “No!” to the pigeon in Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus for the one hundredth time, or the wide-eyed, breathless anticipation of your young child desperate to know what happens to Harry Potter in the next chapter.  You’ve watched your child grow into a reader, and watched him disappear behind a book and discover the possibility of living so many kinds of lives.  You’ve seen your child reenact her favorite scenes with her dolls.  You’ve seen your teenager find empathy for someone whose experiences he can only imagine because of a book, and you yourself have left behind a busy day of work and diapers and bills and difficult relationships to sink beneath the sheets with a copy of your favorite author’s latest novel.  You don’t need to read the research to know the magic of books. 

So, today, if you are already a regular at your local library, take a minute to thank the men and women who make the magic happen.  Take a friend while you are at it.  And if you aren’t a library regular, get in your car and go now.  Sign up for a library card, ask for a book recommendation and see for yourself.  This really is the deal of a lifetime.  

***UPDATE – Giveaway has ended and the winner, Susan Harris, is in possession of her sweet tote.  Thanks for all of the entries!

Wait…if you’ve stuck with me this far, don’t leave yet!  I’ve got one more deal to offer you today.  I’d like to introduce you to Tammi Salas, writer, artist and fellow library enthusiast.  I first discovered Tammi last November when she took part in a “Rainbow Friday” event with other bloggers.   Rainbow Friday was offered as a kind of antidote to Black Friday, an opportunity to shop for handmade, meaningful gifts that also give back.  Tammi was selling her “Library Junkie” totes and donating 20% of her sales to fund a library in Pastures Preschool, a one-room schoolhouse in Bodega, California.  I did what anyone would do and immediately bought one as a gift and then kept it for myself.  Thankfully, there is still a chance for one of you to own this bag, as Tammi is graciously donating a bag to one lucky reader! 


 Here’s what you can do to increase your chances of getting your hands on this bag:

1.  Comment on this post below and tell me your favorite thing about the public library.
2.  Share this post and tag me (so I see it).
3.  Visit your library and share a picture (and let me know if I can share it too!)

I’ll enter your name into a drawing once for each of the above actions and choose one name at random on January 31st to receive this cute and handy tote.  In the meantime, please take a moment to visit Tammi on her blog where she shares beautiful stories on motherhood, community, art and more.  You can also visit her Etsy shop (which she’ll be re-stocking in the coming months with additional items) or follow her on Instagram (@tammisalas) for artistic inspiration.  Thank you so much Tammi for sharing your many gifts and sweet tote with us, and for your generous spirit.

On Courage and a New Year


We’re closing in on the end of 2014 and the internet is full of year-end reviews, best of 2014 lists, and ambitious resolutions for 2015.  I’m a sucker for new beginnings and reflection, so obviously, I want to play too.

I have a fairly terrible track record when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions (either they’ve been discarded by February or I fail to set them at all) so last year I decided to choose a word to focus on in the coming year, a theme I wanted to manifest in my life that year.  It felt less specific than a resolution and in some ways, like taking the easy way out because a word is subjective and without specific benchmarks or quantifiable ways to measure its impact on your life.  So, basically, I’m confessing that back in December of 2013 I thought I had stumbled upon the Lazy Woman’s Answer to a New Year.  Boy was I wrong.

I chose the word courage and wrote these words on Facebook on New Year’s Day:

“2014 and I keep coming back to the word courage.  It sums up my hopes for myself and those I love in the new year.

This quote from “We Bought a Zoo” is often repeated in our home… “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage.  Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery.  And I promise you, something great will come of it.”  

I have found this to be true and I hope that all of you can find that courage in the coming year when you most need it.  Whether it is the courage to try something new, create something, speak out, remain silent, forgive, trust, run a race, nap, wear appliqué sweaters with no irony…whatever it is, grab your twenty seconds.  There has never been a better time than now, because now is the time you have.”

I don’t consider myself a brave person.  I’mafraid of heights and tiny spaces and creepy dolls(which by the way includes most dolls).  But that  little word….courage….guided me through 2014 in ways I did not imagine in January when I typed out those words, and it continues to inspire my decisions.  It became the filter through which I asked questions and found answers.  I learned how different courage can look on different people, or even on the same person in different situations….like the way courage would nudge me to speak up and other times, remind me to just listen.  Focusing on courage encouraged me to ask questions about how to spend this one, precious life, and how to become comfortable living in the tension of those answers.  And the word kept popping up everywhere, though I’m sure that had more to do with my mental filter than reality, kind of like the way you see pregnant women everywhere when you are pregnant yourself.  It was in books, movies, and quotes on my Pinterest board like the following:

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin

Expansive life.  Those are bold words.  Bold, and if I’m honest, a little bit scary.  Our current culture is so consumed with the glorification of busy it is all too easy to read the word expansive and curl up in the fetal position.  Expand?  Where?  How?  Have you seen my calendar?  Or my laundry room?!?  I don’t have time to expand!

But here is the lie:  An expansive life is a busy life.

And here is the truth:  An expansive life is a life lived fully.  

This is a lesson that I have to learn over and over again, and no doubt will spend the rest of my life learning.  Each time I find myself staring at a calendar that is busy in a busy way, and not busy in a full way, I start making adjustments.  I start shrinking.  At first, it is a healthy shrinking, a sort of clutter removal to make room for the things I value.  It starts to feel really, really lovely.  All those beautiful white squares with NO PLANS and time for spontaneity and discovery.  I live in those days so well, loving the people I share them with and making room for interruptions.  But inevitably, I reach a point where I realize that I may have thrown away something useful in my decluttering process.  Similarly to the way that I donate my husband’s tools when I clean out the basement (he never uses them, right?) only to find that he needs them the very next week, I often find myself looking for something I cast aside.  Where did I put my knitting?  Theater?  Yoga?  

I am a person who loves to learn from her mistakes so much that she often repeats them.  

Just days into my newly courageous 2014, I tripped on some stairs, broke my ankle, and began to shrink.  At first, it was a healthy and necessary shrinking.  I couldn’t walk or drive, much of that winter was spent under ice, and it simply made more sense to stay home and hibernate through my healing.  I started to pick up a few of the things I rarely left time for … that children’s book I have been meaning to write, some watercolor paints, some time spent with my ukulele.  And as sure as winter turns to spring, so my ankle healed and my courage started to quietly roar and I was ready to enter a cycle of expansion again. 

 I’m not sure if courage is the right word for driving around Target in this fancy ride or humility.


I started playing music with other people (okay, so it was in the privacy of my home but other people were present so it counts as courageous) and I started writing regularly.  We dipped our toes into the foster care system, opening our home for short-term and respite foster children and explored ways to support families in crisis.  After several years away from musical theater, I auditioned for and was cast in November Theater Company’s production of Assassins in a role that stretched me as a performer, brought with it new and beautiful friendships, and offered me the privilege of watching an old friend achieve a long-held dream. We sent our oldest son to summer campOf the overnight varietyMy husband and I made the decision to home-school our children for this school year, a conversation that has been alive in our home since before our oldest started kindergarten.  I became an active participant in a faith-based community, a tension-filled choice that continues to surprise me in its impact.  I started this blog.  I’m not sure how many of these things I would have done without that little word, that guidepost of courage leading my way.  I fully realize that some of these things may not seem courageous to you, but all of them required me to become more vulnerable, to live out questions and live in tension, to leave behind the security of things known for things unknown, or to do something before I deemed myself ready.  My world expanded.

 It took super-human courage for me to leave this boy at camp.  Thank goodness real college is years away.
 Bravely staring down a storm to watch my youngest play baseball. 
As Sara Jane Moore in Assassins. 


And here’s what I found:  When we unearth the courage to try something new (and we usually know the things we are longing to try), our joy expands.  We wake anticipating our days rather than dreading our to-do lists, because our lists start to contain the very things that bring us joy or purpose.

When we unearth the courage to connect to the people we meet throughout our day, rather than going through the motions head down, buried in our phones, our to-do lists, or our own minds, our empathy and sense of shared humanity expands.  We begin to see opportunities to help others in big and small ways, and to let others in to help us when we need it.  

When we unearth the courage to listen to a viewpoint other than our own, and listen with the intent to understand rather than defend, our worldview expands.  Our patience expands. Our compassion expands.

Expansive life.  Those are bold words, but they are words worth embracing.     
               

So, here we are almost on the eve of a new year, and to be honest, I’m sad to leave my little word behind.  My “easy way out”  become something more than I ever intended and I know that I’ll still need courage in the coming year.  But I’m going to believe that I’m leaving this year a little braver than before, and that I’ll be able to find that reservoir of courage whenever I need it as I move forward into a new year.

In searching for a word for 2015 I got a little frustrated because the process wasn’t as tidy and no one word jumped out at me.  I have a list of words that are great words, worthy of hand-lettering onto a watercolor backdrop and tacking on my cork board, but none of them sum up exactly the theme I have in mind for the coming year.  So, even though I just spent several hundred words writing a testimonial for the one word concept, I’m tossing it out the window this year and instead choosing a phrase.  A quote, to be more precise:

“Because remember, the talking about the thing isn’t the thing.  The doing of the thing is the thing.” – Amy Poehler

Less talking, more doing. 

Those of you who know me well, feel free to laugh at the “less talking” part.  I know I am!

Here’s to 2015.