Because Vulnerable Makes The Thing Better

I will warn you that I’m going to write this post in one sitting and probably won’t edit it a lick before I post it. There’s a young’un in this house with a full line-up of practices and other assorted fun this afternoon / evening, so I’m a smidge pressed for time. But I want to be sure to write this down in a blog post – because it’s something that keeps coming up and I hope maybe the story behind it will encourage you / put some pep in your step / remind you and me both how much we need each other (so many times for reasons we can’t even see yet).

All righty. How’s that for an overly wordy set-up?

(Also: I used the phrase “pep in your step.” I am 109.)

I knew when I started writing Giddy Up, Eunice that it was going to push me outside of my comfort zone a little (lot). It was clear pretty early on that the book was going to circle around the stories of three pairs of women from the Bible, and I don’t know if you know this or not, but I’ve never really written about the Bible. I mean, I’ve written a blog post here and there, and I’ve spoken at some events, but a whole book? With Bible stories at the heart of it? Not really my wheelhouse.

(By the way, David likes to kid me and say that, if nothing else, my publishing legacy will be, “And then Mama tooted, y’all.”)

(I’d really be so fine with that, truth be told.)

Anyway.

Somewhere early on in our first books Melanie and I began sending each other chapters as we finished them. We were both so used to immediate feedback from blog posts – that is the wonder of a comments section – and it felt a little weird to write a whole chapter and then not have anyone else read it. So we sent chapters back and forth, and I guess in doing that we sort of became each other’s book-writing commenters. I don’t think I would have finished a single book without that system in place, even though sometimes it felt like the most vulnerable thing in the world to let another set of eyes look at a chapter I’d written – especially when I didn’t think what I’d written was particularly, you know, good.

I had the idea for Eunice in the fall of 2014 – just a few months after I finished writing Home is Where My People Are – and then I spent probably six months thinking about it / praying about it / figuring out what it was going to be. While all that was going on I was working on a proposal for it, trying to outline chapters, mapping out the structure – but I wasn’t doing any real writing. So, when I started the actual writing, I remember thinking two things: 1) do I even know how to do this? and 2) this is going to be a little more serious in places…how’s that gonna fly?

So I wrote the intro and the first chapter, and I got Melanie’s feedback, and if memory serves she already knew some of the content because we had talked through it and she’d heard a talk I did about Mary and Elizabeth.

Well.

When I was working on chapter two, I was walking down the hall to my office one afternoon when a thought came to me out of nowhere: “When the Holy Spirit in one woman recognizes and responds to the Holy Spirit in another woman, safe places become sacred spaces.” It hit me so hard that I went straight to the computer and typed it out, and I remember thinking how weird it was to write that sentence because it’s not how I normally talk or even think. But I put it in the chapter, and I was immediately so uncomfortable with how people might respond to it – if they would think that I was getting all touchy-feely-pin-this-to-Pinterest on them – that I quickly wrote a joke underneath it. I don’t know that the joke fully undermined the sentence, but it certainly made light of it and diminished its impact.

Then I finished the chapter and sent it to Melanie and maybe winced a little bit because I didn’t want her to think that I had gotten all touchy-feely-pin-this-to-Pinterest-y.

The next day Melanie sent me her feedback, and it was all very kind and encouraging. Then she hit me with some truth:

Here’s my only thought and maybe it’s me being protective of you. But this statement –

When the Holy Spirit in one woman recognizes and responds to the Holy Spirit in another woman, safe places become sacred spaces.

– I think I’d lose the parenthetical (after it)…because it distracts from it in my opinion. Own that God gave you that word and that you wrote it. And I know that may be silly but that’s my thought.

So I took out the joke.

And I let the sentence stand on its own.

It didn’t just change the tone of the chapter; it changed the tone of the whole book. Melanie, without knowing it, gave me the confidence I needed to write what I was supposed to write.

And I have to tell y’all: since the book came out two weeks ago, that sentence is the one people have mentioned to me more than any other. On Twitter, on Facebook, in conversations – that sentence is the one that people have quoted back to me the most.

A reader named Melissa Crawford actually made this graphic and posted it on the launch team page, and I had to laugh a little because it really should say “(and Melanie Shankle)” next to my name.

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And every single time that someone has mentioned it, I think about Melanie telling me, in so many words, “OWN THAT. GOD GAVE YOU THOSE WORDS.”

So often, I think, we have our “thing” – whether it’s singing or painting or cycling or organizing or teaching or leading or writing or running or whatever – and our temptation is to hold it super close to our chest with our arms wrapped ALL THE WAY AROUND IT and not let anybody else peek in for fear that they’ll laugh at us or judge us or criticize us or etc. We start to tell ourselves that our interests are dumb and we’re not any good and really there are thousands of people who can design logos / bake / sell houses / create marketing campaigns.

And we’re right, you know. There are thousands of people who can do all of those things. What we forget is that we need thousands of people. After all, how boring would the world be if we only had, like, seven chefs?

Not to mention that those seven folks would be completely overwhelmed by all the cooking they’d have to do.

But my bigger point is this: if there’s something you love to do – maybe even something you feel like you were made to do – then look for a person or the people who will cheer you on and tell you the truth. Make yourself vulnerable and share your songwriting / app coding / business consulting / oboe playing with them. They might tell you how phenomenal you are. They might tell you that a certain element needs some work. They might tell you to go back to the drawing board. They might tell you to stay after it because there really is something there.

If they’re people who really love you and truly have your best interest at heart, they’ll be honest with you. They’ll spur you on. They’ll push you in the right direction – even if the direction isn’t what you expected.

That thing you love to do might not feel as safe. You might not be able to hold it quite as close.

But it’ll be better for the sharing. You will, too.

So in the words of my friend Melanie: OWN IT. GOD GAVE YOU THAT THING.

And I just wanted to tell you that on this fine Monday afternoon.

Good talk, team.

Love,
Me

The Big Boo Cast, Episode 60

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In lo, this 60th episode of our little podcast, we cover a wide range of topics: beach life, skin care favorites, pet peeves, summer plans, and what preferences we have when it comes to speaking in front of people.

We also talk about summer plans (or lack thereof), including my upcoming trip to NYC (“ALEXANDER HAMILTON – just you wait, just you wait”). I believe there’s also a minute or two in there when we talk about summer memories of yore, including bare feet on hot pavement. SIMPLER TIMES.

You can click here to listen. Or here. You can even listen right here on the blog.

Or, as always, you can subscribe on iTunes if you’re feeling particularly fancy.

Just FYI – here’s where you can get more info on the products / places we mention (these aren’t affiliate links – just regular ole links):

Boys in the Trees: A Memoir – by Carly Simon

Giddy Up, Eunice – by, well, me

Our Fancy New Facebook Page for the Podcast

Skinceuticals Overnight Moisturizer for Dry Skin (Mel uses this one)

Skinceuticals Overnight Moisturizer for Combination / Oily Skin (I use this one)

Dr. Gross Alpha Beta Pads

Dr. Gross Ferulic + Retinol Wrinkle Recovery Pads

Dr. Gross Glow Pad with Active Vitamin D

– The slide at the Nanes clubhouse (the internet is a wonder, y’all – I can’t believe I found this)

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Nickel & Suede Earrings

Enjoy, y’all!

For Clarification And Hopefully Your Enjoyment

Hello, good people of the interwebs –

First of all, I still don’t have adequate words for what happened in Orlando. But I pray for the victims’ families and loved ones, for the first responders, for the investigators, for the medical personnel – the list goes on and on. It’s all so surreal and horrific. Be near, Lord.

Second of all, I took this picture at the beach, and to me it’s what life feels like sometimes. But it’s also a good reminder that somehow the light always finds a way to shine in the darkness.

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Third of all, here is a completely unrelated assortment of thoughts and also topics.

– If you participated in the BOGO pre-order for Giddy Up, Eunice, here are a few points of clarification:

1. The free copy will come from LifeWay, not Amazon or Barnes & Noble or etc.

2. If you pre-ordered, you should have either uploaded your receipt at giddyupeunice.com OR emailed it to giddyupeunice@gmail.com.

3. If you submitted your receipt, you should have gotten an email from LifeWay to confirm your mailing address.

4. If you submitted your receipt and didn’t get an email from LifeWay, check your spam folder.

5. If you still have no idea why you haven’t received that extra copy (or the other pre-order offers), email giddyupeunice@gmail.com, and they can help you!

Thanks so much for your pre-orders! Y’all are awesome.

– The Tonys. Yes ma’am. Outstanding. I was so hoping that Leslie Odom, Jr. would win Best Actor; I figured that Lin-Manuel Miranda would get plenty of recognition in other categories, and as the narrator of Hamilton, Leslie Odom, Jr. carries that show on his shoulders. So, when Aaron Burr, Sir was announced as the winner, I screamed and clapped my hands to the point that you’d have thought I had something to do with it.

And then yesterday, I saw this video of the Hamilton cast watching the awards backstage. It speaks volumes (this is a Facebook video, so it may not show up on mobile devices).

– And The Color Purple? COME ON, NOW. Incredible performance. Made me cry.

– I also saw Gayle King interview Leslie Odom, Jr., and it’s super interesting (or at least it is if you’ve been listening to the cast recording for the last eight-ish months). :-) (Also a Facebook video.)

– If you’ve read Giddy Up, Eunice – or even if you haven’t – and you’ve thought, Gosh, I sure would love a practical resource to help me connect younger and older women in my church, and you’ve thought, Gosh, I sure would love a practical resource to help me connect younger and/or older women in my church, HERE’S ONE. :-) I can’t think of a better teacher than Jan Morton, and wouldn’t this be a fun way to get to know some people?

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– Speaking of Eunice (a different one), did y’all know that there’s a Carol Burnett Show YouTube Channel? IT IS A GIFT. A TREASURE.

– The Big Boo Cast now has its own Facebook page – with, I might add, a very low-resolution photograph of Melanie and me from approximately 2013. IT IS SO FANCY. And obviously, we would love for you to join us there. We’ll talk about things and stuff and whatnot.

Hope y’all are having a good week!

Giddy Up, Hamilton

So first of all. Yes. Giddy Up, Eunice came out this past Tuesday. I went to Nashville on Monday to film / video (not exactly sure what terminology applies) a conversation with some friends (I think it’ll be out Sunday night, but I’ll know for sure sometime tomorrow). I got home in time to take Alex and one of his buddies to lacrosse, and then D and I met for supper while we waited for practice to be over. In the past I have had Big Book Release Feelings, but this time has been a little different. Mostly, save a few bouts of nerves, I’ve felt an unexpected sense of peace about Eunice, and I’ve probably enjoyed this book launch more than any other. So that’s been delightful.

I’ve also been super excited about the fact that the Tony Awards are this Sunday night because, well, Hamilton. I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned one or nine times that I listened to the Hamilton cast album over and over and over while writing the last 2/3 of Eunice, so they’re forever connected in my mind.

SO. I thought I’d post some of my favorite (and recent) Hamilton-related links as sort of a warm-up for the Tonys. Think of this as some really enjoyable light stretching – with the occasional musical accompaniment.

1) Leslie Odom, Jr. – “Wait for It”

I think this is pretty much beyond gorgeous.

2) “We Wrote an Algorithm to Unravel the Rhymes of Hit Musical Hamilton” – WSJ.com

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And may I just say?

It. is. awesome.

This is the sort of nerdery that makes my heart sing.

3) Hamilton Paper Dolls

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I mean, might as well.

For the kids, of course.

4) Hamilaria

It’s a real thing.

Ask me how I know.

5) Lin Manuel Miranda Carpool Karaoke

I saw this for the first time Tuesday morning. And when it was over, I bawled my eyes out.

Granted, maybe I was experiencing some book emotions.

But Audra McDonald? COME ON. Fantastic.

Hope y’all have a great weekend!

Hobbling Into Summer Ever-So-Happily

Last week was full of end-of-school activities. Alex got promoted from 6th grade to 7th grade, I proctored some exams, and Alex finished his last day of elementary school. I can’t really think about that last thing for very long without getting teary-eyed, and with me it’s not as much about the Sunrise, Sunset-ness of it all as it is about looking back at the phenomenal teachers he has had every single year. He was at the same school from K4 through 6th grade, and it was the sweetest experience every single year – not because it was always super-easy/breezy, but because his teachers knew him and loved him. They faithfully taught him through his successes and through his failures, and I have to stop talking about it now or I’ll just get up in the bed and cry and watch the Southern Charm marathon that’s currently on Bravo. But suffice it to say that we are so, so thankful.

Here he is the summer after kindergarten…

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…and here is before 6th grade promotion.

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Have mercy the years in between have been fun.

SO.

Because we love us some Mississippi State baseball, we moved straight from 6th grade promotion to our favorite event of the whole year – the SEC Baseball Tournament. My friend Daph and her older son, Davis, came into town to watch some baseball with us, and we had a blast even though the Bulldogs didn’t win the tournament this year (yay for the Aggies, though). The only hitch in our baseball fun was that I broke my foot the night of State’s first game (I know. It’s ridiculous. Same foot as the leg injury from a year and a half ago.), but I have to say that if you hurt your foot, the SEC tournament is a fine place to be (I tripped walking into the tournament Wednesday night and rolled my foot in my unsuccessful attempt to keep my balance). A friend of mine who works for the SEC got a trainer (hey, Jake!) (thanks, Jake!) to look at my foot, and that is how I ended up getting x-rays on the lower level of the Hoover Met and finding out that I fractured the bone beneath my pinky toe.

At some point in my life I’m going to be graceful. It hasn’t happened yet, but I have high hopes that one day it will.

ANYWAY, Jake put me in a boot, I stayed to watch the Dogs beat Bama, and all things considered it was sort of a non-event, the broken foot. I went to the doctor the next day, and he told me that while this particular injury can take a little while to heal, it’s typically not very painful after a few days. Hooray for that. We went back to the tournament later that afternoon and had an absolute blast despite the fact that the Bulldogs lost; it was one of my favorite nights in a long time, in fact. SO MUCH LAUGHING. It was after midnight by the time the game was over, and Alex was as delirious (and hilarious) as I’ve ever seen him. It was all so ordinary and just THE BEST. Yay, summertime.

THEN.

Sister and Barry came to town on Friday, and we had the most relaxing weekend. We hung out at the house, went out for a couple of meals, hunted for shoes (that was just Sister and me, and really, I was just moral support since my need for cute summer shoes has really taken a nosedive in the last week), and enjoyed not having to be anywhere in particular. Last night Sister hung new curtains in Alex’s room while I supervised / tried to pretend like I could be any help whatsoever, and at some point I need to post before and after pictures because GOOD GRIEF at the difference. The wall behind Alex’s bed only has one window, and it’s on the left side of the wall, so I’d had the idea to fake a second window by hanging curtains across the whole wall behind his bed. IT WORKED. Sister hung the curtains last night, and my only regret is that I didn’t have the idea sooner. I love the way it turned out.

Today Sister and Barry drove home to Nashville, and I plopped myself on the couch and spent most of the day reading. It was glorious. Then I cooked supper, plopped myself on the couch again to write this blog post, and a little while ago Hazel came in here to keep me company.

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Summer vacation, as always, seems to have arrived right on time.

And today in particular, we remember the men and women who have bravely served and sacrificed their lives for our freedom. We pray for their families.

We are grateful.

Happy Summer, y’all.

We (Really) Are The (Regular Season) Champions

So, I don’t know if y’all are aware of this or not, but there are these things called grocery stores, and you can walk inside them and select food with your very own hands. Then, after you buy the food, you can take it home and COOK ACTUAL MEALS.

It is a wonder, y’all.

And no kidding: today was the first time I have stepped foot in a grocery store in at least three weeks. I have pretty much worn out our Shipt membership just trying to keep my head above water in the midst of end-of-school stuff and family stuff and book stuff and I-really-need-to-watch-college-baseball stuff. But today I went to the store and bought all manner of produce and fruit and enjoyable breakfast options (we have company coming later this week), and then tonight, after I got A. off to lacrosse practice, I pan-seared some fish and roasted sweet potatoes (and some asparagus, too) and cooked a pot of yellow rice. David must have thought he’d gotten our house confused with someone else’s, because lately this has not been a place where much cooking happens. Tonight, though, was better. And I have everything I need to cook supper tomorrow night, too.

WE’RE ON A ROLL, PEOPLE!

Also: THIS HAPPENED.

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Mississippi State won the SEC regular season championship in baseball!

As you can imagine, this development was the cause of some celebration at our house. And please know that when I say “some celebration,” what I am telling you is that I yelled so loudly that I frightened the dog.

It was so fun – something that hasn’t happened since I was in college, in fact. And since I’ve been able to watch most of the Bulldogs’ games this season (thanks, SEC Network!), I think it’s safe to say that I’m, um, significantly invested in the 2016 Diamond Dogs. So is Sister, for that matter. And we have had the best time texting and tweeting and watching and hollering (and, in Sister’s case, whistling) this season.

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This is a team with some bona fide, certified characters, y’all. And they are so much fun to watch.

Needless to say, we’ll be at the SEC Tournament this week with (cow)bells on.

(Don’t worry. I’m not taking my cowbell to a baseball game.)

(But I did sneak it in for the championship game four years ago. It was glorious.)

Other than all that excitement, we’re pretty much just gearing up for summertime fun around here. Alex is doing lacrosse again this summer, so I’m already looking forward to burning his cleats because they already smell like hot garbage and it’s not even July yet. This topic really deserves its own separate discussion, but it’s late and I just can’t round up the mental energy to problem-solve a cleats situation where the odor can only be described as “profound.”

I honestly didn’t know that specific smell existed until I smelled it. And now I can’t un-smell it. Which is a big part of the problem.

ALSO, Giddy Up, Eunice arrived at our house today in the form of a whole bunch of boxes. I guess Eunice’s giddy up got her to Alabama, at least, and we sure were excited to see her.

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The buy-one-get-one offer is over, but there are still all sorts of pre-order goodies up for grabs.

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And y’all? Recording that podcast with Martha? It was one of the highlights of 2016 for me. No joke. JUST DELIGHTFUL. She was so funny and cute and thoughtful; I’m SO grateful that she was game for some podcasting. (And OF COURSE we talked about jackets; YOU SHOULD EXPECT NO LESS.)

All righty. I need to go to bed since tomorrow is CHOCK FULL. But I hope y’all had a great weekend, and I hope there are no stinky cleats in your house, and I hope the Bulldogs win their first game of the SEC tournament and I’m sorry if that’s a little selfish but I HAVE A LOT OF BASEBALL FEELINGS RIGHT NOW.

The end.