anne lamott

December-ing

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2018 is almost over. How is that possible?

This is the first December we’ve truly celebrated advent, after so many years of wanting to make it a yearly practice. I also finished my Christmas shopping a solid week before Christmas, which is really saying something. We stretched out the holiday season as long as possible, and it was a sweet time. Here are some things I’ve been engaging in this December…what about you?

Reading…

Well, I still haven’t finished many of the books from my November list. Here’s my current reading list…

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

  • Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott

  • Boundaries With Kids by Henry Cloud & John Townsend

  • Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson

  • The Complete Guide to Fasting by Jason Fung

Watching…

  • Here are some favorite Christmas movies we watched this month - Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas (if you know about this movie, we can be friends), Holiday Inn, White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, All I Want for Christmas, Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street (new one), Elf.

  • My life is so complete since they put Bob Ross on Netflix. Both my girls watch it too, enamored. Right after an episode is over, someone inevitably asks, “Oh pleaaaaase can we watch him paint just one more winter landscape?” We’re an artistic family, we can’t help it.

  • Mary Poppins Returns. We had a little family fun night a few days before Christmas and surprised our girls with dinner and a movie. Any Mary Poppins fan was understandably nervous at how the sequel would hold up, but I had a permagrin the entire time. It was delightful. The ending gave me the same wonderful, buoyant feeling as at the end of the original. So many creative parallels & cameos in the story as well. Dying to see it again!

Listening…

  • I loved the Advent playlist from Tsh Oxenreider’s Simple Advent Guide.

  • The Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack. Again, delightful.

  • Andy Gullahorn’s album, Everything As It Should Be. The song “Different Now” could be my own words. I love this whole album.

Cooking…

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Discovering…

  • How much I love power tools. I made the above advent candleholder using some salvaged driftwood and a spade drill bit, and now I want to make holes in everything. I’ve always left the drilling for my husband (translation: begged him to fix things for me) but there’s so much freedom and fun in learning to do it myself.

  • How much I love and need winter. Maybe it’s just a break from bugs and sweat and a chance to have smooth hair for a change. But the more I live by the seasons, the more I realize how much I need them. There’s absolutely a beauty to winter that I don’t want to miss.

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Seeing…

  • My home through different eyes since reading Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith last month. We did a huge purge in my girls’ room, and there’s breathing room now, with much more space for doing the things they actually love: playing dolls and Lego’s and crafting. I’m about to tackle the mud room next, which is currently piled up with coats and dirty farm boots and completelydrivingmeinsane. The biggest thing I took away from that book is that I don’t have to wait for things to be perfect in my home to love my space now. There are plenty of things I can do with limited funds to make each room one we truly love being in.

    What did your December look like? Anything to share? I’d love to hear!

If I Have Another Chance to Meet Anne Lamott

“So many of us can be soothed by writing: think of how many times you have opened a book, read one line, and said, 'Yes!'  And I want to give people that feeling too, of connection, communion...It is one of the greatest feelings known to humans, the feeling of being the host, of hosting people, of being the person to whom they come for food and drink and company.  This is what the writer has to offer." ~Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, p. 204

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It was Good Friday, 2009. I was spending the afternoon at a friend's backyard pool in an opulently wealthy neighborhood in Dallas where shade trees are 100 years old and sparkles of light are cast through their branches onto expansive bi-weekly manicured lawns. The pool was a natural deep blue, with flagstones surrounding the edge, so it felt more like a swimming hole carved out of a mountain. I dipped my toes into the water and then reclined on a strip of flagstone until I was nestled between the ornamental grass landscaping and the edge of the pool. The late afternoon sun shone on my face, forcing new freckles to pop out across my nose. In that spot, I finished Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies and knew that the book had changed me forever. Toward the end of the book, Anne reminisces about her own mother as she looks over old photographs from her imperfect childhood. And something was sparked deep in my soul at that moment, so much that I had to pause, and put the book face-down on my chest. I surprised myself when I said aloud, "I know for sure now that I want to be a mother" - right there, on Good Friday, laying on my back in someone else's backyard.

By September of that same year, there was a new life growing in me, and I was soon to become a mother.

In Spring 2011, when I had heard Anne Lamott Herself was going to be speaking at a nearby Barnes & Noble, I started counting down the days. I still had an infant baby girl who didn’t want to leave my side, so when the day finally came, I strapped my daughter into the Boba carrier on my chest and rode the escalator to the second floor of the massive bookstore in the heart of Dallas. When I got off the escalator, there was Anne, in all her dreadlocked glory. After reading so many of her books, I couldn't believe how impossibly simple it was that she was here, just standing casually at the podium talking with a few people who had already gathered. It was a small crowd, almost ridiculously small considering her widespread influence as an author and the size of the city we were in.

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I intentionally stood in the back with a few friends, the only woman who had brought a child with her. Right before her talk officially started, Anne (perhaps channeling her Operating Instructions self) looked directly at me and asked, "Would the mother with the baby in the back like to have a chair?" I looked from side-to-side as if to ask, “Me?!” and then blushed and answered shyly, "That's okay, I'm fine." She smiled and began her talk.

Anne’s talk was lovely, as if her written words had come to life before me. I wish I’d taken notes, but my arms were full that day. Afterwards, the attendees started to gather for the autograph line, and I began to really feel nervous. This was my chance to meet the author I felt I knew personally from all her writings, to tell her how her iconic spiritual memoir had quite literally changed my life.

But when it was my turn, I transformed into a shy, giggly 12-year-old who could barely make coherent sentences. I thrust a crumpled piece of notebook paper in front of Anne’s face, barely muttered "thank you," watched her sign it, and then surrendered my spot to the person behind me. That's it. How about expressing the words I'd planned to say like, “Your writing helped me realize I wanted to be a mother"...or… "Your voice showed me that there are many ways to genuinely follow Christ, that not all believers have to fit into a cookie cutter conservative mold." But no, I couldn't muster the courage. All of us attendees took a group photo with Anne, and then my friend asked if I wanted to get my photo taken with her alone. I downright refused and shuffled us all out of there as quickly as possible.

That night in Barnes & Noble, I had dissolved into an embarrassing puddle of shyness, my most introverted self. And I wasn't sure why. Anne Lamott is just a person like you and me. My behavior is ironic considering the personal insecurities Anne speaks openly and repeatedly about in her writings.

Maybe one day I'll have another chance to tell Anne how much her writing has meant to me without losing myself. Until then, my copy of her autograph with the little unconnected heart after her last name is a little treasure to remind me of that strange but eye-opening experience.

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Looking back on that spring night in a Dallas bookstore, I realize how much I've grown. Eight years of motherhood under my belt, I’ve sacrificed myself and found it again in new ways. I’ve gained confidence as a writer and started unearthing my unique voice to share.

If I had another chance to meet Anne Lamott, I would do things differently. I would wait peacefully, confidently, for my turn in line. I would walk up to her, crouch down and look in her eyes with the respect she deserves, and tell her the story of the first time we met. She’d probably laugh it off and make some joke about herself. And then I'd relate what I really wanted to say last time: “Thank you for turning the lights on for me. Your vulnerability is a gift that helped me see the truth in my own life.” I’d take a selfie with her to commemorate the moment and walk away knowing that I’m a writer too, and I can also impart that gift to someone.

~ ~ ~

Read my review of Traveling Mercies.

Read my review of Bird By Bird.