On coming to the table

A few weeks ago, a friend invited me to a book signing for Jane Green, a bestselling author who has released a new cookbook. The gathering was held at a beautiful old home in downtown Charleston, which was filled with an even more beautiful mix of people. We stood outside on the porch and talked about how it was still too hot to feel like fall and any other thing that makes conversation flow from one thing to the next. I had walked in feeling like a stranger to this crowd, and I left extending hugs, cheek kisses, and well wishes.

In the days since, the words from the author herself have stayed with me:

"I quickly realized that for me, having people over is less about the food, and more about comfort, warmth, nurture. It is about creating the kind of welcoming environment that instantly makes people feel relaxed and cared for, that truly brings meaning to the concept of food being love."

When she spoke those words, I felt them. Tears rose, right to the edge. Not only because I crave the kind of love that feels that way, but because I want to be the kind of person who gives it. She described how I want people to feel when they are in my presence, when they enter my home. It feels like a worthy goal, something to value. 


I've also been thinking about the night two summers ago, when the Charleston cast of Listen To Your Mother came to my house for a post show celebration. This was another beautiful mix of people who had recently shared the experience of reading their powerful, personal stories on stage for an audience of a few hundred people. The show had brought us together and now we were sitting in my living room, on the couch, on the floor, on dining room chairs, on the ottoman. We talked, and we listened. We went deeper than what had already been bravely shared on the stage. We felt free to ask curious questions. Together—not from anything I had magically done on my own—we had created a safe place to ask the hard whys? and the hard hows? Why do you think that happened? How did you recover? There is so much power in the sharing, but also in the listening, the hearing. At some point I said, "I wish we were recording a documentary. I wish we could somehow bottle up this conversation and share it with the world." 


Just last week, my friend Patrick Jager (actually he is my husband's friend and colleague but my kids and I latched on to him instantly when we met him in California back in June) wrote something that got my attention. Patrick wrote, "What we need is a place where all can hear each other and find ways that 'us' means 'all of us.'" 

He also offered a challenge:

"Can you imagine if every Fortune 500 company, every media outlet, every church and synagogue, every scouting troop and every small town YMCA developed content that focuses on that which unites us? Ideas that feed the good among people to counter the polarization that continues to consume us?"

Imagine that.


These vignettes have been swirling in my head, but I almost didn't write this post because I couldn't figure out how to tie it all together. How could I make this all fit in with Thanksgiving, a holiday that focuses on the powerful and holy act of coming to the table? Then I thought, maybe I don't have to try so hard, I don't have to force the connection. They stand alone, and they fit together. And I just love when that happens. I love that about words, about stories, about people, and about life. 

Happy Thanksgiving Friends.

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No matter how small we feel...

Today, on Election Day, I'm sitting in a hospital waiting room, the same place I was almost exactly two years ago. My mom is having another surgery, and as we wait to hear the news, and as the whole country awaits the results of this historic Presidential election, I went into my blog archives to find this post I wrote, at almost exactly the same time two years ago. 

As I revisit those words again this morning, I'm reminded that life is complex. And—no matter how small we feel—we have the power to be a miracle for someone else. 

Click here to read Small Miracles.

A thousand beautiful things

I pull up to the bus stop and park. Cate promptly unbuckles herself and crawls to the front passenger seat and begins her afternoon ritual of jamming discs into the CD player (yes, I still have a CD player in my car, so retro), ejecting them, and hitting all the buttons. The player holds five discs at a time which is fascinating to her. Finally, something is playing. The soul-stirring voice of Annie Lennox flows from the speakers:

"Every day I write the list of reasons why I still believe they do exist,
a thousand beautiful things..."

Cate puts her hands to her throat and sticks out her tongue, gagging. Poor Annie can't compete with Elsa and Taylor and Pete the Cat. She goes for the eject button.

"No, wait. Let's listen. This is a good one," I say in my nicest, most persuasive mommy voice. 

"And even though it's hard to see the glass is full and not half empty,
a thousand beautiful things..."

That's as far as we get before DJ Cate is on to the next record, but the song continues to play in my head. It's been a while since I've listened to it. I bought Annie Lennox's album, Bare, in 2003, after seeing her sing live on the set of Good Morning America. A friend had connections, that's how we got in, and holy moly, Annie was amazing. Her voice cuts through all the protective layers and gets right to the feelings.

"So light me up like the sun, to cool down with your rain.
I never want to close my eyes again. Never close my eyes..." 


That moment in my car snapped together like a scene in my mind and it tugged at me. That tug was asking me to notice, the beginning of a blog post forming.

With all that's going on in the big, wide world and deep inside our small, personal worlds, and with all the reasons we have to be concerned, angry, afraid, frustrated, and defeated, there are still, everywhere, a thousand beautiful things


Sometimes those beautiful things are obvious, absolutely hard to miss. 



Sometimes, they are more difficult to see. 


"I thank you for the air to breathe, the heart to beat, the eyes to see again,
a thousand beautiful things..." 

The beautiful things are how we make it through. The beautiful things are, perhaps, the point. What's on your list? 

Listen here: Annie Lennox - A Thousand Beautiful Things. 

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