Hallelujah for Anne Lamott

It’s been an eternity since I’ve blogged, and there are numerous reasons, for which I’m sure many of you can relate, including multiple moves, caregiving, death, and of course the constant pull of life. There was also a year of Ironman training thrown in there along the way, as well as wildfires, mudslides and the completion of my first novel. More about that another day though.

Then there’s this—the incessant drumbeat of chaos and negativity that’s been swirling through our nation since November 9, 2016.

Becky Aaronson in front of the Granada Theater before Anne Lamott's talk

Having had the pleasure of listening to author, political activist and writing instructor, Anne Lamott, speak last week though, it reminded me of one simple thing: if you want to write, write.

Also, Do. Not. Give. Up. Hope.

Because her talk was the best dose of medicine I’ve had in a long, long time, I wanted to share it with you so we might dance in hope and inspiration together.

When bespectacled and dreadlocked Anne Lamott walked on to the stage of Santa Barbara’s grand dame Granada Theatre wearing jeans and a biscuit-clolored flowy blouse, I instantly felt at ease. Her authenticity warmed the audience like the knitted shawl she wore wrapped around her shoulders. When she opened her mouth, and I knew we would be friends or life.

I’ve always enjoyed her writing, but what she brought last Tuesday night was something more than writing wisdom. It was soul food, and what I dearly needed to hear. Based on the reaction from the rest of the audience, it was something they needed to hear, too. We are not alone in our angst and worry, and we must never give up.

For fifty minutes Anne riffed on mercy, hope and writing, all the while reinforcing the notion that we’re all neurotic and vulnerable, and we’re all enough exactly how we are.

“Truth is rare in popular culture,” she said. “Be big, juicy and real. We are as vulnerable as kittens, the world is devastating, but be you. There are no codes to lifeWe’re all a little tense and vulnerable…When you look in the mirror, reclaim the delight of your own reflection.”

The idea is that if we lose our amour and open up our hearts, we allow a place for mercy and compassion for others and ourselves.

She said mercy means “Heart for other’s troubles and struggles,” and “Mercy is radical kindness,” which is the definition I related to most.

Mercy is what brought Anne hope, especially after the devastating election in which it has felt like we’ve been bullied and lied to for months and months and months as the environment, children, elderly, immigrants, minorities, journalism and our allies have all been marginalized.

What else brought her hope? The same things that brought me hope and many others: people standing up for what they believe in…the Women’s March, defending Dreamers, the #MeToo movement, the Parkland kids and all the kids around the nation fueling our hearts, giving us a second wind to push for changes in our gun laws.

Getting out there, signs in hand, marching for what we believe in, and being surrounded by others who care passionately about our country and our democracy gives us hope. We are not alone.

2017 Women’s March

2018

2018 March For Our Lives

Action brings empowerment, and Anne reminded us that history shows that just one percent taking to the streets is how things have changed in the past.

One percent.

“Goodness bats last,” she said.

She also said, “Hope is medicine…and water…and the way home. When I laugh again, I’m home. When I’m home, I’m hopeful. Laughter is carbonated holiness…

Hope can be found in calling around. Find hope in your best friends. Get happy by taking care of people who are not even visible to the world…

Feed the hungry…

Go outside and look up. Nature is an elixir. It is where you find the divine…

Do things afraid and in bad moods, but do them…

We have to remember to hit reset and not have the comfort and familiarity of anger and annoyance.” This was an important reminder for me as I’m constantly yelling at the television news, cringing at the latest despicable offense coming from Washington.

Another favorite she attributed to someone else was: “Heaven is a new pair of glasses. When we put them on, we see the awful person, sometimes even ourselves, a bit more gently.”

And then came Anne’s thoughts on writing, which is why I originally went to hear her talk.

Here are a few nuggets…

• Write what you would love to come upon—the kind of book you’d love to read yourself. And read widely—the masters, poetry, everything. See how they did it. Learn from them.

• If you want to write, write. It will be hard–really hard–but if you don’t, you will have a deep sense of regret.

• Stop not writing. It’s a very addictive habit. Be available for this thing inside you that you have to say.

• Stop hitting the snooze button. You don’t know if you’ll be here tomorrow or next year. You can’t wait for perfect circumstances.

• Write a really shitty first draft (amen to that).

• Perfection is the voice of oppression. Do things less well, but do them.

• When you’re stuck, ask for help. You get to ask others to step into it with you. People love to share what they know. It’s a gift to share and give.

• Print out everything and read it. Do not read your work on a digital screen. Print and overprint (and then send money to the Sierra Club, she joked). Don’t cringe. She’s hugely pro-environment. This made me smile because I thought I was the only one who needed to hold paper in hand to really read something.

During the Q&A, she was asked

“How do your book ideas come to you?”

She responded by saying: “By paying attention. Nothing is lost. Being receptive and available to tell your stories.”

Then she was asked to share some of her favorite books, which she drew a blank because there are just so many books. We can all relate to that, right? Eventually she listed a range of books and authors from Vonnegut, Yeats, and E.E. Cummings to Little Women and Little Men, Pippi Longstocking, Anna Karenina and Middle March. Poetry was high on her recommendation list as one can learn so much about how to write exquisitely with few words.

When she was asked which women were her heroes, she quickly rattled off a list of strong women: Gloria Steinem, Hillary, Margaret Atwood…

There was also a question about navigating grief, which hit home, since many people I know have recently lost loved ones, including our family.

She said, “Grief is the way home. It is the hardest and most blessed work we do. Our culture tells us to get over it. It makes people miserable to see someone in grief, but some deaths you never get over. When you lose someone, you go into the ‘Land of the Fucked.’ Your heart is literally broken. It’s like an anvil dropped on you. It’s excruciating—the most pain you’ll ever feel.” It took her years to come to terms with losses in her life, and the more she cried, the more peace she felt. The love and support of Hospice is what helped her most.

When talking about broken hearts, she reminded the audience of Leonard Cohen’s words, “Everything has a crack. That’s how the light gets in.”

Our lovely evening at the Granada ended with a rousing applause for someone who tells it like it is, leans heavily on her friends and faith, even though she’s appalled by Christianity, and reminds us that life is messy and magnificent. Afterward she signed her recently published book, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy (as in even when things are totally shitty and falling apart, hallelujah anyway).

This blog post is way too long, and it’s far perfect, but I’m going to take Anne’s advice and not feel oppressed by trying to be perfect. Instead, I’m going to revel in the joy of the writing process and reaching out to reconnect with you once again. Hallelujah to getting back on track.

Until next time, my friends, I will leave you with one of my favorite Tibetan proverbs:

“The secret to living well and longer is: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure.”

xo Becky

PS: If you feel like leaving me a comment, I’d love to hear from you! Have you read Anne Lamott’s latest book? Or which one is your favorite?

Love Letters

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson and Sweet BugAaah, Mother’s Day, one of my favorite days of the year. Not because it’s the day I’m fed peeled grapes and fanned with a palm frond as I lay on my fainting couch having my toenails painted (especially since I don’t even own a fainting couch).

It’s because this day reminds me of how profoundly my life has changed since becoming a mom; how that little universe I was comfortably operating in shifted on its axis so dramatically that my head still spins ten years later. How my already happy, full, crazy life instantly became more textured and meaningful, and infinitely more challenging (in all the best ways).

Becoming a mom also suddenly compelled me to start doing things I never imagined I’d be doing. For example, never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that when Sweet Bug was just a Tiny Bug in preschool that my love for her would inspire me to dig deep into my creative bucket and pull out a quirky idea that would soon transform into a special ritual for both of us.

It started out simply as a little note and sketch in Tiny Bug’s lunch box, but quickly evolved into a more elaborate daily dose of love and learning. Each day I’d chose a new word for her to learn then make a crayon drawing on her napkin and place the corresponding letter cookies in her lunch so she could match the cookies to the letters on the napkin before she enjoyed her tasty treats.

Every single day of preschool I made Tiny Bug a napkin. And yes, she ate and shared a lot of letter cookies, especially when they were long words (bad mommy).

These napkins were simply meant to be momentary messages of love, to connect the two of us while she was away at school, and to surprise her with a new word each day as an extra way to get her excited about learning.

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with Library page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with farm page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with house page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with star page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with the write page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with fish page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with pink and purple pages

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with tree and spring pages

These napkins, which I made long after Tiny Bug went to bed each night, were never meant to be kept and saved. In fact, when Tiny Bug brought them home from school every day and insisted we keep them, I didn’t know what to do with them—especially the ones with glops of food spilled on them. For a long time I piled them in the corner of our kitchen counter. Eventually, they went into a drawer, then finally a box.

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with planet and colors pages

It was when we moved to a new house the real decision had to be made. Are we seriously going to move a pile of old napkins? I moaned. I’m sentimental, but not that sentimental. But Sweet Bug was adamant: “Mommy, these are special to me. You can’t throw them away.” So, as you may have guessed, Continue reading

Off and Running! Something New to Share

Sorry for the “radio silence” here on my blog, as my writing and blogging friend, Melissa, has so aptly referred to it.

Run Be Run Happy FeetWhen my blog is quiet, there’s always a reason…or ten. This time is no exception. I won’t list all the things that have consumed my writing time, but rather share the most exciting thing: a new blog/website I just launched called Run Be Run.

I know I’ve shared a few of my stories with you in the past about what running means to me, but in the last couple years this sport has taken a front seat in my life as I’ve started racing again and coaching several kids running teams. I wanted to create a site that not only shared my passion for the sport, but also celebrated the everyday joys and challenges of being a runner. And of course, there will be a large dollop of “life” thrown in along the way, because, well…that’s just who I am, never one to stick strictly to a script.

Run Be Run is still a work in progress, but I hope you’ll swing by and check it out. If you like what you see and would like to receive automatic updates each time I post a new tidbit, you can sign up via email in the right side of the blog. If not, I promise I won’t look at you sideways.

Here’s a peek at Run Be Run. You can click HERE or on the image below to go to the site.

Photo of Run Be Run website

I’ve missed connecting with you here, dear readers! I still plan to continue this blog and also my ongoing book project, The Art of an Improbable Life, so if you stick with me a bit longer, I’m hoping to be back up and blogging consistently once again. Thanks for all your support! My cup runneth over!

I can’t wait to catch up with you all! Tell me, what’s the most interesting thing you’ve done so far this year?

Doodles Announces the Winner of the Creative Peeps Calendar

Congratulations, Tina Fariss Barbour! You are the winner of a 2014 Creative Peeps Inspirational Desk Calendar!

WINNA, WINNA, WINNA, I say! Woof!

Doodles 2014 Creative Peeps Desk Calendar Winner Tina Fariss Barbour

Send me an email to improbablelife (at) gmail with your mailing address and your calendar will be on its merry way.

Thanks for taking part in the fun and helping me get out of the doghouse. You’ll be happy to know my mom isn’t mad at me anymore for sneaking on to her computer. In fact, she said she has a whole new appreciation for me after reading all your comments. She’s even forgiven me for making her spill an entire glass of red wine all over her keyboard when I bumped her elbow a while back (even though it still glows purple).

I’m not super big on having my picture taken, but as you can see above, I tried to be a good sport. I’m smiling on the inside. Really, I am.

Hugs and kisses,
Doodles

Doodles Dispatch: Secret Guest Post and Giveaway

Labradoodle Blog Post Portrait

Hi there. Doodles, here.

My mom is super busy right now shipping out all the inspirational calendars she created, so while she’s wrapped up in that project, I thought I’d log on to her computer and share my Doodlicious two cents with you. Sneaky, huh?

Before I give you the dish though, I gotta tell you this great joke.

Ready? Okay, here it goes:

Q. What do you get when you cross a Beatle and an Australian dog?
A. Dingo Starr!

Baa haa haa. I crack myself up! Oh man…“This Dog is on Firrre!”

Oh-oh, I better pipe down before it get caught. I just heard my mom—the one they call Becky—walk down the hall. If she finds out I’m on her computer, she’s going to kill me—especially since I plan to share a few family secrets. Shhhhhhh.

First of all, you probably already sense this, but Continue reading

Positively Counteracting the Ninnies in Washington

This morning I was so filled with disgust about the toddlers running our government that I was ready to write a rant like no other. But then I stopped before I even got started, deciding that my writing tantrum would be akin to their childish behavior. And there’s nothing more absurd than grown, thinking people carrying on like two-year olds when they don’t get their way.

I also decided that I didn’t want to waste another ounce of my precious energy on all this negativity. So off went CNN. Away went every browser blasting headlines about the shutdown. And up went my blog.

Hello awesome peeps!

I decided the best way to counteract these ninnies in Washington is to surround myself with positive, creative, motivated people like YOU.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m mad as hell like everybody else, and feel our elected officials are an embarrassment to our nation right now, but I can see beyond these self-absorbed nitwits to our extraordinary country, which is brimming with smart, caring, talented and creative people.

So what do you think? Instead of giving our so-called “leaders” any more of our attention as they puff and spout and lay on the floor kicking their arms and legs, what do you say we tune them out and DWELL IN POSITIVITY? As in… Continue reading

Inspiration in a Time Capsule

The other day my friend Sarah sent me a fun link about a lost time capsule recently found in Aspen by the crew of National Geographic Channel’s Diggers. The capsule was from the 1983 Aspen International Design Conference and it contained a bit of tech history–Steve Jobs’ mouse from his first LISA computer, along with an eight-track recording of The Moody Blues, a Sears Roebuck catalog, the June 1983 issue of Vogue, a Rubik’s Cube and a six-pack of beer.

Photo of time capsule from the 1983 Aspen International Design Conference

Credit National Geographic Channel

When I read the story, I chuckled out loud and thought, Only in Aspen, as a wave of nostalgia washed over me about the town my husband, Jeffrey Aaronson, and I called home for so many years.

It also reminded me just how much I love time capsules.

In fact, every New Year’s Eve I put my family through the same exercise—creating a written time capsule in which we list all our favorite things and most interesting moments from the year, along with epic world and national events. We often include photos and a few mementos that capture the spirit of our year. Then, so we don’t take ourselves too seriously, we unceremoniously bury it in the junk drawer.

I have to admit, I’ve already unearthed a couple time capsules from five or six years ago, and even in that short time, they already feel historic and full of whimsy. The best part is that I know I never would have remembered some of the things we documented, had we not written them down at the time.

Drawing of the Pearl Chase HouseTime capsules come in all forms—some of the most interesting ones are unintended, arriving out of necessity or happenstance. Being lovers of old houses, Jeffrey and I have bought and sold and renovated several historic Victorians, a Craftsman and even a barn. During those renovations we’ve almost always found interesting items stuffed in the walls—things like newspapers from the 1880s, used as insulation, or historic tools or tidbits buried beneath the foundation. Each time those discoveries  have made us stop and linger, thinking about previous owners and bygone eras.

In some ways being a writer is like creating small time capsules for others to discover, and hopefully enjoy and reflect upon.  Continue reading

I Cannot Tell a Lie and Other Modern Day BS

My mom often said, “If you always tell the truth you’ll never have to worry about your memory.” Or was that Mark Twain? I can’t remember.

That’s because I am fast becoming a big fat liar with a mud-clogged memory.

Photo of the flu vaccineHere’s a perfect example…yesterday my husband and I went to Rite Aid to get flu shots. In order to receive our vaccinations we each had to fill out a two-page form. It was standard stuff like name, address, birthdate, email, allergies, yadda, yadda.

My defenses suddenly went up at the sight of this questionnaire though. Why does Rite Aid need to know my birthday and phone number and where I live? So without thinking too hard, I wrote in mostly fake information—a long ago disconnected fax number for my phone number, a PO Box with the wrong zip code, a fake birthday. My husband did the same, as he always does with stuff like this. The difference is that he’s memorized all his fake info. I wing it every time.

This time I got caught. Continue reading

Happy 95th Birthday Nelson Mandela!

Photo of Nelson MandelaThere are no candles bright enough to match the light you have added to our world.

Thank you for dedicating your life to others and transforming muddy caverns of darkness into bright fountains of hope and understanding.

Thank you for demonstrating that anything is possible when one has enough courage and perseverance.

Thank you for proving that humanity will always do the right thing—eventually—if reminded that there is room for everyone in this world.

Thank you for exemplifying compassion, courage, integrity and fortitude, and demonstrating that one person can make a difference.

Most of all, thank you for showing us that there is always hope.

Photo of Nelson Mandela for President South Africa 1994

On Mandela Day, the day we celebrate you, it is a privilege to give back to my community in your honor.

I encourage others to take part in this celebration too, by doing 67 minutes of community service for the 67 years Nelson Mandela spent fighting for the rights of humanity.

If you need a few ideas on ways to make a difference, click here to see 67 ideas.

Nelson Mandela Day Poster

 Happy Birthday, Madiba! We salute you.