Write things down and jump

It must have been four years ago now, or maybe five. I was a newbie blogger, still in my infancy and green as can be. Family was coming into town, but I heard about the Eat Write Retreat being hosted in DC and with little more than "Wow, that sounds like a great opportunity!" registered, apologized to my guests for the two-day absence I'd insinuated into their visit, and promised that our Cinco de Mayo party would still be had.

At Eat Write, I met some fabulous people. Jess, Casey, Evi...I'm so happy to know you, even though our paths have hardly crossed in the flesh since. Monica Bhide challenged me to define Em-i-lis in one word. I immediately said, "authentic." "Good" she said. "Now write down your concrete goals for the next year."

Write them down. Hold yourself accountable. Trust in yourself enough to believe that they could come true. You don't need to share these. No one might ever know.

"Write them down," she said. 

And so I did. They happened. Successfully.

Inspired by what can happen if you see something and simply jump towards it, I attended BlogHer the next year and also took a photography class. Later it was writing classes, more conferences, the opening of Em-i-lis Catering, teaching classes of my own, and a greater involvement in the Food52 community in DC. 

Many of those ideas and plans were once nothing more than brain dust and day-dreamy what ifs. What brought them to fruition was little more than a leap. It didn't occur to me not to try, and for that I'm grateful. Such fearlessness has not always been a defining trait of mine. I'm not even sure "fearlessness" in any way defines me now.

More, it's that comfort and confidence in ones own skin makes taking chances hardly seem like risky business. Don't get me wrong; I'm still really nervous sometimes but the angst comes after the blissfully un-angsty leap.

Do y'all know that when I took my first big catering job (for 50!), I'd never before cooked for more than 15? I'm not even kidding. It's distinctly possible that naive woefully under-describes my state of mind then, but I'm awfully glad for the jejune perspective that prompted me to say "100 hundred tea sandwiches to start? You got it!" 

It really didn't occur to me that I couldn't cook for 50. And it could have been disastrous. But I did and it wasn't. On the contrary, that meal was a roaring success.

Not everything has gone as swimmingly, but by and large, I'm wholly satisfied. Not least because it's been a long time since I said with regret, "If only..."

my desk right now. seriously.

my desk right now. seriously.

My 40 in forty for today: Set goals (big and small; literally, what do you want to do today/what do you want to DO today), write them down (critical step; don't cheat), read them aloud (whispering in your corner or screaming into the winds are both acceptable means of reading aloud), and get busy. Jump.

What's the worst that can happen? Really! Go!

Living large, in 1st grade and beyond

Although yesterday was a repeated experiment in frustration management AND I did not prevail over the Fed Ex guy, I am still smiling. 

For one thing, what was once Jack's tendency to tuck all shirts (tees, pajama tops, jerseys) into all bottoms (shorts, pants, pajama bottoms) is now the only way he rolls. It is fairly nerdy and wholly charming.

Secondly, Oliver drew this for me on Tuesday and explained it as such: "Mom, this is me at school thinking of you."

I am telling y'all, that boy has an expressive fire lit under him and is drawing and writing to beat sixty. He's always loved art and creative pursuits, but 1st grade has so far been a remarkable lens through which he can focus his efforts in concrete ways. 

Last night was Ol's Back to School Night, and as I did following Jack's, I left feeling so grateful and excited. The pedagogical and social-emotional goals behind everything that happens in class are like a giant, interconnected web that makes my head spin. How the teachers can hold those goals AND their very since appreciation and love of each child present throughout the day is awe-inspiring. Seriously. Did you know how many mathematical exercises can be found in a written morning message on the dry erase board??

During the summer, Ol was a hesitant reader lacking in confidence and a writer who stuck with the words he knew or didn't feel silly asking about (he tends towards the perfectionistic and away from academic risk-taking). Last night, I thrilled to see his goal (below) because it shows me that already his confidence and desire to take risks are soaring. 

It reminds me that those who are taught by great teachers win one of life's big jackpots, and that always we are benefitted by being around others who value our strengths, our struggles, and what makes us each unique.

In supportive spaces like that, we can be brave and take risks and fall and learn. We can get back up and try again, coming to deeply believe that life is enriched by living large and authentically. Especially if you want to tuck your shirt deep into your shorts to do so!