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Posts from the ‘Hope’ Category

6 Quotes to Help You Embrace Small

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When I started Defying Small three years ago, I wanted to bring together an online community to help people live bigger, more passionate lives. Why? Because none of us wants to come to the end of our life and regret that we didn’t pursue the things we were created for.

Over dinner one night my boyfriend (now husband), Stephen, looked at me and said, I get Defying Small. But why aren’t you also writing about Embracing Small?

Embracing Small seems counterintuitive in the “Super-Size Me” culture we live in. But there’s a movement under way that’s all about Embracing Small—people downsizing and opting for tiny living spaces. Others who are getting rid of “stuff” so they can travel. They talk about how freeing it is. And there’s a reason.

Defying Small always begins with Embracing Small. No matter who we are, no matter how ambitious our dreams, we must start right where we are—with the gifts, talents, and resources we’ve been given. We have to embrace our small beginnings. Only then can we begin Defying Small, moving step-by-step towards our biggest life.

A few days after my conversation with Stephen, I changed my tagline—and the title of my book—to Defying Small, Embracing Small. That also changed the focus of my Defying Small Manifesto (click here to get the free, downloadable PDF).

As I pondered the idea of Embracing Small, I began finding quotes that inspired me. Some of them may be familiar. Each of them talks about the importance of Embracing Small. Please enjoy and share!

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Note: I love the photo above, taken when I was in Rwanda. My friends and I ran across this amazing group of women who had started their own micro financing co-op. Each woman owned a goat and was working towards purchasing a cow. Talk about Embracing Small!

How are you Embracing Small in your life? Feel free to comment, below.

 

 

 

An interview with Dr. Julia Burns: Defying Small through art

img_0098-224x300I recently had the privilege of talking with Dr. Julia Burns, a psychiatrist who has helped children, adolescents, and adults for over twenty years. When she is not working with patients, she enjoys painting, blogging, and spending time at the beach. Dr. Burns lives along New Hope Creek in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband, Andy. They have three grown children.

In this interview, Dr. Burns shares insights into Defying Small through her “healing meditations.”

Q. You call yourself a healer/artist. How did you come to see yourself in that way?

A. I stopped working as the Medical Director of a child welfare agency in 1998, and I started writing a couple of months later, and painting a few months after that. I used my artistic work to create a healing space for myself from all the trauma stories I had heard. I also painted for my patients and my friends.

Q. How have you grown artistically over the past sixteen years?

A. I wrote my first poem in the middle of the night. I was working with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and praying for a way to heal others and myself. And I wrote a poem, “I Sing a Song for the Abused Child,” the song no one wants to hear.

I kept writing and writing, and I continue to write. I may meet a person in the airport who tells me their story. I write these stories, and then paint a picture over the story of the trauma they tell me. It can be the moon rising over a lake or a beautiful scene at the ocean or the mountains. I call them “healing meditations.”

8-julia-07-2013If someone has a physical illness like breast cancer—and I happen to be working through that now myself—we might draw their breast on the paper and write affirmations of their healing. Their children might write on it.

One client picked the 23rd Psalm and so we painted the view from her lake house in Canada and wrote the 23rd Psalm lightly over the water. If you’re a couple of inches away, you can see the writing. But if you’re across the room, it just looks like a painting of the lake. And that’s how it’s evolved, and that’s how it continues to grow.

Q. It sounds like you draw a lot of your inspiration from nature. Is that true?

A. Absolutely. All of my art comes from my relationship with other people, people I that love or animals that I love. And also from my relationship with nature. We bought a house on the New Hope Creek in Chapel Hill and I did a series of paintings from my backyard called “New Hope.” I have a place at the beach and I’ve done a lot of paintings of the beach, as well. Those places are meaningful to me.

Q. How do you nurture your creativity?

A. The most important thing for me is to have a lot of time alone—in silence, meditation, and discernment with God. And then to actually make sure that I go into my studio. A friend who helped me learn how to paint told me, “Go into your studio everyday, if it’s only to sharpen your pencils.” And I try to remember that. My studio is in a loft. And I find the inertia comes from just climbing the stairs and getting started. But once I get in there, two or three hours go by and I don’t even know it. And that’s what I love about it. It’s very meditative.

Q. How do you practice gratitude in your life?

A. I do practice gratitude in traditional ways, where you get up and go, “Wow, great shower and cup of coffee! Yahoo! I’m in the top percentage of blessed people on earth!” (laughs)

I was raised by very demanding parents, so it’s easy for me to fall into that. Right now I’m working on affirmations for my upcoming surgery. And one of the affirmations is, “I let go of any harsh judgments and criticisms of myself and others, allowing my heart to soften, knowing that brings healing to myself and others.”

I’d say that’s a constant challenge for me, because in my family we really loved each other, but there were very high expectations. So I have to guard against that as a standard for others. And I really believe that people are in different phases of their journey. And what looks like a baby step for one can be a giant step. We have to suspend judgment. Always.

You can’t be gracious and grateful if you’re critical and harsh. And so that is how I constantly practice gratitude. I’d say I’ve learned even more about that in the last two or three years. I’ve changed the system of therapy I’m working in and that’s been a big leap for me.

Q. Where are you most happy?

A. At the beach.

Q. Tell us about your series “Louise and the Lewis Sisters.”

img_0421A. I don’t call them paintings; I call them “The Girls.” And it’s my mother, who was the youngest of seven, and her six sisters. They were very strong women and I had a close relationship with each one. The oldest sister lived to be 100. She started the first library in Pitt County (NC) and was the mayor of Farmville from age 65-73. They all worked and they all raised their families, some of them by themselves. Again, there were high expectations. But they loved me and gave me this wonderful feeling of support, a sense that I was put in the world to make a difference, to make a mark.

Louise was our housekeeper who was with us every day of the week. I absolutely worshipped her and loved her. What I admired most was how loving, calm, and accepting she was, no matter what the situation. My sister was always losing her library book and it was always a catastrophe, a huge whirlwind of crying and angst. We’d be running around the house looking for the book and Louise would say, “Now Jamie, I want you to just think where you were the last time you had that book.” And Jamie would mumble something and Louise would just walk over and pick the book up.

When she died, I wrote a poem about her. I wanted to know who was going to plait my hair and scrub my ribbon red knees, because I was always falling down and she was always picking me up.

Q. You’ve just created a new series of paintings entitled, “What Were They So Mad About?” What compelled you to create this series?

A. The series is based on five artists that used their childhood trauma to catapult their creativity and inspire them to make the world a better place. I got the idea from my assistant, Eileen. Virginia Woolf is my favorite.

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I remember years ago when Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, came out. It’s a movie about 24 hours in the life of three women. Nicole Kidman played Virginia Woolf and it was amazing. I had read the book a few years earlier and I was looking through the bibliography and it mentioned that it drew from her memoirs and her sexual abuse by her brother. I was shocked. I had studied Virginia Woolf in college and I was a psychiatrist and took women’s studies courses and I had never heard that she was sexually abused. I had heard that she was bipolar, schizophrenic, bisexual, borderline—all these diagnoses—but I had never heard about her sexual abuse.

It inspired me to do a painting of her and write a poem, “What Was She So Mad About?” and they’re both featured in the show. I actually sent the portrait to Michael Cunningham and he said he put it over his writing desk to inspire him. That made me really happy.

In addition to Virginia Woolf, we also picked Tyler Perry, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Maya Angelou, and Oprah Winfrey. I believe the inspiration also came from Maya Angelou’s death. Each one has a quote from their life about how they’ve used their inner experience to write their stories.

Q. How are you Defying Small in your life right now?

A. There are two things that come to mind. The first is when I was the Medical Director of a child welfare agency. I had learned nothing about child sexual abuse in my training. To become a child psychiatrist, you have to do a four-year residency in adult psychiatry and a two-year fellow in child psychiatry. You would think that I would have had a half-day seminar on child sexual abuse, because 80-90% of children who are institutionalized in childhood are sexually and physically abused.

So when I took that job, first, I didn’t know I was going to see so much of it, and secondly, I didn’t have a clue how to treat it. And boy, was I defying small every day when I got up and went to work. The children told me their stories and I believed them when no one else did. And I learned how to try to help them. And then when I stopped in ’99, I learned how to help myself by telling the world the stories of the children through my art. So that’s the first way that I defied small, and I do that every day for the children I love and take care of.

The way I’m defying small now is that I’ve just finished 24 weeks of chemotherapy and I’m getting ready to have surgery. I’m going to defy my survival statistics by living—and living well—with great health, vitality, strength and courage. So I think that goes back to what I said about my mom and her six sisters: They all defied small and I had great mentors. If for some reason things don’t go the way I want with this cancer, the way my family wants, I’ll still defy small. I know I will. I believe in living like that. It’s something that comes naturally to me.

Julia’s art show “What Was She So Mad About?” is on display at Caffé Driade in Chapel Hill, NC, through October 31, 2014.

You can follow Julia’s blog at juliaburns.org.

Defying Small: A Manifesto

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I have spent the past two months writing, editing and designing my Defying Small manifesto, a free, easy-to-read, 22-page, downloadable e-book. In it, I share ideas about how to defy small, embrace small, and begin living your biggest, most passionate life.

I hope you will:

– read it (click here)

– share your thoughts below

– share it with anyone you think might enjoy it

– share it on Facebook and Twitter (using the hashtags #defyingsmall    #defyingsmallmanifesto)

– consider exploring the principles of Defying Small in your daily life.

I hope Defying Small encourages you to take that first (or next) step. I enjoyed writing it and am excited about sharing it with you.

After you read it, please let me know what you think. I’d also appreciate hearing your stories of how you are Defying Small. To those have already done so, thank you! If you haven’t and you want to get in touch, my email is defyingsmall@gmail.com.

I am now getting back to work on my book Defying Small, Embracing Small: How to Live Your Biggest, Most Passionate Life. If you’d like updates about my book, as well as inspiring articles, blog posts, and quotes, please join me at Defying Small (Facebook) and Twitter (@defyingsmall).

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10 Quotes from Alice in Wonderland That Can Help You Defy Small

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In honor of British novelist Lewis Carroll’s birthday on January 27, I thought I would share a few quotes and my reflections about defying small from Alice and her adventures in Wonderland.

#1 “When I used to read fairy-tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!”

You know you’re living your dream when you wake up and can’t imagine doing anything else. If you’re not there yet, don’t lose heart. Just take that first step and, slowly, but surely, you’ll get there.

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#2 Alice: “Where should I go?” The Cheshire Cat: “That depends on where you want to end up.”

Have a plan (life plan, business plan, book proposal, etc.) Without one, you might eventually get to where you want to go, but you’ll waste a lot of precious time in the process.

 #3 “Be what you would seem to be—or, if you’d like it put more simply—never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others.”

Be authentic. You won’t please everyone, so don’t even try. Build a tribe of faithful followers and just keep doing what you do best. Those faithful few will show up and bring new followers along.

#4 “You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

Sometimes you’ll think you are crazy to pursue your dream, whether it’s starting a new business, writing a book, or traveling around the world. Other people will think you’re crazy, too. Personally, I’d rather be creative and crazy than do nothing and live a life of regret.

#5 “Curiouser and curiouser!”

Be curious. When I want to master a new skill, I do my research and delve in. Take a risk and dare to try something new.

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#6 “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”

The more passionately you pursue your dream, the more demands you’ll have on your time. Make a choice to get off the hamster wheel. This is your dream, after all. Slow down and enjoy the journey.

#7 “Why, sometimes, I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

I am most creative in the early mornings, so that is when I write. It’s also when my thoughts are most fluid and when the best ideas come to me. Find your prime time for creativity and guard it with your life.

#8 “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

Once you decide to pursue your dream, there’s no turning back. You may be successful. You will probably fail somewhere along the way. If you are open and vulnerable, you will grow. But you will never go back to being the person you were before.

#9 “If you limit your actions in life to things that nobody can possibly find fault with, you will not do much!”

See #4.

#10 “If you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?”

Find a tribe of people who believe in your talents and abilities. Find a mentor to guide, empower, and encourage you. Show gratitude by believing in and encouraging those who believe in you. At the end of the day, it’s connection that counts.

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Which is your favorite quote and why? Feel free to share your thoughts, below.

An interview with Jesse Ruben: Defying Small through song

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Last week I had the privilege of sitting down with Jesse Ruben when he was in town for his “We Can” tour with Caitlin Crosby. Jesse is a Philly-bred singer/songwriter currently living in Brooklyn, NY. He has independently sold over 10,000 albums, had song placements on TV shows such as One Tree Hill, Degrassi, and Teen Mom, and toured with some amazing artists, including Jewel, KT Tunstall, Rick Springfield, and Hanson. His song “We Can” is in regular rotation on the XM/Sirius Coffeehouse channel, which called him “the next generation of singer/songwriter.” Ruben has sold out venues across the US with deeply personal performances that combine well-crafted pop songs with the stories they came from. Beyond musical endeavors, Ruben is involved with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, the largest non-profit focusing on spinal chord injury and paralysis. He is a co-chair of their Champions Committee and has represented them three times in the NYC Marathon.

Here’s my interview:

Q:  Many writers have said they knew at the age of 10 that they were born to write. Did you have a defining moment like that and how old were you?

A:  I was 16 when I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I was always pretty creative, but I didn’t start playing guitar until my junior year of high school. My dad was a big electric guitar player—Clapton, Hendrix, Cream. The idea was that I would get an acoustic guitar and learn the basics and then he would buy me a Strad and we would shred guitar solos on stage together. And so he bought me this knock around guitar and I sat down with it and the only way I could describe it is that it was the first time my life made any sense. And I started writing that day.

I love language and I always wanted to be a novelist. But I’m a fourth generation musician. If you take literature and music and combine them, what you have is songwriting. When I listen to a song, I want to feel like I’m a different person at the end than when I started. I want it to transform me. That’s what I always try to do when I write.

Q:  Musicians and songwriters are an especially vulnerable lot. Basically, you open your heart and bleed. Researcher/storyteller Brené Brown talks a lot about countering vulnerability with gratitude. How do you practice gratitude?

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A:  I love being vulnerable. In every song, there’s a little bit of me there. The reward is in that the more generous you are with yourself, the more vulnerable, the more honest you are, the greater the impact. So I could write a bunch of meaningless pop songs and people would still like them. But I wouldn’t get emails from people thanking me for saving their lives. And that’s why I do this, so I can make an impact on people. Because songs saved me. I don’t know where I’d be without them. It seems the more you put in, the more you get back.

Q:  Where are you most happy?

A:  On stage with a group of committed listeners who are just so psyched that I’m there. There’s nothing like it in the world.

Q:  How do you nurture your creativity?

A:  I find that when I’m not writing—if I’m stuck—it’s because I haven’t been listening to music. What I listen to most these days is on vinyl—Paul Simon, Jackson Browne, the Beatles.

You have these pop songs now that are really popular, but nobody has any emotional connection to them. They’re really fun, you can dance to them. But, for instance, James Taylor, “Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone / Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you.” That song is 50 years old and people listen to it all the time. And Joni Mitchell, “Just before our love got lost you said I am as constant as a Northern Star.” Nobody listens to that and says, I wonder what she’s talking about? “I could drink a case of you and still be on my feet.” Nobody’s going, What does she mean? 

When I sit down to write a song like “We Can,” for instance, “It doesn’t matter if they don’t believe / It doesn’t matter if they do not understand / Cause every dream that I’m trying to achieve / I can, I can, I can” I’m not leaving any room for interpretation. The old songs tell us what happened, beautifully. And I miss that. That’s why I wake up in the morning. That’s what I love.

Q:  What spurred your involvement with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation?

A:  My friend, Zack, who broke his neck years ago. It was a really intense experience and I wrote a song about it on my first record called Song for Zack. I sent it to the Reeve Foundation because he had been working with them. They loved it and I’ve been involved with them since.

It gives me something else to talk about besides something as small as “How many iTunes singles did I sell today?” If the work that I do with the Reeve Foundation speeds up the cure for paralysis by ten minutes, my entire life will be worth it. I think the work they do is incredible. One thing that motivates me to be more successful is being able to bring more people to the cause.

Q: Thought leader Seth Godin wrote a book called, Poke the Box, which basically says stop waiting for a roadmap and draw your own. How have you “poked the box” in your own life?

A:  My whole job is asking for things: tours, shows, money, studio time, meetings. And most of the time when you’re starting out or when you’re on your way up, all you hear is, no. Or nothing. When I first started, it used to drive me crazy. I was losing sleep over no. Now no is a very comfortable part of my day. It’s just part of the job.

Q:  What advice would you give to people who have a dream and are afraid to take the first step?

A:  You can either be afraid and comfortable or uncomfortable and move forward. It becomes what’s more important. Getting what you want? Or not being afraid? What is being afraid? Being afraid is just a feeling. Being brave is not about having no fear. Being brave is being terrified and moving forward anyway. I’m terrified every day. I have no idea how this is going to turn out. I’d like to be financially comfortable. I’d like to travel all over the world. I’d like to think that people still care about songs. But I don’t know. What I do know is that if I had gone to a liberal arts school and gotten a degree in psychology and done that, I’d have been really good at it. And I’d have been really unhappy. It’s not why I’m here. I’m here to do this.  It’s what I’m best at in the whole world. It’s the way I’m best able to impact people. Nobody writes the songs I write. I’m here to do that. And if I don’t do it, nobody will.

My advice to people who haven’t taken the first step yet is, What are you waiting for? Stop waiting for permission. People have a lot of opinions when you start out as a musician. Are you sure you can do it? Do you have a back-up plan? No, I’m not sure. I have no idea. But I know that I’d hate myself if I didn’t. I only get one shot to be here and I’m not going to waste it. Don’t listen to other people when they disagree with your dreams. It’s really easy to put down somebody else’s dream. It’s really hard to go after your own.

Earlier this year Jesse challenged school children in Canada to do something to make the world a better place. He wrote the song, “I Can,” which inspired those children and continues to inspire others to defy small and live large. Enjoy!

Check out Jesse’s website, like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter @jesseruben!

A Love Affair with Life by Jacqueline Boone

I am excited to welcome Jacqueline Boone as my first guest blogger for Defying Small! I met Jacqueline through a Skillshare blogging class she was teaching and we instantly connected as passionistas. She is an amazing person and I believe her story will inspire you. Enjoy! Laura

Meet Jacqueline Boone! Photo by Vanessa Hellmann http://vanessamona.com

Meet Jacqueline Boone! Photo by Vanessa Hellmann

Are you wholly, completely, absolutely head over heels in love with your life? If not, it may be time for a new relationship.

Of course there will be moments that are less than ideal—squabbles, mixed up directions, peaks and valleys, but at the end of the day do you think to yourself: “Wow! I love my life!”?

I wish I could tell you that as the creator of 6 Months to Live, a blog and company completely dedicated to inspiring, empowering, and helping people live their dreams, that I have always loved my life, but that’s not the case.

At the time I started 6 Months to Live, I was a 26-year-old who had just returned from the grand adventure of living and working in China for 3 years. I topped off the experience by working on a ranch in Montana, which was one of my childhood dreams. Fall came, and I found myself sitting on my mom’s couch in Atlanta, GA trolling the Internet for jobs in San Francisco during the 2009 recession. I felt deeply discouraged and life in suburbia felt painfully ordinary in comparison.

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Hua Shan, China

I went to a conference as an opportunity to network and hopefully land a job. An attendee at the conference asked me, “What would you do if you had 6 months to live?” I didn’t have a good answer.

That question stuck with me. If I had 6 months to live, what would I be doing different in my life? I decided to try a 6-month life experiment. What if I approached my life intentionally? What if I made the best of each day? What if I loved my life?

That decision completely changed my life and my philosophy towards it. I wrote 168 letters of gratitude to people all over the world for how they had made a difference in my life. I took last minute trips and moved to San Francisco with a place to live for a month, no job, and a little over $1,000. 5 weeks later I was hired by a great company working for the CEO doing international strategic partnerships for a 2-billion dollar company. And I lived happily ever after…for 3 years.

Three years later, I found myself no longer in love with my life, so I made a change. The truth is that life is constantly changing, just like our relationships. While our relationships with girlfriends, boyfriends, partners, friends, and family are significant, our relationships with life and ourselves are the longest and most important relationships during our time on earth.

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Sailing in Mexico

Our relationship to life and to the people we choose to have in it makes all the difference. If you’re ready to make a change, but you don’t know where to start, begin with gratitude. It doesn’t mean that further changes in your approach or life won’t be needed, but it does make it immediately clear how much there already is to love in your world.

How we choose to spend our time makes up a lifetime. Sophie Tucker, a Vaudeville singer at the turn of the century, had a saying, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor—and believe me, rich is better. My saying is: “I’ve loved my life and hated my life—and believe me, loving your life is better!”

Jacqueline Boone is a passionately curious explorer, entrepreneur, and writer, who has a profound love of humanity. Follow the passion at 6monthstolive.me, on Twitter @6monthstolive and on Facebook at 6 Months to Live!

In the months to come, look for guest posts by other amazing authors, bloggers, travelers, and entrepreneurs who are Defying Small by living their biggest, most passionate lives!

What are you waiting for?

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We’re all waiting for something. The right job. The right person. The right time.

And, sadly, while we are waiting for ___________ (fill in the blank), most us are waiting to live.

Each of us has a passion, something that moves and motivates us. Each of us has God-given abilities that are just waiting to take flight.

It doesn’t matter what that passion is. Maybe it’s your children. Your art. Someone you see who’s in need.

What matters is that your passion can move you into a bigger life. The life you are capable of living. If you stop waiting and dare to take that first step.

The idea for the book I am writing, Defying Small: How Defining Life Moments Can Help You Live a Bigger, More Passionate Life, was inspired by the following quote by Nelson Mandela:

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Listen to Nelson. I did. Stop playing small. Stop settling. Stop living a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

Why?

Because the world is waiting.

For you. 

“What we are waiting for is for you to do what you are capable of, for you to do what all of us are here to do, which is to make a difference, which is to do work worth doing.”
~ Seth Godin, author of Poke the Box

Ask yourself these questions:

What is my passion? What difference do I long to make in the world? What work is worth doing?

Am I pursuing that passion? That work?

Am I living the life I am capable of living?

If not, what step can I take today towards living that bigger life?

What would that step look like for me?

What am I waiting for?

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I’d love to hear your thoughts. Post a comment here or email me at defyingsmall@gmail.com.

Follow Defying Small on Twitter and Facebook.

North and South: Finding Your Way to Love

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Today is the Day of Love. So whether you’ve discovered your true love or you’re still searching, there’s one sure way to find love on this special day. All it requires is finding your way to a great book—Elizabeth Gaskell’s mid-Victorian novel, North and South. You may just find, as I did, the character who becomes (dare I say it?) the compass of your soul. Your True North. For me, that character is John Thornton.

But before I begin waxing romantically about Mr. Thornton, let’s retrace our steps. North and South begins in an idyllic country village and ends in Milton, an industrial town in northern England. As in many great romantic novels, its two star-crossed lovers come from completely different worlds.

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John Thornton, heir to a cotton mill, moves in a world of money and machinery: The North.

Margaret Hale, an educated and privileged parson’s daughter, hails from a world that is gracious and genteel: The South.

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When Margaret’s family moves from their comfortable country parish to begin a new life in Milton, the trouble begins. Margaret’s father takes on students, the first of whom is John Thornton.

John finds Margaret alluring, yet naive and evasive; Margaret finds John dashing, yet unfeeling and aloof. A romance between the two seems impossible. Can they break through the social barriers that forbid a union? Will Mr. Thornton’s pride and Margaret’s prejudice (hmm) forever keep them apart?

This meticulously written novel, first serialized in 1855 in Dicken’s Household Words, is a must-read for anyone looking for romance on a grand scale.

But wait, there’s more.

In 2004, the BBC adapted Gaskell’s novel into a movie starring Hobbit heartthrob Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe.

Why my obsession with John Thornton? Perhaps it was his brooding, Darcy-esque passion that won my heart.

“Yes! He knew how she would love. He had not loved her without gaining that instinctive knowledge of what capabilities were in her. Her soul would walk in glorious sunlight if any man was worthy, by his power of loving, to win back her love.”

Sigh.

Let’s face it. We could all use a little romance in our lives. So whether you’ve found your True North, or are still finding your way, North and South is a read guaranteed to point the way to love.

Click below to read the other posts in Terri Guiliano Long’s Valentine’s Day Blog Hop 2013!

The end of the world. Or, it’s all about faith, hope, and love.

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Well, December 21, 2012, has come and gone, and we’re still here. Honestly, Doomsday pretty much escaped my notice, except for the ground swell of sarcastic posts and tweets on Facebook and Twitter.

No, the world as we know it didn’t end yesterday. At least for most of us.

But somewhere on this apocalyptic-free planet, I assure you, it did. Like in Newtown, Connecticut, where loved ones laid their wife/mother/girlfriend/son/daughter (five in all) to rest.

When the world ends, it usually doesn’t explode in a fiery inferno. Instead, life as we know it simply is no more. It either tumbles down around us. Or quietly slips away.

Over the years I have often quoted the following line from Mary Schmich’s famous “Sunscreen” column in the Chicago Tribune: The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday. Or, for the citizens of Newtown, at 9:30 am on some idle Friday.

Eric Thayer/Reuters

Eric Thayer/Reuters

I teach kindergarten, and Monday was the second hardest day of my thirteen-year career. 9/11 was the first. And that includes the day I got the call from my doctor telling me I had Stage I breast cancer.

Every single one of us—to one degree or another—has been there. You know, on the receiving end of “the news” that changes your life forever.

What do we do with that certainty of uncertainty? Live in gripping fear just waiting for our world to implode? Or cling tenaciously to the only things that will help us survive the fallout? Faith. Hope. Love.

Faith. It was faith that helped a teen-aged virgin believe an angel’s message that she would conceive a son out of wedlock. In one of my favorite children’s Bibles it says, “So Mary trusted God more than what her eyes could see.” Believing beyond what we can see when our grief and pain make it impossible. Believing that there really is something more.

Which leads to hope. But how can you hope when all hope is gone? Often, when we lose something or someone, we also lose hope—the hope inherent in that person or thing. Things like love, security, a future. For me, faith (and specifically my faith in Christ) is the key to hope. I have this hope “as an anchor for my soul, firm and secure.” ~Hebrews 6:19. It’s what keeps me from being tossed about when storms rage.

Finally, love. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. ~John 15:13. Rachel D’Avino. Dawn Hochsprung. Anne Marie Murphy. Lauren Rousseau. Mary Sherlach. Victoria Soto. Jesse Lewis. These, and nameless others, were the heroes of Sandy Hook. It will be their final acts of love and courage that live on and bring hope to those who remember them.

In memory, 26 balloons

So, this started out being a post about the thwarted Apocalypse and ended up being my way of processing what happened last Friday in Newtown.

Because I teach 6-year-olds, my first day back at school was especially hard. Making it through that day was a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. And I did so, recalling these words from President Obama’s speech given at an interfaith prayer vigil on Sunday:

There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have—for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace—that is true. The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves, and binds us to something larger—we know that’s what matters. We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.

And so I kept going that day, as we’ll all keep going. Clinging to what is true, doing what matters. Faith. Hope. Love. But the greatest of these is love.

An Unexpected Journey (or Two) of My Own

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“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.

~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

The long-awaited release of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” has gotten me thinking about journeys, and my own, in particular. In my lifetime, I have only met one person whose journey has been, well, expected. As I stood there listening to him reel off the list of calamities he’d escaped (major illness, financial setback, divorce, rebellious children, the loss of a loved one) I thought to myself, “Just wait, buddy. Your time is coming.” And it is and probably has, by now.

Not that I wish ill of anyone. Far from it. If anything, I wish the whole lot of us were immune. But we’re not.

Photo: Paul Steele, www.baldhiker.com

Ben Nevis    Photo: Paul Steele: http://www.baldhiker.com

I was just 14 when my parents received the news that my 23 year-old brother, Lawrence, had fallen to his death while climbing Ben Nevis in Scotland. Lawrence was getting his Masters at the University of Edinburgh. He’d been accepted into Yale Divinity School. And he had recently proposed to the girl he loved. Now all those hopes and dreams lay shattered—along with my innocence—at the bottom of that mountain.

As I crawled into bed that night, I had an epiphany: Life is short, so go for it. Take risks. Dream big.

I’d always understood that life was a journey. Now I felt an urgency to begin my own.

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Significant Journey #1: I’d just finished my freshman year of college when I declared my independence, moved away from my parents, and moved to the beach. It was a magical summer. I forged new friendships, broke a few hearts, and had mine broken, too. When the time came to return to school, I made the decision to stay (Remember? Take risks). Then, one by one, my friends packed up and left. And the magic left, too. I’d come to this place to find myself. What I found was this: When you take risks, you risk pain. Ouch.

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Significant Journey #2: A year and a half later, I was living in a sparsely furnished apartment in New York’s Upper East Side. I’d left college once again and headed to the Big Apple to find fame and fortune (Take risks). I wanted to be a cover girl, and nothing less would do (Dream big). Bright-eyed and innocent, I pounded the pavement while The City pounded me. I signed with a top agency and was told “if I played my cards right” I could land a million dollar contract (Life is short, so go for it). But trying to navigate that treacherous climb to the top at the tender age of 20 was just too much (Dream big, risk failing big). So one afternoon I walked to Penn Station and slipped away quietly on a train heading south.

There have been many journeys since then, too numerous to mention. What were some of the most unexpected? Having twins. Becoming a teacher. Returning to modeling at age 44. Being diagnosed with breast cancer. Getting divorced. (I did finally finish college, by the way). I suppose the most exciting and unexpected, by far, has been my journey of faith.

Just before Bilbo and the dwarves head into Mirkwood, Gandalf leaves them with this, There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.

Despite the difficulties, I have learned to press on and expect the unexpected. Because I know what Bilbo and the dwarves soon discover: there is always an adventure waiting just around the bend.

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