A Small Story of Love (and a Big Announcement Too)

Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Holidays, and welcome back!

Since the last post here, I’ve traveled over 2,100 miles by car, traveling with a mission of seeing as many beloved people as possible. (It seems logging 2,000+ miles is becoming a Thanksgiving tradition around here … fellow far-flung travelers, you have my sympathies!)

What a ride it has been. There are so many stories I could share. But today, I’ll tell you a small story about the time my husband and I spent at L’Arche DC*, in the home where we used to live and work together.

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L’Arche buddies, complete with bunny-ears

When we arrived at L’Arche after a 13 hour drive, I didn’t want to sleep; I wanted to wake people up and hold them in my arms. But I chose, instead, to enjoy the house itself.

Things had changed since my husband and I moved away. New paint colors appeared on the walls, new artwork adorned them, and new people lived within them. Yet even so, I had a visceral sense of home.

Now, that L’Arche house isn’t ‘perfect’. It has held some tensions and discord over the years. But it has also held love. And love lingers in a space; it’s what makes people feel peaceful the moment they walk in the door.

It made such an impression on me, the way the house seemed to have absorbed everything that had passed between its walls into a bedrock of peace. And I thought: If a house can do that, so can we.

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That peaceful feeling remained as I read with Leo**, as I sat next to Miguel and scribbled in my journal as he scribbled in his magazines. And even though I knew that the house wasn’t ‘mine’ anymore, I still felt like I was a part of it, a thread in the tapestry.

And the pattern became even clearer on our last night there. After supper, I overheard Leo talking about me to one of the other guests. He indicated to me and said, “Hey, guess what? She writes books now.”

It’s hard to explain the feeling I had as I overheard those words. It was the sense that someone has hit the nail exactly on the head, that they have said of you the most wonderful thing that could have been said.

Leo implied that he approved of my choice to write, that he was proud of me for it. He seemed to say that what I do fits into the spirit of L’Arche — into that home, into those hearts.

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On the day my first-grade teacher told us that we’d be writing our own books, I knew that writing was the life for me. What could be better than making a book? (That first book was entitled, “My Brother,” and it was a straightforward, terribly-illustrated account of life with Willie.)

Since then, I have always wanted to be a ‘real’ writer, and I am tremendously thankful for the ways in which that dream has come true. I’ve written and published two books in the last two years, and I’ve been working on my next project for some time. And on that note, I have exciting news to share.

To begin, I spent this past summer writing a proposal for my third book. And in the process of seeking representation for the project, I came into contact with an independent publisher who had a wonderful idea:

What if we were to publish a story as a Kindle Single, just in time for the holidays?

Now, this wasn’t part of my original plan of agent first, then publisher. But if I’ve learned anything at all from L’Arche, I’ve learned that the best things in life are not part of my original plans. So I said, Yes. Let’s do it.

With that, I am proud to announce the forthcoming release of I Was a Stranger to Beauty.

ThinkPiece Publishing plans to launch the digital book this winter; it will be available for Kindle, Nook, and iPad. I’ll be sure to share more details as they become available.

It’s funny; usually, when I have a launch coming up, I feel nervous and scared. But today, all I feel is peace.

Maybe it’s L’Arche, maybe it’s Leo, or maybe it’s simply the love that went into this work … the kind of love that surpasses fear. 

Whatever it is, I can’t wait to share this book with you.

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Where have you felt an inexplicable sense of peace? Join the conversation in the comments below!

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*L’Arche is a faith-based non-profit organization that creates homes where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together. I spent 5 years serving the DC community in various caregiving roles.

**Names have been changed to protect privacy.

10 Reasons to Give Thanks, 10 Days Before Thanksgiving

It’s that time of year.

Mom, thanks for making me such a lovely princess costume for my very first ‘dress up’ Halloween!

We’re putting away the Halloween costumes (or, in my case, enjoying photos of past ensembles!) and making plans for the upcoming winter holidays. We’re hitting the road and opening our doors. And in the midst of it all, we’re giving thanks.

At the moment, I’m thankful to have 3 guest posts (From Helplessness to Courage: A Sister’s Story at Autism Speaks; Love Takes the Lead: A Story of Struggle at The Bold Life; Becoming Whole at My Autism My Voice) up this week.

And I’m thankful that, even though this week has been a difficult one for Willie, our parents, and me, it has been a time of grace as well.

& I am tremendously grateful for you.

Your readership. Your time. Your lovely, inspiring comments. The ways in which you share from the heart.

And sharing from the heart is what my favorite writers do best. In honor of the coming holiday, I want to share with you a (short, incomplete) list of writers who have inspired me this year.

You can peruse these posts over the next 2 weeks, since A Wish Come Clear will be taking a brief break for the holiday. (Posts resume on Monday, December 3, 2012.)

The writers listed below share stories of special needs with grace, power, and beauty, and I am so glad that they have the courage to do so.

I am thankful for (in no particular order) …

1. Martha Beck, author of Expecting Adam: A Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic (among others)

Recommended Read: Receive with an Open Heart: Giving and Accepting Gifts of Real Love

2.  Kerry Magro, fellow columnist at Autism After 16 and all-around amazing human being

Recommended Read: Goodbye, Hello

3. Priscilla Gilman, author of The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy

Recommended Read: Ernie and Bert’s Mother

4. Kelle Hampton, author of Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected.

Recommended Read: Tea with Milk and Honey

5. Rachel Simon, author of The Story of Beautiful Girl and Riding the Bus with my Sister (and others)

Recommended Read: Chapter One, The Story of Beautiful Girl

6. Amy Julia Becker, author of A Good & Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny

Recommended Read: Ann Coulter, The R-Word, and John Franklin Stephens’ Wise Response

7. Rob Gorski, who blogs at Lost and Tired

Recommended Read: Never Take for Granted

8. Gillian Marchenko, author of a forthcoming book about Motherhood, Down Syndrome, & Surprising Beauty

Recommended Read: Tutu Much

9. Lana Rush, who blogs at Along Came the Bird

Recommended Read: Oh Joy!

10. Ellen Stumbo, who blogs at These Broken Vases

Recommended Read: Defining Moment {A Guest Post}

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What are you thankful for this week? Join the conversation in the comments below!

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How Far Would You Go To Forgive? Or, 7 Lessons Learned from 7 Days and 2,500 Miles of Thanksgiving Travel

If I may offer a single suggestion to you this holiday season, dear reader, it would be this:  be wary of any road trip that promises to take longer than 24 hours one-way. With love, compassion and kindess for all, I say, simply, watch out. Take care. Such a trip is hard on your body, mind and spirit, even if you are traveling with (or toward) your best friends in the world.

Bonus Lesson #1: When all else fails, don't forget to smile.

This warning goes double if there is a newborn or a two-year-old involved, or if you’re harboring any hurt feelings whatsoever towards the people you are traveling to or with. Why do I say this? Because I’ve just returned from the aforementioned road trip, of course. Approximately 2,500 miles later, I’ve learned a lot. But rather than tell you about all the reasons why the road trip was challenging, I’ll tell you about what made this (inherently difficult) journey a joy. So, without further ado, enjoy…

7 Lessons Learned from 7 Days of Travel:

1. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating:  Always, always bring (healthy) snacks for your travels. Bring more than you think you’ll need, and share your food with others. Hunger leads to grouchiness, grouchiness leads to snapping, snapping leads to anger, and anger leads to the dark side.

2. If there is a zoo available at any point in your travels with a two-year-old, by all means, take the kid to the zoo. This will not only help the two-year-old to have a good day, it will also help you to fall in love with said two-year-old. (It is much easier to fall in love at the zoo, when the child is wide-eyed and fascinated by the graceful hippos and the splashing penguins, than on the car ride, when he is screaming because his mom is driving, and not sitting next to him.)

3. Small things can (and do) make a big difference. This point kept coming home to me time and time again. One day, it was the choice to sing, “Old McDonald” that made all the difference between a sobbing toddler and a laughing one. The next day, it was the decision to tell the truth and communicate rather than avoid hard conversations. These small things had the power to alter the entire course of the trip. (More on this in #7.)

4. Forgiveness is hard, but the alternative is much, much harder. At one point in the trip– on Thanksgiving morning, to be exact– one of the people we were staying with said some things that were deeply hurtful, to me and to another friend. I was shocked, and furious enough to contemplate booking an early flight back home. Fortunately, I did not book a flight, but I did let myself stay angry for too long. As I held on to the anger, I felt bitterness coming into my heart. Forgiveness isn’t easy– it was, and is, an ongoing process– but my lack of forgiveness was turning me into someone I did not want to become. Which brings us to…

Bonus Lesson #2: If you can be silly together, fight to keep the love & friendship alive.

5. Know who to call for help when things get tough. I called my mom when I felt myself struggling to decide whether to stay or go on Thanksgiving day. I knew that she would be able to offer some much-needed perspective, and I was right. She told me that I could get through this, that the friendship would survive. She also asked me a very helpful question…

6. Ask, “What would you do if…?” When I didn’t know how to respond to the person who had hurt me, my mom asked, “What would you do if this was someone in L’Arche?” It was a simple question, but it was enough to make me take pause. If this was someone in L’Arche, I knew, I’d have made allowances for the fact that he who had offended me was going through a very stressful time himself. I couldn’t offer mercy in the moment that my mom asked the question, but her words opened my heart to the possiblity. And because of that, I was at least able to mumble, “Okay. Thank you,” when he apologized.

7. No matter what difficulty you’re experiencing, there is always a choice you can make to invite more love into the present moment. And so the question becomes:  what kind of person are you going to be? When my mom told me that I could forgive and rebuild, part of me resisted her. The stubborn, angry part of me thought, “No way! I can’t possibly do that.” But I also felt another part of me rising up, quiet yet insistent. It was the better part of me, the person I want to become. That part said something like:  “Caroline, I know you’re hurt, but you can’t let that hurt make you bitter. That’s not you.”

What I knew deep down in that moment was this:

                                 I Am Not I

By Juan Ramón Jiménez; Translated by Robert Bly

I am not I.

I am this one

walking beside me whom I do not see,

whom at times I manage to visit,

and whom at other times I forget;

who remains calm and silent while I talk,

and forgives, gently, when I hate,

who walks where I am not,

who will remain standing when I die.

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What are your life lessons from the Thanksgiving holiday? Tell me in the comments!

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