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Posts Tagged ‘lessons’

Katie ww run selfie trail

I know, I know: it’s the second week of January and everyone is all new year new you new habits new word. A couple of friends (and my husband) have already asked if I have a word for 2019. This is not surprising, because by now I generally do. (I often find Susannah Conway’s free Find Your Word exercises helpful, in case you’re still searching for yours. Not sponsored; just sharing a resource I’ve enjoyed.)

But as I said to Roxanne last week, in some ways I’ve still been wrapping up the year past. Not wallowing in nostalgia, exactly: 2018 was a wild, unsettling, hard and heavy – though also joyous – year. It was full of (more) transition, personally and professionally, and as Jen keeps reminding me, it takes a while for these changes to settle into our bodies and our souls. (One of those changes is inked visibly onto my skin now: just before Christmas, I finally got that brave tattoo I’d been thinking about for over a year.)

My one little word for 2018, which proved more apt than I could have known, was grit. And while I haven’t written about it here for months, I carried it close to my heart (and in the treads of my running shoes) all year.

heart sneakers trail

Grit, for me, was often about doing what had to be done: staring down yet another work crisis, sending out resumes and email queries after I lost my job, keeping up with dishes and laundry and other daily-life details. It was also – to my great surprise and delight – about digging deeper physically: throwing myself into Monday night boot camps, and pushing myself to run farther, faster and more often than I ever expected. I have become, in the last year, a runner, and I love what that habit is making of me.

Far harder than the to-do-list type of grit – or even the physical kind, which has often been its own reward – is the emotional grit sometimes required to keep steering through life. I am not the sort of person who weathers storms – internal or external – with undisturbed equilibrium. I go on, as Rilla Blythe says, “but not calmly – I rage and cry.” I handle change, but I do it slowly. I have a long runway. I am strong, but I am not invulnerable. I often need a minute (or a long run, a cup of tea, a listening ear, or all of the above) before I can pull it together and move forward.

I’m learning that grit can include all these self-care moves, instead of being the white-knuckled thing that replaces them. I am learning to ask for what I need, and that, too, takes grit. But then – as Rilla also says – “when it’s over I vow I’ll show them.” And this year, I have kept going: down the river trail, through the email inbox, back and forth across the Charles River about a thousand times, deep into the territory of my own heart.

The work of grit isn’t finished for me. I suspect it may never be. The thing with some words, like brave, is that they get under your skin (or, eventually, into it), and keep tugging you toward a stronger version of yourself. I think grit is the same. I’ll be following a new word this year, but grit will still be there, pulling me forward into whatever’s next. I’m glad to have it with me, whether I’m running or commuting or simply walking forward into each day.

Did you follow a word for 2018? What did it look like for you?

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I saw a post on Rachel’s blog recently about lessons learned – skills or tricks she’s gleaned from loved ones. I thought I’d share some of my own:

1. My aunt Cathy taught me to sew, when I was about six years old, using scrap fabric from my Neno’s extensive fabric stash.
2. Barb and Cynthia, my managers at the coffee house, taught me to brew espresso, steam milk and fold them together into lattes, cappuccinos and more.
3. Joy, my college roomie and friend, taught me to knit. (I am forever grateful.)
4. Jon taught me to swing dance, and Cole taught me countless swing moves.
5. My dad taught me to play golf. (I’m not very good, but that isn’t his fault.)
6. Jacque taught me to make a meal out of whatever happens to be in the cupboards or pantry. And to break off the heel of a baguette and munch on it as you’re walking home from the grocery store.
7. Gail and Calvin, and the girls at House 9 Abilene, taught me to open my home consistently, no matter how clean it is (or isn’t).
8. Allison Smith, a family friend, and Martha Davis, my official teacher, taught me to play the flute.
9. My college friend Erin taught me to love Thai food (a taste reinforced by Bethany, who loves all things Asian).
10. My mom and sister taught me about fashion – though my style is quite different from both of theirs.
11. My grandfather taught me how to drive a tractor, bale hay and make CCC’s (chocolate-chip cookies, of course).
12. Adam taught me how to say “thank you” in Russian.
13. Richard Burke (and a succession of music ministers and church-choir teachers) taught me how to sing.
14. Mrs. Langford taught me how to play the piano.
15. Glenn, my supervisor at my first grown-up job, taught me to go home at 5:00. The work, he said, will wait for you.
16. Ron, editor extraordinaire, taught me to edit.
17. Craig, my hippie Austin friend, taught me to love goat cheese.
18. My mom taught me to cook, apply makeup, curl my hair, write thank-you notes, make guacamole, and so much more.

What lessons/teachers are you grateful for?

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I’ve worked with Ron Hadfield, editor extraordinaire, off and on in various capacities since 2005. I was his student worker, then later his associate editor/right-hand writer, and now I’m one of his freelancers. I’ve spent a lot of time reading his edits and learning from him. And I have inherited lots of his editing tics/pet peeves (some of them passed down in turn from Dr. Charlie Marler, the patriarch of journalism at ACU). Here they are:

1. I hate the word “that,” and try to eliminate it when possible.
2. I hate “widows” – single words on a line – and will often re-jigger text to make them disappear.
3. I have a disdain for over-capitalized “alphabet soup” – e.g., Associate Professor of Important Things in the Department of This and That.
4. I prefer “smart” (curved) quotes over straight-line ones.
5. I proofread EVERYTHING. Sometimes twice.

I’ve also inherited a few other editing tics:
6. Use exclamation points sparingly. (from Al Haley, my creative writing teacher)
7. Use italics sparingly. (also from Al)
8. Never leave a naked “this” – always clarify it. (From a high school English teacher I rather despised – this lesson is the only useful thing I remember from her class.)

Anyone else? I know some of you are writers/fellow English majors/former journalism majors. Bring on your editing tics and pet peeves!

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