On the morning I left Nashville to move to California, my Uber driver picked me up and asked me what kind of trip I was taking. "A big one," I told him. I looked over at my beautiful city. At the brilliant reflection of a six o'clock rising of the day on windows of buildings and sides of bridges that weren't there when I moved here. A stunning city that has grown up and become something I didn't know it could.
Today I am launching part two in the video blog series on my memoir, "One Thousand Wells." This week's juicy question: Are there any love stories in the book. Watch the video blog to find out the answer to that and many other questions. "One Thousand Wells" releases August 25. You can pre-order it at onethousandwells.com.
Today's blog post is actually in video form. Friends of Blood:Water sent in questions about my new memoir, "One Thousand Wells," releasing August 25. If you'd like to know anything about my book, please leave a question in the comment field of this blog post. I'd love to answer as many questions as I can. https://vimeo.com/134614440
You can pre-order my memoir at onethousandwells.com.
Today, my amazing husband James turns 38. I have been witness to 8 of those 38 years, and they have made my life all the sweeter. James is in Kenya today, as he tends to be on many of his birthdays, so this is my celebration of 38 memories and characteristics I love about James. (Happy Birthday, love.)
1. Kindly offering me directions to the subway, the first time you and I met in New York.
2. Remembering my name the second time we met, in a line in Amsterdam.
3. Learning that you were six when you decided to be a vegetarian, which inspired me later to become a (mostly) vegetarian
4. Your heart for the poor, and the sacrifices you make to serve and love them
5. Your passion for and belief in the power of girl’s education around the world
6. The leadership you have provided and the kinship you have built with an entire community of change-makers in Lwala, Kenya
7. Your insatiable love for people, and your curiosity about who they are and what they care about
8. Your love letters, from 8 years ago up to today
9. Our shared adventures around the world - Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Mexico, Costa Rica, Netherlands, England, France, United Arab Emirates
10. You’re an ENFP, which is the perfect compliment to my INFJ
11. My concept of Broadway was Lion King, until you brought me to August Osage County and Disgraced
12. You taught me that basil and pesto are related - and to like them both.
13. I even put a little siracha on my stir-fry these days
14. Your love of Shakespeare and the invented words he brought into the world
15. Your humor, even when I miss the joke but everyone else laughs
16. The world you create for baby Jude - full of exploration, wonder and joy
17. The world you create for me - full of adventure, partnership and being known
18. Surprising me with a ring and a promise on YOUR 30th birthday
19. Your love of New York and Boston, and the experiences in the theater and those cities that shaped you today
20. The nights you woke me up to show me research and graphs that you found fascinating at midnight
21. The way you come home from a bike ride and a This American Life and re-tell the entire podcast for me
22. The way you hold your faith with conviction but don’t force it onto others
23. Your ability to communicate and teach in a way where your audience truly learns
24. Your loyalty to lifelong friends like Tara, Chad, Hanneke, Maja, Emily, and Ken who have now become my dearest, too
25. Running outside with Jude when it starts to pour, so he can feel the world on his skin
26. Feeding Jude peanut butter and Indian food to ensure that your favorites become his
27. Co-writing with me and believing in me more than I ever have myself
28. The way you make Jude laugh bigger than anyone else, and being his best wrestling buddy
29. The way your leadership in Lwala has saved countless lives of mamas and babies over the last 6 years
30. Bringing me to our St. A’s community and teaching me to love the rhythm of the liturgy and sacraments
31. Your love for Penn State and endurance through the disappointments
32. The way you root for a football team that majors in defense (Niners!)
33. Not being afraid to talk to strangers or to tell someone no, and doing those things on my behalf, too
34. Your love of ideas and the way they become realities
35. The sacrifices you are making today to say a bigger yes to me and Jude, even when it hurts to say no to others
36. Your collaborative spirit and the belief in the non zero sum game of sharing and generosity
37. Your love and commitment to our families, through all of the ups and downs
38. And finally...your dance moves
Happy Birthday, James. What a life. It is such a gift.
p.s. I love the bow tie.
Have you ever found yourself Googling or Facebook searching for someone from your past life? For someone you once knew, but as time as passed, you knew not where to find them? Twelve years ago, I sat in a small room of my college commons and heard the personal stories of two individuals who were HIV positive. One was a man named Bill whose body continued to betray him from the intense regimens of medication (Ironically, the side effects of the medications were as unbearable as the symptoms themselves). And the other was a woman named Julie who shared what it was like to become HIV positive from a blood transfusion after the birth of her daughter.
At the time, I had been studying the effects of HIV on the immune system in my medical microbiology class, but this was the first time I had heard from people who were living through it.
Their stories were powerful to me. They were so human, so broken, so honest, so real. The science of the virus morphed into the stories of people. I remember, in particular, the audacity with which Julie spoke. She had said things like,
"It doesn't matter how I contracted HIV, even though people see my circumstance as more innocent than that of others. I don't want to be treated differently. We are all in it together."
"I had 3 children, and I was told I would only have five years to live. But I decided I wasn't going to live like I was dying. I was going to live it fully. "
As a college student searching for purpose, Julie and Bill's stories were the spark that sent me finding stories of other HIV positive people around the globe. It's what led me to Blood:Water.
I have often wondered about Bill and Julie. I mostly wondered if they were still alive. And a year ago, instead of wondering, I did as most of us do when we wonder where in the world someone might be. I took my questions to Google. I grabbed my college notebook to find the last names of Bill and Julie (yes, I still have my college notebooks - ultimate nerdom, I know), and this is what I found:
Bill: The only thing that came up was that he was a member of the Spokane HIV/AIDS Speakers Bureau in Spokane. There was no clear date to ascertain whether or not he was still speaking, or still alive. My search ended there.
Julie: She was also listed in the Spokane HIV/AIDS Speakers Bureau. But different than Bill, there was another link with her name in it - an article from Spokane's Inlander. It was confusing at first because the article was about a guy who was part of a Seattle-based hip hop duo called Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. (Before you all go judge me about not knowing who they were, this was before they had become a national sensation. Okay, you're right. I probably still wouldn't have known).
As I read through the story, it became clear that the Julie I was looking for was Ryan Lewis' mom. And she was alive. And was continuing to relentlessly advocate for HIV/AIDS issues. In an act of serendipity, the article revealed that I already knew Julie's husband, Scott, through our nonprofit circles. I found an old email from him, and I reached out.
Last week, I went to dinner with Julie and Scott in Seattle. I shared with Julie how the courage of her story more than a decade ago was a significant catalyst in my life. That her testimony compelled me to find the testimonies of others.
That the ripple effect meant more than 60,000 HIV positive Africans with a second chance at life and flourishing - and nearly a million people in AIDS-affected communities with clean water. That in the moments when you just don't know if your story means anything past sympathy or inspiration, it can mean so much more.
Take the time to circle back to those who've inspired you - and thank them. And pay attention to the way your own life and story can have a ripple effect beyond your wildest imagination.
ps. When I showed Julie the notebook, I asked about Bill. He, too, is alive. I can't wait to go meet him and thank him, too.
To learn more about Julie's work, go here.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have partnered with Julie in the 30/30 Project.
After compounded weeks of rushing out in the mornings, rushing home in the evenings, pumping between meetings and in taxi cabs and green rooms and public bathrooms and the back of airplanes, washing parts, storing milk, carrying coolers and ice packs, not sleeping through the night in 132 days (yes, I'm still counting), coordinating schedules/supplies/instructions for nannies and babysitters, dealing with Jude getting hand foot & mouth disease which he then generously shared with me, showing up in the office with fevers and chills, attending meetings and engagements in Boston, DC, and Atlanta, negotiating with James' equally demanding work schedule, and continuing to press forward in our attempts to raise the money necessary to bring water to another million people in Africa, I kind of couldn't take it anymore.
All I could think was, this is not working.
And, I need help.
I looked at James, and waved my proverbial white flag, wishing the world stop for a moment so we could catch our breath and look each other in the eye and ask what just happened to our life.
But we knew that the world wasn't going to stop on our behalf. So, in a moment of clarity (and desperation), we deliberately stepped out of our world for a week and took a Time Out.
We hopped on a plane, and James' parents graciously welcomed us into their San Diego home. His parents took care of Jude while I recovered from my fever; they took early morning shifts with him so James and I could sleep. We played with our baby and soaked in the sweet moments we miss when we are at work.
We dipped his toes in the water.
And we handed him to his Lovey and Grandpap so James and I could walk, journal, read, float in the bay, eat real food, and take deep breaths of the Pacific air.
In all of this change since baby, I had no idea how much I would miss my husband. We are in all of it together, co-parenting and partnering together to get through our days, to care for our son.
But all of the moments of intimacy that make our marriage rich have disappeared in the demands of our new normal. James and I spent the week revisiting the values we set forth on our wedding day, that have been a compass for us in times such as these. Being the strategic executives that we are, we graphed venn diagrams of our values and tried to understand where we are and where we want to be.
We did not, of course, solve all of our problems in one week together, but we did get a chance to hit the reset button with fresh perspective, extra rest and a reminder for what matters most to us in our desire to take care of ourselves, love one another and love our neighbor. We affirmed the need to pace ourselves, to ask for help, to be willing to live differently when the status quo detours us on a path we ought not to take.
The world will not stop on our behalf, but taking moments of true rest from the hurry of life is vital. A recent New York Times article speaks to the importance of this reset. James and I recognize the privilege we have in mobility and access - but in whichever way possible to you to find rest, I hope you can make room for it, too.
James has been in East Africa for the last two weeks while Baby Jude and I have held the fort down in Nashville. While James' time in Africa is the shortest he's ever taken, it has felt quite long for all of us.
Our seven years together have been nothing short of amazing - the adventure of travel and mission, the missing each other and the reunions, the intentionality of a stash of hand-written letters for each day that we are apart or the shared book we read while away or the end-of-day emails we send to each other. I'm proud of how we've found a rhythm - a way to stick together even when we are miles apart.
But now, everything changes. Because how can you maintain the same kind of presence or intimacy with your three-month-old son when you're halfway around the world?
You really can't.
I think we knew that truth (which is one reason why it took so long for us to try to have a baby), but we didn't really know it until we have lived it out over the last couple of weeks.
We are so grateful for Face Time so that James can watch the dramatic growth and changes that seem to occur on a daily basis. But it is no substitute for cuddling with your baby in the mornings or holding him when he cries at night.
We don't know what the answer is. For us, it's a bit of trial and error. Of trying and learning. Of fumbling along the way. And of trusting that there truly is a way to live out commitment to both family and mission.