A Quote, A Book, A Thought or Two

A Quote:

“But let me tell you something about the love of God, even as we muddle through life on this earth. He is never constrained by our decisions. In fact, perfect decisions, if such a thing were possible, might lull us into thinking that we had sufficient wisdom. Imperfect decisions on the other hand, which is to say human decisions, allow for the possibility of grace, this thing that always reminds of how freely, how extravagantly God loves.”

Jen Pollock Michel – Monday Newsletter*

This quote arrived in my inbox under the heading “Grace for imperfect decisions.” It was a Monday morning gift, and I hope as you read this it will be the same for you. I have sometimes had paralysis around decision making. What if it’s the wrong decision? What will I learn later that I don’t know now, perhaps wishing to have made a different choice, a different decision? What has helped me has been my conversations with others around decision making. I’ve had dozens of conversations around the idea that many decisions in life are not about right or wrong, about morality or someone getting hurt. Rather, they are about taking what we know at the time and moving forward in the next right thing. This quote reminds me that grace covers all of the imperfect deciding moments.

A Book:

One of the gifts that I have been given this past year is a project connected with a recovery community in Southeast Massachusetts. The work has included starting a community advisory board for an organization that does wholistic and comprehensive work with those who struggle with addiction. The project was to create a cookbook that would connect cooking with the recovery journey. Like recovery itself, collectively creating the cookbook was a slow process. But the result is a beautiful book called One Cup at a Time: Recipes for Recovery that contains stories and recipes from all over the world.

I wrote this in the book:

One Cup at a Time: Recipes for Recovery is a community project that focuses on food, community, and recovery. Through these recipes and stories, we want to take you on a journey – a journey that is not a single story, but a collection of lives and experiences, of food and family, of resilience and recovery. Through stories we will explore the courage it takes to move into recovery; through food we will savor the tastes and traditions that honor each person’s journey.

Cooking is not about one ingredient or one recipe. It’s about a series of steps: a cup of this, a teaspoon of that, stir this, and mix that. It takes time, thought, and care. Just as in cooking, recovery does not have only one recipe for success. Instead, recovery is about taking one step at a time….

We invite you to the project. Read. Taste. Savor. And through it, become someone who can walk alongside those in recovery.

I’m not telling you recovery is going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.

Anonymous

What an honor it has been to do this work! In truth, there were times when I couldn’t imagine that the project would come together. Isn’t that true of so many things? In the middle we can’t imagine what the end will look like. We can’t imagine healing when physical or emotional pain is so strong. We can’t imagine a resolution to a conflict when we feel anger every time we think about the person. We can’t imagine joy when sorrow is so overwhelming. We can’t imagine redemption when all around us is decay. And yet – the cookbook, arguably a human project that will not change the world, is complete – a finished product that is beautiful and useful. And though it won’t change the world, the impact on those who contributed is unquantifiable.

The book is for sale on Amazon and all proceeds go to the recovery community. It is expensive, but it is full color and gorgeous. You won’t be disappointed if you purchase this for yourself or a friend.

A Thought or Two: What I’m dreaming, deciding, watching, and reading….

I had a dream the other night that it rained and rained and rained and rained. Then it rained some more. We are in a drought here in Massachusetts, the grass all around as brown as the desert. The dream wasn’t just about the weather – it was also about my heart. I’m in a drought and longing for the refreshment of rain on my soul. Amazingly, yesterday it rained all day! It gives me hope that the rain for my soul is a heartbeat away.

Speaking of grace for imperfect decisions, I made the decision to leave my 9-5 job and go into consulting full time. It is a good decision, but not without its risks. One of the reasons that I did this is that I want more time to write. I have some writing projects that have I have been unable to get to because of a full-time job.

I’ve watched two excellent movies that I want to recommend. The first – 13 Lives – is about the true story of the Thai soccer boys and their coach trapped in a cave in the Chiang Rai region of Thailand in 2018. I had to stop the film several times while I watched it as the intensity does not let up. What I appreciate about that intensity is that the creators help you feel a fraction of the tension the parents, boys, divers, and all involved felt. It is a profoundly moving film. The courage, the teamwork, the thinking way outside of the box, the faith it took – there are no words left to describe this film. If that sounds too intense – and I don’t exaggerate this – then watch The Bookshop, the story of a widow who opens a bookstore on a coastal town in England. It is a lovely story with an ending that I wouldn’t choose.

I’ve just finished Apeirogon – an exceptional story of the friendship between a Palestinian and an Israeli, based on both of them losing a daughter to the conflict and struggling to find and seek peace despite the pain. “It struck him early on that people were afraid of the enemy because they were terrified that their lives might get diluted, that they might lose themselves in the tangle of knowing each other.” p 124

And that’s a wrap. I appreciate you. I appreciate that you read my words when there are so many millions of others to read. I will never have a large space in our wide world, but I love my small space and want to steward it well.

I’ll end with words from the late Frederick Buechner, a writer that I have quoted before, with the encouragement to all of us that good words last. These words are for us – the nomads, the travelers, the ones who sit a spell, and then travel forward.

You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.

Frederick Buechner

*I subscribe to Jen Pollock Michel’s newsletter and appreciate her thoughtful reflections and wisdom. If you don’t know Jen’s writing, then I’m delighted to introduce you to her. Her book, Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home is a book for nomads and travelers – people like you and me. She has several other books as well, but this one in particular resonates with me.

The Evolution of a Writer/Blogger

blogging

  1. Dream about writing
  2. Write beginnings of articles and books in your mind
  3. Dream more about writing
  4. Write copious amounts in your journal
  5. Realize that blogging is a thing
  6. Read other people’s blogs and think “I want to blog”
  7. Consider starting a blog
  8. Talk to daughter about starting a blog
  9. Listen to daughter’s advice about said blog
  10. Start a blog on New Year’s Day
  11. Write your first blog and hit “Publish”
  12. Get a phone call from your mom who read your first blog
  13. Write your second blog and hit “Publish”
  14. Realize that there is something called “stats” that will tell you how many people have read your blog
  15. Write your third blog and see that two people have read it: Your mom and your husband
  16. Blog and realize your mom, your husband, and a lot of old friends from Pakistan have read your blog
  17. Blog and realize your mom, your husband, your friends from Pakistan and a whole lot of strangers have read your blog
  18. Get terrified
  19. Think that you’re supposed to blog about everything that happens everywhere
  20. Get exhausted at pretending you have a voice and knowledge about everything everywhere
  21. Get comments and emails from strangers who, amazingly, really like your writing
  22. Write a blog that gets a lot of response from a group you love
  23. Write, Write, Write and realize that even when people don’t read it, you really love to write
  24. Settle into a happy little corner of the big, wide, interwebz
  25. Write a blog that goes viral (it was bound to happen considering the sheer volume you write) and get mad because you know that other things you have written are better, but this one was the one that went BAM!
  26. Go to conference and have a stranger recognize you
  27. Write a book from your blog posts
  28. Go to another conference and watch the speaker click to a slide with a quote from YOUR BOOK (whisper to all the strangers around you “That’s me!”)
  29. Continually struggle with envy when others seem to have a bigger platform
  30. Confess said envy and take a break from blogging
  31. Go back to blogging refreshed and realizing that you are developing your own style and voice
  32. Realize that your blog will never send you rejection letters, so you should probably branch out to other magazines in order to grow as a writer
  33. Branch out and get a rejection email.
  34. Publish the rejected blog post on your own blog
  35. Decide that you are a terrible writer and no one should be reading you anyway because you’re a sheer waste of time
  36. Get an email that says “I never comment, but I love your writing!”
  37. Decide maybe you’re still a terrible writer, but someone loves you, and if even one person loves you – then maybe it’s worth it.
  38. Branch out again and send out more articles to magazines and journals
  39. Get articles accepted and work with editor that doesn’t know you or your writing
  40. Be humbled as you write and rewrite sentences and paragraphs
  41. See your work published outside of your own blog
  42. Proudly send out more articles
  43. Get email saying “You are a solid writer, but we won’t be using your article”
  44. Scream with rage “I DO NOT WANT TO BE A SOLID WRITER. I WANT TO BE AN EXCELLENT WRITER”
  45. Cry
  46. Pray
  47. Realize that your missing ingredient is generosity
  48. Seek to be generous with your writing, your platform, and your praise and affirmation of other writers
  49. Be humbled
  50. Continue writing because the heart of all of this is that you absolutely love putting letters into words, words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into thoughts and ideas. YOU LOVE IT – and no one can ever take that away from you. No one. Ever. 

PS – Oh, and also realize that when you first started blogging you linked everything to Wikipedia, and only found out about when your daughter said to you one day “Mom, why do you link everything to Wikipedia?”  So you lie and said “I don’t” and then secretly late at night you go through 120 blog posts and take out all the Wikipedia links…..

About a Book….aka Kill Those Darlings!

Worlds apart promo

Some of you may remember a big announcement last year. It was about a book. A book that I was so excited about. I talked about it on the blog and on social media sites. I had a book reading and signing. But something just wasn’t right.

That book, that precious book where I let my childhood memories in all their vulnerability out into the world, did not sell. Meanwhile, my previous book kept on selling.

I couldn’t figure it out. It was so defeating and so depressing. I had been writing that book for eight years. What happened? Why was it so poorly received? I didn’t talk to anyone about it, because when you love writing and you want people to receive your words….well you don’t talk about the hard stuff.

Right after the book came out I had major surgery. While I had hoped to spend my recuperating days writing, instead I ended up just healing. It was the hardest and most humbling work I’ve ever done, and it was a fulltime job. Soon after that, I realized that my dad was entering into his final illness. I needed to spend as much time as I was able with my mom and dad, which is never enough time. He died in October, and soon after that, some of the stuff you never talk about on a blog happened.

And the book got lost in all of the stuff that was happening. But I would still think about this book. Why on earth did I write it? What did I expect? Dear friends from Pakistan were writing me regularly telling me they would never read the book. It was just too hard for them. So what was it for anyway?

I realized I hadn’t written it for them. I had written it for a far more general audience, but the book didn’t reflect that. I also realized some things about writing. Just as an artist puts their heart and soul into their art, we who write put our heart and soul into our words. We craft and recraft sentences. We look for meaning behind things that happen to us and we invite others into those events, hoping they too will find meaning. As Joan Didion says: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live….We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices….” 

Writing helped me to understand more about how important stories are to our understanding of others and ourselves. I thought more specifically about the third culture kid’s journey, the stories behind the arrivals and departures, the narrative that captured the sweetness of hello and the bitterness of goodbye.*

In the middle of all these life events, I did a book reading.  It was there that one of my friends asked me about the title. She said it so graciously, but I took the words to heart. “What about the title?” she asked. “Why did you choose to call it that?”

My friend is Israeli and Jewish – in other words, we come from different countries and different faiths, but she loved the book. Her words took root in my heart.

It was in early winter that Doorlight Publications reached out to me. They wanted to reprint the book. It wasn’t selling well. What did I think about retitling the book and adding a foreword as well as a section that would take the reader from reading about my story to writing about their own journey?

There is a phrase in the writing world that talks about killing your darlings. In other words, the things that you hold onto the most in writing sometimes need to be killed off, taken out, severed from the body of the book.

The title was my darling. I so wanted ‘Pakistan’ to be in the title. And it seemed to make sense that I would put faith in it. But it narrowed the focus of the book too much. The book was my journey through my developmental years in Pakistan and included so much more than Pakistan and faith. Would I be willing to kill my darling?

I would, and I did.

Just last week the book was re-released under the title Worlds Apart: A Third Culture Kid’s Journey. I love it. I love the cover. I love the foreword by Rachel Pieh Jones, who is writing her own book to be released in 2019 by Plough Publishing. I love the ‘Mapping Your TCK Journey’ at the end, followed by book resources.

And I’m excited for this new start. You don’t always get another chance with a book, but I did with this one.

So would you give it a chance? Would you consider buying the book? I would love it if you did!

I would love to have you purchase the book! It’s on sale through Amazon and available wherever books are sold.

*Page 184 Worlds Apart: A Third Culture Kid’s Journey


barnes and noble

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books a million


Worlds Apart: A Third Culture Kid’s Journey – Film & Reviews

The train rounds a bend.
The rest of the cars appear one by one,
all tied to one another
far into the distance.
It comes as a surprise to be tied to things so far back

Human Landscapes from My Country

by Nazım Hikmet

____________________________________________________

Worlds Apart was released in the spring of 2018. Previously released under Passages Through Pakistan, the new edition includes a final chapter focused on writing your own story.

Below is a short video about the book with some amazing pictures of Pakistan taken by a couple of friends, as well as me. Enjoy!

Advance Praise for Worlds Apart
 
“Worlds Apart tells the captivating story of Marilyn Gardner’s childhood as a ‘third-culture kid’, raised by her Christian, American missionary parents in the heart of Pakistan. Gardner’s eloquent story of the trials, tribulations, and lessons of growing up as a bridge between these rich cultures serves as an important lens through which Americans and Pakistanis can learn more about one another and their important long-term partnership in a time when the gap between the two nations seems to be growing ever larger. By shedding light on how our faiths, our cultures, and our worlds are far more alike than different, Gardner’s story is a must read for those wanting to build bridges.”Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University,Washington, DC
 
*********
 

Marilyn demonstrates sensitivity and understanding toward an often misunderstood part of the world…

“Marilyn Gardner’s Worlds Apart is a wonderful book, presenting in both a descriptive and reflective way the wonder of her childhood that took place in the mountains of northern Pakistan, the villages and deserts of southern Pakistan and the small towns of New England, along with some of the places in between.
As the only daughter in a remarkable family that included four brothers, Marilyn emerges as a sensitive observer with an impressive eye for detail as well as a well developed memory for the small anecdote that often reveals a much larger meaning.

Part spiritual reflection, part childhood reminiscence and part travelogue, Marilyn’s book will be especially welcomed by those trying to make sense of their own personal stories, especially if they involve transitions across multiple cultures and geographic locations.

A deeply moving observer of the places, people and events that have surrounded her, she demonstrates sensitivity and understanding toward an often misunderstood part of the world, presenting the sights, sounds, landscapes and peoples of Pakistan in ways that are largely absent in both newspaper headlines and superficial social media accounts that all too often know little and understand even less.

Americans growing up in Asia and Asians growing up in America will especially gravitate toward this account, capturing as it does the complexity as well as the wonder and astonishment of childhoods spent in unlikely places. It will also resonate strongly with missionary kids and third culture kids everywhere.” – Jonathan Addleton, former US Ambassador to Mongolia, is the author of several books including The Dust of Kandahar:

 

A Diplomat Among Warriors in Afghanistan and Some Far and Distant Place

 
Passages Through Pakistan is available at the following locations:

What’s On Your Bookshelf?

Books with quote

Two years ago, I asked this question…but Communicating Across Boundaries has grown exponentially since then, so I’m asking it again.

The task is simple but oh so hard! Pick three books on your bookshelf that summarize you. What three books give us a snapshot of your life?

This was introduced by National Public Radio’s ‘All Things Considered‘ show a couple of years ago and I loved it so much I want to use it here at Communicating Across Boundaries. Anyone who responds in the comments will be put into a drawing to receive one of the books that is a snapshot of my life.

So let’s get started! My three are:

1. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. Katherine Boo takes us into the stories of real people living in the Annawadi slum in Mumbai. The slum shares walls with the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai. This ethnically diverse community lives in close quarters, daily confronting poverty, violence, conflict, illness, and government corruption. Because I love the Indian subcontinent this book resonates at many levels.

Quote: “.. becoming attached to a country involves pressing, uncomfortable questions about justice and opportunity for its least powerful citizens.” 

2.The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: A Jewish Family’s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World by Lucette Lagnado. This book is my heart book and chronicles the journey of a Jewish family from their home in Cairo through their adjustment to life in New York City. There is so much I love about this book, not least is its descriptions of how much this family misses Cairo and their cry of “Ragaouna Misr” (Take me back to Egypt!) that still echoes through my soul.

Quote: “We had barely drifted out of Alexandria‘s harbor when I heard my father cry ‘Ragaouna Misr!’ – Take us back to Cairo! It became his personal refrain, his anthem aboard the old cargo ship…”

3. Some Far and Distant Place by Jonathan S. Addleton. Jonathan is a childhood friend, best friend to my brother Tom through the years. He writes of growing up in Pakistan but intersperses throughout the book history of what is happening in the region – things I caught only partially while growing up. I love this book and periodically reread it. This book is home.

Quote: “…’Look carefully’ my brother said. ‘It will be a long time before you see stars shining this brightly again….'”

So now you – Three books from your bookshelf (or Kindle) that give us a snapshot of your life!  Include quotes if you can! 

 Photo Credit from http://pixabay.com/ photo art by Marilyn R. Gardner

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Harry Potter as TCK Lit

In July of 2014, two of my kids challenged me to read the entire Harry Potter series. Although we were first in line to get the books through the years and my children dressed up for the movies, hitting the midnight opening shows more than once, I had (shamefully) not read them.

So I took the challenge, and six months later on New Year’s Day I read the last sentence “All was well” and, realizing I had finished, I burst into tears. I had fallen in love with Harry Potter and all the people in his world.

It wasn’t until later that I realized how much Harry Potter’s world resembled the world of the third culture kid. Harry Potter lived between, learning to negotiate the Muggle world, even as his life in the wizard world was not perfect. Harry Potter’s best friends were like TCK best friends, who stick with you through the years, even though you go through times of not speaking or hating each other. Harry Potter knew he was ‘other’ when he was with his relatives, the ghastly Dursley family. The first sentence in the book is a perfect description of this Muggle family:  “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

Through all seven books, Harry’s adventures are relatable to the kid who has lived on three continents and knows several different languages. He even speaks Parseltongue, making him a bilingual hero.

But it was this paragraph that convinced me that Harry Potter was a third culture kid: “Harry kicked off hard from the ground. The cool night air rushed through his hair as the neat square gardens of Privet Drive fell away, shrinking rapidly into a patchwork of dark greens and blacks, and every thought of the Ministry hearing was swept from his mind as though the rush of air had blown it out of his head. He felt as though his heart was going to explode with pleasure; he was flying again, flying away from Privet Drive as he’d been fantasising about all summer, he was going home… for a few glorious moments, all his problems seemed to recede to nothing, insignificant in the vast, starry sky.” [Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, pp 54-56.]

So call me crazy, but this series will definitely be in my resource list for TCK lit. For the thousandth time, I thank JK Rowling for regifting the gift of imagination.

I’ve included some of my favorite quotes in today’s post. Enjoy, and, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, feel free to add your own.

On Adventure:

Adventure HP quote

On Dreams: 

HP Quote version 2

On being a stranger in our passport countries: 

Snape quote

On Being Yourself:

Luna Lovegood 2

On third culture kid connections:

hearts beat as one

 

Winners for Meditations Coloring Book!

Last week I announced a giveaway on Communicating Across Boundaries. The giveaway was for a beautiful coloring book, hand-drawn by the talented Lorien Atwood. The rules were simple: Just leave a comment on the blog post.

Today, I’m happy to announce that the two winners are:

Abigail and Karlyn!

Here is the program that I used to pick a name: Random Name Picker

I’ll be contacting both of you to get addresses and make sure you get your gift as soon as possible. Thanks to all of you for reading Communicating Across Boundaries!

For the rest of you, take a look at Coloring in Truth and order your copy today! 

And remember: Creativity is intelligence having fun! 

creativity quote.jpg