creativity

Wonder: Hillary Clinton builds a bigger table, not a higher wall.

I knew I’d be emotional watching Hillary Clinton accept the nomination. What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming sense of hope her nomination would give me. We have massive problems in this country. We have so much work to do to create true equity, particularly an equity of opportunity, among all people. What Hillary’s nomination shows me is that rolling up your sleeves and getting down in the trenches is how we rise to the highest heights, and how we also take others with us. She’s not focused on building walls. She’s busy building a larger table where everyone gets a seat. Everyone. And that’s a crowd I’m proud to be a part of.

government, politics, President

Wonder: Hillary Clinton has shattered more than a glass ceiling

Tonight, Hillary Clinton will take the stage in Philadelphia to officially accept the nomination for President of the United States. There are women at the convention this year who remember a time when women weren’t even allowed to vote. Hillary didn’t just shatter a glass ceiling; she has shifted a paradigm. She has expanded the realm of thinking in this country about who can hold the highest office in our government. She has given women and girls a new possibility. She has paved a new road toward opportunity. And for her strength and courage in doing so, I am deeply grateful and proud.

creativity

Wonder: Writers, be kind to yourselves

“Thomas Mann was a prodigy of production. He wrote a page a day. He was one of the most prolific literary writers who ever lived.” ~ Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

I started reading Annie Dillard’s book The Writing Life by accident. I was reminded of it on Krista Tippett’s podcast On Being. She was interviewing Elizabeth Gilbert, who referred to the book as one of her forms of inspiration and guidance. I went to Amazon and hit “Buy with 1-click” by accident. It was a very happy accident because it gave me exactly the message I needed, the one I need just about 6 times a day: Christa, it’s all going to get done.

Emerson Page, the protagonist in my book, has taken a long time to tell me her story. We’re at about a year and a half into our adventure. She hides. She changes her mind. She only tells me her history in drips and drabs, because she is just learning all of it herself. Writing happens in a flood only once in a very great while. Even if you’re insanely talented or extremely lucky (or a combination of the two), writing is a lot like life. A page is a day, to be written and lived only one at a time. And that’s if you’re doing this full-time.

So now I’m closing in on making all my edits. I’m 80% of the way there. I’ll finish those out in the next couple of weeks. Then I’ll give it a read through in one sitting to correct grammar, spelling, and replace a word here or there. Then it’s on to writing query letters to contacts I’ve made over this nearly two-year journey and we’ll see what happens to me and Emerson. Maybe one agent out of 1,000 will send me back less than a form rejection note. Maybe a small press will show some interest. Maybe it’ll be deafening silence. As a writer, you’ve got to hope and work for the best and completely detach yourself from any idea of recognition or return.

I wrote Emerson’s story because I wanted to know it. I sat with her, and the many other characters surrounding her, for so many hours that I’ve lost count. She is never far from my mind, wherever I am, whoever I’m with, whatever I’m doing. She pops up, whispers something I can barely hear, and I follow her to listen, watch, learn, and get it all down. One word, one page, one day at a time.

creativity

Wonder: Embrace the beginning

No matter how excited we are about something new – a new relationship, a new city, a new home, a new job – there is some amount of anxiety that comes with the unknown. I felt that way Sunday night. I’m so excited about my new job and I was also a little nervous leading up to my first day. Rather than letting that nervousness consume me, I sat down, closed my eyes, and just focused on my breathing. Phineas crawled into my lap.

What was I so nervous about? A new routine, new people, new office? Was I afraid that I wouldn’t do a good job? Was I afraid all of that and then some? After a few minutes, I realized what was happening. I was afraid of waiting. I just wanted to begin, to roll up my sleeves and get down to making a difference. I have a hard time being patient, especially with myself. And this was good practice for me. I decided to calm down and enjoy getting to know this new job. I decided to enjoy the new, to enjoy the process of figuring it all out. Comfort will come soon enough. Now is the time to embrace being a beginner.

creativity

Wonder: And today, a new career chapter begins

I got up this morning and pinched myself. Today, I’m starting my new job as a Director of Product Development in the healthcare technology space. In many ways, this job is bringing my life full-circle and uniting so many disparate points of life together to build something meaningful with a team as passionate about healthy living as I am. I’ve been immersing myself in the design and business of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality as applied to the physical world.

When I was in high school, I thought about becoming a doctor. In college at Penn, I thought about going into the healthcare field as a psychiatrist or an administrator. After I left Broadway theater, I explored the idea of becoming a physical therapist. When I was at American Express, I looked into technology product development applied to areas such as prosthetics and the artificial heart. My yoga and meditation teaching was largely an outgrowth of my passion for health and helping people feel better. I now write for The Washington Post, and most of my stories are about healthcare, medicine, stories of survival from disease, and the technologies and innovations that make that survival possible.

Now I’m pulling together my experience in and passion for product development, business, health, writing, and improving the human condition into one full-time job, in a city I love, with people who are going to be such incredible role models and mentors to me. My whole life has been preparing me for this, and I am excited to begin.

creativity

Wonder: It’s time to rise. And bring others with you.

It is easier to sit down and than it is to stand up. It is easier to stew in anger than it is to rise up in action. It is easier to reveal how we feel behind closed doors than it is to make our ideas public. It is easier to be consumed by a problem rather than seeking a solution. But doing nothing, or worse, complying with what we know is wrong, doesn’t serve anyone. We have to stand up for ourselves and for others. We have to encourage others to do the same.

creativity

Wonder: Be a rebel. Be kind.

“If you really want to be a rebel, practice kindness.” ~Sharon Salzberg

Love in the face of hate. Smile at anger. Stubbornly seek joy, especially during times that seem so dark. Rise when someone tries to keep you down. And be determined to make your time, however much you have, meaningful. That’s what it means to be a rebel.

creativity

Wonder: How to deal with someone who won’t listen

Some people just won’t hear you out, especially if your point-of-view isn’t perfectly in line with theirs. They will shut down your perspective and try to silence you with lines that seem conciliatory but are anything but. They won’t have a conversation. Maybe it’s fear, anger, or cowardice. Maybe it’s good old-fashioned jealousy.

This happened to me recently when someone I know literally screamed in my face and twisted my words, in front of others in public, to suit her own rage after asking me a question. I answered it, not to her liking, and she flew off the handle. It was a weird and unwarranted display. And it was upsetting, but not surprising. I tried for a while to make myself clear and the person just shut down. I was glad when it was all over.

All you can do with people like this is turn away from them. Maybe they come around. Maybe they don’t. But don’t for a second take on their issues or problems. Those aren’t yours to carry. That is the hard work they have to do, or not do, as the case may be. They are not worth your time.

There’s a lot of lack of listening in the world now. The best we can do is continue to lift our voices to those who will listen. Spend your time on the people who will engage with you and talk openly and honestly about difficult subjects. The only way we can find common ground is to seek it out together.

creativity

Wonder: Breaking Bread Podcast website is live

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 10.28.28 PMI’m using this week to work on personal creative projects. After securing my first guests (more details soon!), I launched the website for the Breaking Bread Podcast. Take a look around, let me know what you think, and please share with anyone you think would be interested. The Breaking Bread Podcast features interesting and interested people sharing their thoughts and ideas while breaking bread around a table together in Washington, D.C.

Breaking bread together is one of the oldest human traditions. When we share the same food, we generate a mutual respect and understanding for one another. In our world, respect and understanding are needed now more than ever. It’s my hope that in some small way this podcast helps to build bridges across the many divides that separate too many of us today, one guest, one meal at a time.

The concept is simple—I invite a few people to my home in the NoMa neighborhood in Northeast Washington, D.C., make their favorite foods, and then we use the stories that make these foods special to my guests as a gateway to talk about issues and ideas that matter to them. Welcome to our table.

Bon apetite!

**Want to be a guest? Know someone who would be a great guest? Let me know.**

creativity

Wonder: Heaven help us all

As this week kicks off, in light of the violent weeks and months that have preceded it, I find myself turning to music to quiet my mind and lighten my heart. Music is a great unifier, a powerful form of expression, and a vehicle to help us figure out how we feel, what we know, and what we hope to build. This weekend as I read about the shooting in Baton Rouge, the protests sprawling across the country, and that gathering in Cleveland, I thought about Stevie Wonder and his song “Heaven Help Us All”. I revisited its lyrics and meditated on the creation of a better world in which none of them applied.

Heaven help the child who never had a home
Heaven help the girl who walks the street alone
Heaven help the roses if the bombs begin to fall
Heaven help us all

Heaven help the black man if he struggles one more day
Heaven help the white man if he turns his back away
Heaven help the man who kicks the man who has to crawl
Heaven help us all

Heaven help us all, Heaven help us all, help us all
Heaven help us, Lord, hear our call when we fall
Oh, yeah

Heaven help the boy who won’t reach twenty-one
Heaven help the man who gave that boy a gun
Heaven help the people with their backs against the wall
Lord, Heaven help us all, Heaven help us all

Heaven help us all, help us all
Heaven help us, Lord, here we call, help us all

Now I lay me down before I go to sleep
In a troubled world, I pray the Lord to keep
Keep hatred from the mighty and the mighty from the small
Heaven help us all oh yeah

Heaven help us all
Heaven help us all
Heaven help us all