Would you rather be....

right or happy?

I have been chewing on this one for some time.  Sadly, I know too many situations where right wins. 

But does it?

It's complicated and yet so simple at once.  Sometimes, in giving up the fight, you gain a chance to really live rather than stewing in what you think SHOULD BE.  

Why am I talking about this?  Well, there's this book...and with me, there is always a book so I may as well just put it out there.  

Here it is,


and it is full of advice to people who write to "Dear Sugar" seeking some help, some clarity, some way out of places that just seem impossible and I have to tell you, I have fallen for Sugar. She speaks from a sincere, compassionate place, but she is not full of bullshit. She tells you, in no uncertain terms, that you have one beautiful life to live so you should live it. And, living and stewing are not the same thing.

And there are times, she suggests, when only you know what you need and to hell (nicely, of course) with what others think you need.  There are questions from people who have lost babies and spouses and mothers and from twenty-somethings so spun out on love that they can't see one hour in front of them. There are pleas from 50 and 60 year olds who want love again or a life again after giving too much of it to the wrong person or people.  

Sugar stays the course on all of them. Be you. Be the beautiful person you were meant to be even if it means doing the hardest thing you will ever have to do. Even if it means laying down the bottle for the last time, telling your spouse you cheated, crying one more time for the dead mother who will never come back, giving up a grudge that has eaten your core, saying good-bye to someone who was supposed to be a role model and fails repeatedly. Be you.  Do it, she urges, because you only have one life.

Big Man and I have battled over this book. I read a few chapters, he picked it up and started in,  I snatched it away and hid it, and now it is back in his hands. We agree that Sugar could rule the world, or at least heal a lot of pain in this world. Not all of the situations hit me, but there is something in her voice, in her coaxing, in her  own revelations of pain, that just calls to me, to both of us, and I swear, it seems we are re-framing our own life as we speak.

I just freaking love this about books. You just never know what they might do.
   


Success is fun....

I really wanted a national platform for this one. It just means so much for the country to see what is happening here in Minnesota. I don't think even Minnesotan's know how historical this marriage amendment vote could be....IF we defeat it.  

I wanted to place it on CNN.com and they said no.  This is hard to take, but our mentor says, "No is a bump on the way to yes" and you keep going.  I think shopping out to The Huffington Post was a safe choice since they let me submit now, but there is always that chance that it won't fit for what is happening now, or it's not up to their standards, or, or, or....whatever. But, less that 15 hours after I submitted my piece, I received an email that said, "Thank you. We will place it...on not one, but two places on our news site."  For a while, I was on the front page of two sections--Gay Voices and Politics.  

Wow.

I want people around the country to watch us....and I hope what they will eventually see is Minnesota kicking this amendment to the curb. Because, in my heart, I believe we are as good as we say we are.

Here it is:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-gray/minnesota-gay-marraige_b_1822859.html?utm_hp_ref=politics

To Write or Clean the Fridge

Sometimes I wake up and things are just sort of brewing in my head. I make an attempt to go with it, stall out, and head to find something mundane to do. I never need to look far since we are just not capable of ever looking like the pages of Better Homes and Gardens.  Unlike an auntie we have (we love you, Alison, despite our envy) who manages to keep a clean house, raise a toddler,  AND read books, I usually only do one of those things and we know which one it is.  At any rate, cleaning out the fridge seems like a worthy task but takes longer than it should. First, the clean dishes need to be put away so I can load the dishwasher with all of the empty containers discovered through tossing things I saved out of respect for waste yet NO ONE EVER INTENDED TO EAT IN THE FIRST PLACE. The smells get to me and suddenly I am using cleaning products I am not really familiar with since I DON'T CLEAN.  But, since I am at it, I may as well go all the way.

Fifteen minutes becomes an hour and the ideas that were brewing are still there but now I need a shower. This is good because some of my best work has come to me in the shower. But now it's too late to get back to it because round 1 of whatever commitments I have for the day are upon me and I am off.

Oh well.

None of this is earth shattering. All successful writers do one thing- they write.  I wonder, though, if anyone ever looks in their fridge?

Out in the spotlight....

It's hard putting yourself out there. Even when you set yourself up for it and have carefully thought through things, there is no predicting how people will react.

I have sought a national platform, and it seems I have it with my new friend, Huffington Post.  But will it be my friend? Time will tell. I am not exactly sure what my end goal is.  I just know I feel called to write about things that matter to me, with heart and some humor, in the hopes that it provokes a conversation.  Sometimes, the best way for me to work through things is to put it out there in hopes that someone will respond in a way that suggests I am not alone because feeling alone can be such a hard place to be.  And then, what I hope for are thoughtful, considerate conversations that provide insights not otherwise had.  But, as you will see, we don't always get what we hope for.

This, among other things, is what was going through my mind as I sorted through a personal struggle which appears in this next piece I am sharing.  My thought was that my family and I are not the only ones having this experience. The comments left regarding this article have caught me off guard. You must read those to get at the essence of this blog post. And if you have it in your heart to leave something kind, I would appreciate it. I called my sister to share the piece and the comments with her and she, like the worldly, loving person she is, talked me down from the rafters, saw my points and didn't take any offense to this personal dilemma we are in. She also wondered out loud about the general role of hypocrisy in our world. We all have values, for certain, but it is difficult to be true to what we say and believe ALL THE TIME.  In the end, we all are just doing the best that we can.  Life is not black and white...and if people really see it that way, we decided that those people must be lying to themselves.

With no pun whatsoever regarding my name or the my previous article regarding the best seller series, I continue to live in those shades and nuances of grey.

And so with that, I give you my dilemma regarding the Boy Scouts of America as it plays out in my own little world in southeast Minnesota.

To Honor, or not, the Scouts

What's your issue?

On the last day of our OpEd class, Katherine said, "So what's your issue for the 2012 election? WNYC, a New York public radio, an NPR affiliate, wants to know. You have 15 minutes and less than 500 words to tell us. Go!"

And so we were off, and we sent them in and today I found out mine is on the inaugural page.  This is totally cool....but the better part is that anyone can write in to explain their issue. So poke around and submit yours. It is just so interesting to see what people are concerned about in this great place we call home.

Read my answer here.

Part II of Island Life: Good news!

Even though we are in an insanely beautiful place, this is where I have spent most of my time.



Every morning the sunrise has looked a little different on my walk to the red barn to head up to our classroom on the second floor. Here is how it looked yesterday. It's not a bad place to spend time.


So far I have finished one piece, submitted it to two national publications, completed a second piece that is 95% ready for a submission I will do this morning, and I am well into a 3rd piece. I hope this afternoon I can finish it and get some feedback before I must meet the ferry and say good-bye.

The good news:  Katherine told me last night around 6:15 p.m. that my first submitted piece was placed on the Huffington Post Blog.  This is pretty damn cool.  What this now means is that I have a backstage pass to the Huffington Post. It's a national news website with lots of traffic. I NOW have a password that allows me to share my work with them directly and though they can make the call about their usage of it, I don't have to try to beat the door down.  It is already open for me.  YEAH!!!!

For those who are wondering....I am not getting paid.

About the piece-  I came with a lot of topics on my mind. This one, about the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon, has been on my mind all summer since it seemed I couldn't escape having a conversation about the books even if I wanted to. Several things happened to me along the way that really made me think about sex in our culture in general, and this piece is the result.  The placement on their book blog really makes it look like a book review, but to me it is much more of a commentary, an Op Ed.,  but I will not quibble with my own little success.

When I told my husband I was going to write about sex his response was, "This isn't gonna end well for me."  

But, he's proud. When I called him last night to share my news, I heard his smile and felt his pride.  I love my guy.

PLEASE share, tweet, re-post, comment....they tell me that keeping my "traffic" up will make it easier for me to get placed elsewhere on their site.

For those who I know are rooting for me, thank you!  And I am not done yet!

The link:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-gray/50-shades-of-grey-best-seller-_b_1762231.html

Island life


This is what the Madeline Island School for the Arts looks like.  It's well-cared for and festive looking and our little cabins are bright and clean.

But the work we are doing here in the Women's OpEd project is intense and hard. Katherine Lanpher is brilliant and she is a task master. A few of us have peaked in on the painting classes happening in the other buildings and those women seem a little happier. In our room, at any given time, you will find someone gripping their head, drilling their computer screen with a gaze so intense it's clear you will not interrupt, and we shout.  Yes, we shout.  When we attempt to explain our arguments for whatever piece we are writing, Katherine likes us to poke holes in the arguments. To do that we yell, "That's ridiculous!" as soon as we hear a false claim, a generalized statement, or iffy logic.  It's not for the weak of heart, but it's clear our modest midwestern ways take some steam out of the exercise because Katherine keeps saying, "Shout it! You have to shout it! THAT'S RIDICULOUS!"

Her point being is that we are in a safe place. Once you send your writing out into the world, the naysayers will have at you.  If you can ward off danger at the pass by contemplating the other side as thoroughly as possible, at least you will have been prepared.

I came with big ideas. Since I have done this once already, I thought I would whip out 3 pieces by week's end with the hopes that at least 2 would be ready for the grand finale....the "Push Send" moment she is grooming us for. Good column writers typically blast out theirs in 2 hours or so. My best pieces have been the ones that seemingly take the least amount of time to write.  

But (insert whiny voice),  Katherine wants to read these pieces.  She wants others to read them. Eight pairs of eyes see your words from a myriad of viewpoints and you get a general taste and excellent reminder that, no dearie, not everyone sees the world the way you do.

So....I am not revising my goal yet.  My first piece is near completion. I told Katherine with confidence that it only gets two more hours of my life and then I am moving on.

It turns out Katherine doesn't bite.  In fact, she thought this was a good idea because she knows how much I want to do. 

But this is why I am here and as hard as it is, I love it.

I have made it to the beach once already which is progress. The last time I took this class, I rarely left my cabin and had to take Tylenol PM to sleep.  So far, no drugs have entered my body (except for a bit of wine) and I am hoping to go back to the Big Bay Town Park beach at least once before I leave. 

Wish me luck.


All's fair.....

I made it to the Woodbury County Fair. I have a special affection for this fair. I once showed a goat named Nellie AND I was once the first runner-up in the county fair queen contest. It's hard to say which stands out, but the queen contest set the tone for the seven weddings I was in before becoming a bride myself.

Some things never change and a county fair is one of them. The same DJ is still spinning tunes although with a few more lines on his face. The same music still squawks out from the bad speakers in the carnival (Paradise by the Dashboard Lights anyone?) and the church booths still produce the best food.  It is still hotter than you want it to be, but you still sit through three hours of a livestock showing for reasons that don't always make sense to you.  You still want cotton candy and a funnel cake though your stomach will protest later, and you still can't quite leave until you walk through the rabbit and chicken barn. And you can still leave with pencils, coin purses, a sun visor,  and, new to the scene, a water bottle!  For such a little investment, the fair returns in a big way.

This year my nephews made a grand showing in the literal sense. They earned purple and blue ribbons for their sheep. And Logan, with careful and precise coaching from Grandma Gray, earned a reserve champion ribbon for his apple pie.



These were good times. Thing 2 failed to see the charm of sitting in 100 degree weather staring at pens of sheep when he could be in the air conditioning playing his video game.  Thing 1 was a trooper (she wilts like I do in any form of heat)  and she put her game face on to honor my nostalgia. They may not have gotten what I was there for, but I did and for me, that was enough.