Going for Gold.

“Don’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the further you get.”
~Michael Phelps

First off, I need to extend last week’s list. Reason #6 why Emily Giffin rocks? She was sweet enough to post a link to my blog on Facebook and Twitter. How awesome is that? Yet more proof of how much she genuinely cares about her readers. I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped when I first realized what she’d done, and then it continued to graze the floor as thousands of page views came rolling in. Fun, fun, fun, and such a great way to connect with fellow Emily fans. Thanks to all who commented!

Okay, moving on, I’ve been wanting to write about the Olympics ever since the torch blazed up toward the London sky. Has anyone else been enamored with the Games? As in, having the television on whenever there’s coverage, no matter the sport? As in, staying up until midnight to watch the primetime programming, even when you get up quite early in the mornings? As in, humming the theme song without even realizing it? As in, being so excited for the Spice Girls’ performance at the closing ceremonies? As in, being able to ramble off every sport included in these Summer Games? Anyone? Please say it’s not only me!

I’ve always loved the Olympics. I still remember sitting about two feet from the television, fingers crossed and breath caught in my throat, when Kerri Strug did her second vault in the 1996 Games and clinched the gold medal for our women’s gymnastics team. I was such a fan of the “Magnificent Seven.” Honestly, I’m a fan of pretty much everything about the Olympics. There’s a sense of hope behind them, a can-do attitude that very much aligns with the way I try to live my life. As my MC Sofie – who grew up just outside of Atlanta, where the ’96 Games were held – says:

I was only a teenager when the Games were here, but I remember the spirit that infused the city like it happened just yesterday. There’s a sense of optimism that the Olympics bring about, an inspiration you can’t really describe.

It’s not about winning gold, silver, or bronze. It’s not about getting the highest score. It’s about the diligence, dedication, and devotion the athletes put in for so many years. It’s about the way they motivate us to do the same – whether we’re swimming the backstroke, writing a book, studying our way through med school, choreographing dances to the music in our hearts, anything. No matter what, these people inspire us to push our limits. To dream further. To dream more. It’s about people like Oscar and Liu, who was helped across the finish line by his competitors after an injury. It’s about teamwork between people – like the golden women’s gymnastics team and the rockstar volleyball duo of Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor – and about teamwork between nations. It’s about sportsmanship, unity, and love.

Were there tears because of sadness? Yes (anyone who’s been watching gymnastics will know what I mean). But were there also so many tears of happiness? Absolutely. That’s a big part of what we take away from the Olympics, I think, the joy of watching dreams-come-true. And, though we may not be leaping over hurdles, whirling down from a diving board, or twisting through the air, I actually think the writing community is a lot like the Olympic one. In our own way, we train every day. We sit down at our desks and brainstorm, write, edit, polish. We find the stories within our characters, within ourselves, even when it’s challenging. We work consistently and constantly to make our own dreams come true. They vary for each person: to finish a manuscript, to self-publish, to sign with an agent and go the traditional publishing route, to see our book-babies out in the world. Much like the Olympians’ journey, it can be difficult sometimes. Frustrating. Emotional. But at the end of the day, we get our gold medals, too. Because no matter what plays out on our journeys, we get to experience the inspiration of storytelling, the passion of writing.

And if that doesn’t make us golden, I don’t know what does.

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Play Ball.


“You don’t save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it may rain.”
~Leo Durocher

For as long as I can remember, my dad’s been the biggest Phillies fan I know. He collects memorabilia, goes to games, counts down to spring training, and yes, even jumps up and down sometimes when the team scores important runs. When they won the World Series in 2008, he actually cried tears of happiness. He loves baseball with fervent dedication, and he is so proud to support the Phillies. Me? Of the four most major sports, baseball is my favorite, but most of the time, I’d much rather be curled up with a good book than hanging out a ballpark. That said, when my dad asked if my sister and I would like to join him for a game this year, I agreed right away. I’m not really sure why – and I seriously wanted to scream when I found out they switched the American Idol finale days to Tuesday and Wednesday – but I’m glad I went. It was a lot of fun.

Phillies1

Yes, we had to park a zillion miles away. Yes, our seats were in the second highest row of the whole place. Yes, my scoop of ice cream cost more than a whole half-gallon does at the grocery store. And yes, I spent the last couple innings intermittently watching as I voted for Lauren Alaina on my cell phone. But … those sky-high seats? They also happened to be directly behind home plate. That ice cream? It happened to be delicious. The voting? Well – once a determined Idol fan, always a determined Idol fan. The best part, though, was getting to share my dad’s favorite past-time with him. It’s been over ten years since we all went to a game together, and even though my mom had to sit this one out because her knee still isn’t back to normal after last year’s fall, we still had a great time. Dad was in all his glory, chatting about the players, their statistics, and the game with us, and we were happy to listen and enjoy the experience for what it was. Will I be going to a ballgame every month? No, but I wouldn’t mind going once a year from now on.

Phillies2

Phanatic

And, because this wouldn’t be a blog post of mine without some kind of analogy woven in, how about that quote from Leo? He’s talking about baseball in its most literal sense, but what about the figurative? Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today. Never put your dreams on a shelf for tomorrow – open up that box and set them free in the world today. Nobody can predict what the future holds or if the forecast will be sunny, but we can take charge of our own actions and help create our future. Perhaps I’ll let my characters speak to that. Here’s an excerpt from Reflections of Me, part of a conversation Sofie has with her brother:

The way I see it, there are two main principles in a baseball game. You either act or react. A pitcher acts by throwing the ball, a batter reacts by trying to hit it, then the outfielders and basemen react to that. What I’m getting at here is that we have that choice with anything in life. Mom and Dad threw us a curveball with the truth about your adoption, but we all made the decision to react to it in different ways. It’s the same with this. How do you act? How do you react? What constitutes a homerun? What’s analogous to a strikeout?

Sofie’s thought process?

And, just like that, it all gets a bit clearer. I can’t score a run if I don’t leave the dugout. I can’t reach home plate if I don’t take the necessary steps to get there. It’s been the way I’ve lived my life for as long as I can remember. Forget about roadblocks and detours. There’s only one option that stretches before me now.

Sofie is very different from me in some ways and very similar in others. I think that’s why I relate to her so much when I write. I connect with who she is, even though I’ve never experienced the situations she’s in or dealt with the decisions she has to make. Her personality resonates with me. Her passion, faith, and determination remind me of my own. Because she’s right. We can’t score runs without rounding the bases one step at a time. That’s how life works. That’s how writing works. And, I pray, that’s also how dreams come true.

That’d be the biggest Grand Slam of all.

(P.S. Thoughts on last night’s Idol finale? I’ve been rooting for Lauren ever since Pia got voted off way too early, but I’m still happy for Scotty. I think they’ll both go on to successful careers. And, on a side note, next year’s finale needs to forget about the big-name celebrity performers and invite all the former Idol winners and finalists back to sing instead. I’d rather watch Kelly and Melinda than Beyonce and Gaga any day of the week.)