Jun 072010

Dear Ranola, Ken, and Ms. Lamott,

Thank you for letting me borrow your story. I have tried, but I can’t think of any truer way to say this.

“Knocking on Heaven’s Door”

One of our newer (church) members, a man named Ken Nelson, is dying of AIDS, disintegrating right before our very eyes. He came in a year ago with a Jewish woman who comes every week to be with us, although she does not believe in Jesus. Shortly after the man with AIDS started coming, his partner died of the disease. A few weeks later Ken told us that right after Brandon died, Jesus had slid into the hole in his heart that Brandon’s loss left, and had been there since. Ken has a totally lopsided face, ravaged and emaciated, but when he smiles, he is radiant. He says he would gladly pay any price for what he has now, which is Jesus, and us.

There’s a woman in the choir named Ranola who is large and beautiful and jovial and black and as devout as can be, who has been a little stand offish to Ken. She has always looked at him with confusion, when she looks at him at all. Or she looks at him sideways, as if she wouldn’t have to quite see him if she didn’t look at him head on. She was raised in the South by Baptists who taught her that this way of life- that he- was an abomination. It is hard for her to break through this. I think she and a few other women at church are, on the most visceral level, a little afraid of catching the disease. But Kenny has come to church almost every week for the last year and won almost everyone over. He finally missed a couple of Sundays when he got too weak, and then a month ago he was back, weighing almost no pounds, his face even more lopsided, as if he’d had a stroke. Still, during the prayers of the people, he talked joyously of his life and his decline, of grace and redemption, of how safe and happy he feels these days.

So on this one particular Sunday, for the first hymn, the so-called Morning Hymn, we sang “Jacob’s Ladder,” which goes, “Every rung goes higher, higher,” while ironically Kenny couldn’t even stand up. But he sang away sitting down, with the hymnal in his lap. And when it came time for the second hymn, the Fellowship Hymn, we were to sing “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” The pianist was playing and the whole congregation had risen – only Kenny remained seated, holding the hymnal in his lap-and we began to sing, “Why should we be discouraged? Why do the shadows fall?” And Ranola watched Ken rather skeptically for a moment, and then her face began to melt and contort like his, and she went to his side and bent down to lift him up – lifted up this white rag doll, this scarecrow. She held him next to her, draped over and against her like a child while they sang. And it pierced me.

I can’t imagine anything but music that could’ve brought about this alchemy. Maybe it’s because music is about as physical as it gets: your essential rhythm is your heartbeat; your essential sound, the breath. We’re walking temples of noise, and when you add tender hearts to this mix, it somehow lets us meet in places we couldn’t get to any other way.

…On that Sunday, Ranola and Ken, of whom she was so afraid, were trying to sing. He looked like a child who was singing simply because small children sing all the time – they haven’t made the separation between speech and music. Then both Ken and Ranola began to cry. Tears were pouring down their faces, as their noses were running like rivers, as she held him up. She suddenly lay her black weeping face against his feverish white one, put her face right against his and let all those spooky fluids mingle with hers…

This is plenty of miracle for me to rest in now.

-Traveling Mercies, 66-67

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Jun 042010

I feel, like many of you, that Momastery has touched my heart. It has changed my life. Momastery has changed the way I see things and people. In the same way, the HCBC book Same Kind of Different As Me CHANGED ME.

This is – in part – what I said at our virtual book club meeting: “I’ve decided that this company is my new calling…now let me tell you, I have my grubby little hands in about 1000 projects –but this company is my new mission. I want to do it well and I want to make a living and I want to make people’s lives better. I feel called to do this because of this BOOK and YOU MONKEES. Over the years I have worked in retail, education, counseling environments, youth ministry, you name it. I thought each one was fulfilling, yet I never really felt called to any one of them. I’m not sure I am called to make handbags either, but what I do know is that I feel called to make a difference and that God put this opportunity right down in my lap and said – “Here, take what I am giving you and do something with it.”’

So let me give just a bit more of the back story and then we’ll get to the giving cool stuff away part. My childhood friend, Tracey, worked as a sales rep for Bun Bun Bags for only a few months when the owners decided to close the doors. Her husband suggested she buy it, my husband suggested we invest and everything since has fallen eerily into place. Every time we turn around – God has said, “Here, let me help you in this undertaking.” The Bun Bun team that naturally fell together seemed hand picked. It was as if God plucked us out one by one and said “You. And You. And You. Go Do This.” Each time we have felt overwhelmed by the challenge of it all, the next right step has become clear.

So now we are on the cusp of really making this work. We have 25 women working with us including a 17 year old home-schooled senior, a retired woman, a bunch of FT/PT working women and moms. Each bag is made by a real person, a woman, working in her home here in the US. Bun Bun is a place where women are supporting themselves, their families, and other women and I am so proud of that.

From the moment we started this journey we have all felt that giving back would be a foundation of our company. Developing a relationship with Dress for Success, Washington DC has been a perfect fit. DFS is an organization that helps women in need of interview skills and clothing so they can feel good and confident walking into an interview. DSF assists these women beyond that first interview through mentorships and continuing education, and Bun Bun gets to partner with this amazing organization. We feel so lucky and inspired. We really want to DO good and to BE good at our core. We are on our way, together.

It’s a bit scary to put everything on the line…to make a financial investment and a time investment and a life investment and, let’s be honest, an investment of the heart. If you are able and interested in supporting Bun Bun Bags, please hop on over to our website (www.bunbunbags.com) or Facebook to find out more info about our company. The Trunk Shows are starting this week and I’d love to see some Monkees, so please just stop by and say hello if you are in Tidewater, Richmond or Northern Virginia! We are hoping to have online ordering in the next few months also. There is also info on the website about the application process if you are interested in details about working for Bun Bun.

Thank you, so much for letting me share about Bun Buns. There are so many exciting opportunities out there. . . I think it’s just a matter of opening our eyes to see the inspiration all around us. Momastery and Glennon and the Monkees inspired me to try hard things and make a difference. Today I’d like to say THANK YOU MONKEES by offering Bun Bun bags to two commenters! Good Luck, Monkees!

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Jun 022010

We’re going to keep this book club meeting going through Thursday…just in case any Monkees arrived late. Traffic’s just awful.

Also..if you have a recommendation for our next book club selection, please comment!


Our name is derived from the fact that we are too tired to attend real book clubs. Also we don’t know how to make crepes. So here we are.

Hermit Crab Book Club Rules:

1. Everyone is invited.

2.We will try not to be jerks.

3.We will try to learn more about each other and ourselves.

4. If we’ve only had time to read the Pottery Barn catalog and would prefer to discuss the Aris Table vs. the Montego, by george, we will do so.

Without further Ado…

Unbelievable book. I find myself hoping, hoping, hoping that this book is the Truth. That this kind of forgiveness, courage and unity are reality, and that the lines are make-believe.

Some of my favorite passages:

“She just don’t see ‘em. The lines. Not between her and me, not between her and Hilly.”

Aibeleen takes a long sip of her tea. Finally I look at her. “What you so quiet for? I know you got an opinion bout all this.”

“You gone accuse me of philosophizing.”

“Go ahead,” I say, “I aint afraid a no philosophy.”

“It ain’t true.”

“Say what?”

“You talking about something that don’t exist.”

I shake my head at my friend. “Not only is they lines, but you know as good as I do where them lines be drawn.”

Aibeleen shakes her head. “I used to believe in em. I don’t anymore. They in our heads. People like Miss Hilly is always trying to make us believe they there, but they ain’t.”

“I know they’re there cause you get punished for crossing ‘em,” I say. “Least I do.”

“Lot of folks think that if you talk back to you husband, you crossed the line. And that justifies punishment. You believe in that line?”

I scowl at the table. “You know I ain’t studying no line like that.”

“Cause that line ain’t there. Except in Leroy’s head. Lines between black and white ain’t there neither. Some folks just made those up, long time ago. And that go for the white trash and so-ciety ladies, too.”

Thinking of Miss Celia coming out with that fire poker when she could’ve hid behind the door, I don’t know. I get a twinge. I want her to understand how it is with Miss Hilly. But how do you tell a fool like her?

“So you saying there ain’t no line between the help and the boss either?”

Aibleleen shakes her head. “They’d just positions, like on a checkerboard. Who works for who don’t mean nothing.”

“So I ain’t crossing no line if I tell Miss Celia the truth, that she ain’t good enough for Miss Hilly? I pick my cup up. I’m trying hard to get this, but my cut’s thumping against my brain. “But wait, if I tell her Miss Hilly’s our of her league…then ain’t I sayin’ there is a line?”

Aibeleen laughs. She pats my hand. “All I’m saying is, kindness don’t have no boundaries.”


“Oh I know what people think. They think big, strong Minnie, she sure can stand up for herself. But they don’t know what a pathetic mess I turn into when Leroy’s beating on me. If afraid to hit back. I’m afraid he’ll leave me if I do. I know it makes no sense and I get so mad at myself for being so weak! How can I love a man who beats me raw? Why do I love a fool drinker? One time I asked him, “Why? Why are you hitting me?” He leaned down and looked me right in the face.

“If I didn’t hit you, Minny, who knows what you become.”

Iwas trapped in the corner of the bedroom, like a dog. He was beating me with his belt. It was the first time I’d ever really thought about it.

Who knows what I could become, if Leroy would stop goddamn hitting me. (413)


I walk out the back door, to the terrible sound a Mae Mobley crying again. I start down the driveway, crying too, knowing how much I’m on miss Mae Mobley, praying her mama can show her more love. But at the same time feeling, in a way, that I’m free, like Minny. Freer than Miss Leefolt, who so locked up in her own head she don’t even recognize herself when she read it. And freer than Miss Hilly. That woman gone spend the rest of her life trying to convince people she didn’t eat that pie. I think about Yule May setting in jail. Cause Miss Hilly, she in her own jail, but with a life-long term.


There is so much you don’t know about a person. I wonder if I could’ve made her days a little bit easier, if I’d tried. If I’d treated her a little nicer. Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not much that separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.


So what did you think?

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

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