Dec 222014

Dear Body

Wendy’s heading into surgery for breast cancer this morning. She is having a mastectomy and she is having her ovary removed.

Wendy’s friend sent me this, a letter that Wendy wrote from her mind to her body, in preparation for this day. Wendy’s friend told me that it would be a dream come true to Wendy to have it published here- which worked out nicely since the honor of publishing something so true and fierce and wise and perfect is a dream come true for me.

In celebration of Wendy’s Mind, Spirit, and Body – let’s allow her letter to cement our Perspectacles to our faces and help us embrace our messy, beautiful bodies this holiday week. At least for this week- let’s call a Christmas truce. Let’s stop treating our body like our enemy. It works so hard for us and deserves our respect and love. Let there be peace and let it begin within us.

We are WITH you, Wendy. THANK YOU.


A letter from Wendy Donner, to Wendy Donner.

Dear Body,

As we march together toward the big day, I thought it might be helpful to huddle up. We’ve been joined as one for a little over 42 years and, I’d say, have been a pretty phenomenal team. I realize, however, that I haven’t often spoken directly to you with intention, while you talk to me pretty much all the time through sensations of pleasure, pain, fatigue, hunger, thirst and desire. So here goes, my first formal letter to you.

I want to start with some appreciations. Thank you for healing the scrapes and cuts of our childhood and for tolerating the soccer goalie dives that left your hipbones raw and bloody each August through December. Thank you, body, for being so very strong, for climbing mountains, swimming seas, and running one damp D.C. marathon. You must have been relieved when I entered my 20s and took up yoga; we became really close then and you got to sweat, purge, stretch and strengthen without pummeling your joints and connective parts. Most recently, you rode up mountains on our bike, pumping like a machine, rarely complaining and almost always ready to push harder.

Thank you for making our babies; for serving up two perfect eggs and growing those delicious children inside of you. Thank you for knowing just what to do during the long nine-month stretches, for opening up to let those babies out, and for making more milk than any one infant would ever need. I’m so grateful that you didn’t become diseased until after those wonderful babies were born, and until they grew old enough to manage this journey with resilience and compassion. I imagine you had to fight pretty hard to do so. Thanks, body.

And, some apologies. I’m sorry, skin, for that tanning booth chapter in high school. I’m sorry, feet, for each time I forced you into narrow high heels. To a body who needs a good nine hours of sleep per night, I apologize for the years 1998 – 2003. I’m sorry, body, for the times I wished parts of you were smaller, leaner, higher, smoother, tighter, or otherwise different. And poor, sweet hair, I’m sorry for all the chemicals. It’s no wonder you bailed on me.

It has been six months now since we sat in that small, windowless room to hear that the thickened area on your right breast was not actually an infection; rather, it was stage two breast cancer. Since that surreal moment, I’ve learned so much about how you function and the millions of miracles that happen within you every day. I’m in awe of the complexity that allows us to thrive, the delicate balance that is essential for health, and the power of science to fight disease. I find myself craving a deeper understanding of the intricacies of your inner-workings and of the various phases of treatment. I wish I could somehow be the one to care for you, that I was twenty years younger and could go to medical school and be your doctor.

I want you to know how sorry I am that you had to endure liters of toxic chemotherapy pouring through your veins, but body, let’s be straight with each other: you kinda turned on me. It’s not your fault – the DNA we inherited was mutated, leaving your breast and ovarian cells primed to become carcinoma. You handled the chemical onslaught as best you could, often speaking to me with unquestionable clarity and commanding, “Get in bed and stay there. Get up only to pee.” I listened, dear body, and we made it through.

So now we head into the next battle, one where parts of you will be removed. There’s too much risk that your mutated breast and ovary cells will yet again become cancer, so surgery we must face. I hope that together we can let go of these parts, grateful for the miracles they performed, mournful for the loss of them, at peace with the reality that they must go.

I’m sorry that three surgeons will cut into you, marking your beautiful skin with scars and scooping out pounds (yes, pounds) of tissue. I ask that you’ll graciously accept our implants, working to fend off infection and heal smoothly. I know your back will appreciate the lighter load, and your shoulders will love riding around bra-strap free.

It’s you and me, body, heading into the next unknown. I promise to honor your strength and beauty and to nourish and care for you as you heal. Here’s to us.



Dear Mind,

Thanks for the letter. You’re over-thinking things. Our new boobs are gonna be awesome.




Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Dec 192014

*Originally posted in 2009.


Come, they told me… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,Our Newborn King to see… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,

Our finest gifts we bring… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,

Today before the King… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum, Rum Pum Pum Pum, Rum Pum Pum Pum,

So to honor Him… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,

When we come.


Baby Jesus, Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,

I am a poor boy too… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,

I have no gift to bring, Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum, Rum Pum Pum Pum, Rum Pum Pum Pum,

Shall I play for you… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,

On my drum.


Mary nodded… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,

The ox and lamb kept time… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,

I played my best for Him… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum, , Rum Pum Pum Pum, Rum Pum Pum Pum,


Then He smiled at me… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum

Me and my drum…


Amma and I sat on the kitchen floor last Friday and listened to The Little Drummer Boy again and again together. I cried and Amma snuggled deep into my lap and she kept turning around, cupping my chin in her hands, tilting her little head and saying, “Are okay?” Are okay?” I nodded, held her tight, inhaled her neck and used all of my senses to take her in. I marveled at how she could offer me so little, how she could, in truth, be such an incredible drain, and how I could still adore her so completely. How I cry just thinking of her. How I’ve memorized every roll on her thighs, every red streak in her hair, the cool smoothness of her velvety cheek, and every expression her face has ever made. How there is nothing she could ever do to make me love her any more or any less. How she is already everything she needs to be for me. How she is a reflection of all that is true and good in me, because I made her.

When she started rubbing her eyes, I put her inside her crib and watched her fall asleep. I love her most at the moment she decides to trust me to keep her safe, and so her eyelids close and she falls away and she just breathes. And when she awakens and I walk into her room, she turns her face toward me, throws her arms in the air and says Mama, and it’s enough to drive me to my knees in gratitude and awe and never get back up.

God gave me my little girl so that I might understand how God feels about His little girl.

I know, with my whole body, mind, and soul, that the way I love my baby girl is the same way God loves me. God has memorized every hair on my head and He watches me sleep and wake and when I cry He pets my hair and says “Are okay?” God has never, ever let go of my hand. When I run, He follows, and He never grows tired or weary. God’s plans for me are more beautiful than I can dream and He wants me to come to him like a child because that’s the way He loves me most. Empty handed. Utterly dependent, with no gifts to bring. He looks at my face and my outstretched, empty hands and He sees his little baby girl. The little girl He created. I don’t have to be a grown up with Him. I don’t have to be a wife or a mother or a friend or a teacher or a writer or a woman in his presence. He created me for the same reason I created Amma – because He wanted someone to love. So that’s all I have to be, someone for God to love. He wants me to rest in the truth that there is nothing I can do to make Him love me any more or any less. He already knows about the choices I made yesterday – no need to be ashamed, and he already knows what will happen tomorrow – no need to be afraid. He doesn’t want me or need me to be anything more than the needy bundle of tears and love that I was the day I was born and that I am today, on the kitchen floor. He just wants me to be still and accept His gift, which today is the sensation that my heart might explode as His love and adoration flow from Him through me, His baby girl, and into my baby girl.

This is when Jesus smiles at me, I think. When I offer him my broken, overflowing heart. When I play for him with whatever I have, which is nothing. He doesn’t want me to wait to play for him until I am better or different, or until I have something more worthy to offer. He was a poor boy, too, he understands. He was rejected and afraid and exhausted but he played his song for me anyway. And all he wants is to hear my song in return. He wants my song, the one only I can play, today. Not tomorrow.

And if it seems too good to be true that I’d have a song worthy of Him while I’m still broken and naked and crying, I need only to remember that the most beautiful song the world has ever heard was sung by our Jesus when he was all of those things, hanging on a cross.

That man who died for me, Jesus, my God, wants me to play for Him. And Mary nods her agreement, so I play, without fear of how I might sound. And here’s why I’m not afraid to play my song in the face of God. You have asked how I can share my heart so openly, why am I not afraid to disarm myself and tell you my truth, even when it’s ugly or scary.

It’s because there is no need for weapons or armor when one is already standing inside a mighty fortress.

It’s because while I want you to say that you like me, to tell me I’m okay, to say that we are the same, you and I… I don’t need you to say those things. If no one ever likes or loves me again and I am left with only God, I will still have too much acceptance and love to handle well, or respond to appropriately, or endure gracefully. I can tell you the truth of my heart because when you handle my heart imperfectly, it’s okay, I forgive you already. You don’t have to love me perfectly. I don’t depend on you for that. You can be human, and you can make mistakes with my heart. Because if you hurt me, if you accidentally ignore me, if you love me imperfectly, I still have perfect love to turn to, to remember, to feel. And so I feel safe with you. And you can feel safe with me too, because I will never expect you to be someone you’re not. I understand being human. Perfect love casts out fear.

And when I tell you about Bubba and Sister and Husband and Tisha and you say that you wish you had a perfect family, too, please understand that my family is not perfect. Lord, no. None of us loves each other perfectly. But I don’t need them to love me perfectly because I already have perfect love. We are all wired to need perfect love but none of us is wired to offer it. Because we are meant to find it only in God. So I don’t ask my family for perfection. I forgive them their humanness, and search for their divinity, knowing that we usually find exactly what we we’re looking for. And when I catch glimpses of their divinity, I notice and share it. Just like my family and Jesus do for me.

I’d like to begin this Christmas Week by saying Happy Birthday and Thank You to Our Jesus. He guided these words, and they are meant for you. It’s not an accident that you are reading them. He wants you to know that He loves you like you are the only little girl in the world. You don’t have to be a grown up for Him. You don’t need to bring Him gifts. Just play. He’ll listen and smile. And we’ll dance.

LDG (Little Drummer G)

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

Dec 172014

Last week, I posted this article about that Christmas season when our family was breaking and how brutifully hard it all was.

Teressa wrote this response on our Momastery Facebook page:

Dear G,

I read this essay a couple of days ago when you first posted it. I thought of it this morning, when I was attempting to make a cup of coffee from the espresso machine my husband had given me years ago, back when we were happy. We were married for 15 years. We divorced in March. 

I hadn’t used the machine in a few years, but I packed it up from the basement and moved it from our house when my son and I moved a couple of months ago because I couldn’t let it go.

I bought espresso ground coffee and half and half this week to make a caramel macchiato like I used to every morning when my son was a little one and I spent my days being wife and mom.

I got it ready today and it wouldn’t work. It hadn’t been used in too long. I can only assume it had hard water buildup inside it because the water would not move through it.

The motor was running, but nothing was coming out. I panicked. It had to work. This was from when I was happily married. I needed THAT cup of coffee, made from THIS Krups machine, which my husband had surprised me with a decade ago.

I turned it off. I undid and reset everything. I turned it on. Nothing. Just the mechanical grinding noise. I did it again, and again, and again. Nothing.

I froze. I finally just left it on. Watching the spout, willing it to work. I needed it to work. 

Then I remembered your essay, and your description of frantically gathering the broken pieces of your ornaments and desperately trying, needing, to make them unbroken. 

I saw that’s what I was doing with this machine. 

But it WAS broken. And it wasn’t going to be fixed, it wasn’t going to work, ever again.

I thought of the rest of your essay. And even though my story isn’t going to end like yours and Craig’s, I knew someone understood what I was feeling in that moment. My machine was your ornaments.

And after a minute or so of staring at this machine which was screaming the truth at me in the form of a grinding sound and hot electrical smell…I slowly reached out my hand and shut it off. Then I unplugged it and took it to the trash can in the garage.

And then I went and took out the box of instant coffee from my cabinet and made a cup of that instead.

I’m sure you can understand the processing and feelings that were going on inside of me during this. And I wanted to let you know…and to thank you…for giving me strength and comfort during that moment, even though you don’t know me. 

These things you share by being transparent with the world, they change people’s lives and I want you to know that with every fiber of your being. Your courage in being vulnerable is a gift, and I thank you for it.

Love, Teressa

I wrote this back to her:

Dear Teressa,

This is so beautiful that I am having a hard time handling it. Would you consider sending me your address? I would love nothing more than to head down to the little coffee store in my town today and smell each bin of beans until I find the one that fills me with the most comfort and package some up and send it to you. You are a warrior and I would be so ridiculously honored to help you start a new coffee tradition.

Love, G

She said yes. So  I went to the coffee store and collected some delicious amaretto cherry beans for Teressa and it felt really good, but unfinished. My little love project felt unfinished.

So I reread Teressa’s story and thought: UREKA! Of course! So I emailed the Together Rising board and said: YOU GUYS: THE THING IS THAT TERESSA NEEDS A NEW ESPRESSO MACHINE TO GET HER RISING!!!! That’s what she needs! And of course, the board said: WELL,  OF COURSE SHE DOES!!!! And so I went and got one. And I was so excited but then I got home with it and Craig told me that actually an espresso machine is different than whatever this thing is. I don’t understand fancy coffee. So then we got a different one. Love Projects can be really tiring, to tell you the truth.

Me trying

Dear Teressa-

Together Rising wants you to be reminded every morning that the love and support of a husband –while so precious- is not the only love and support in the world. You still have support. You have us. You have a sisterhood – US- and we want you to wake up every morning to the sound of your fancy coffee brewing. Then we want you to crawl out of bed and shuffle to the kitchen and pour a mug full and wrap your hands around it to warm up. We want you to smell it and taste it and be reminded with all of your senses that you are NOT ALONE. You are an important part of a sticky international web made up of millions of warrior women who are starting over every single morning – just like you- determined THIS DAY to embrace their messy, beautiful families, selves and lives. Some days, we’ll embrace – other days, we’ll fall flat on our face. BUT WHO CARES? There is always tomorrow morning’s coffee, right?

Teressa-  We might FEEL alone in our homes but we must remember that we are alone, TOGETHER.

Love, G and Together Rising.

Love Wins. As does all manner of coffee.

G and Together Rising

Together Rising

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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