Hearts can fill up with love in so many wonderful ways.
Through trial and error, with hundreds of dazzlingly positive experiences and some painful ones, our Dinner Club With a Reading Problem is seeing Love revealed in ways we will not soon forget. We are learning lessons and making memories.
This past Friday night our famous little Oklahoma Dinner Club With a Reading Problem gathered at the cozy and stylish home of member Stephanie. We were there to discuss our most recent selection, Bonhoeffer, but also to celebrate a sort of anniversary within the group and to shower Steph with our heartfelt love.
It was almost exactly a year ago that we all gathered at Steph’s house to discuss Before I Go to Sleep. Those in attendance will never forget Amber’s expressive narration of a particularly racy passage… Ahem… The night was as fun and wildly memorable as ever book club is, but none of us had any idea then that it would become a sort of marker in time. Steph wasn’t feeling so good, though not for any obvious reason, and we all noticed how exhausted and weak she was.
Just a few weeks after that early 2012 event, our Stephanie was diagnosed with a serious heart condition that dramatically changed the course of her new year, really the rest of her life. Her heart had contracted a virus that was keeping it from pumping out enough blood and causing her serious health complications. In a brief space of time she had big decisions and big adjustments to make in her life. Oh! And she also turned forty, which she did with enviable grace and laughter.
DCWRP rallied around our only non-reading member in little ways, keenly aware that our human efforts are just that: Human. Imperfect, desperate, and temporary. But still valuable and needed. We also prayed and sent her as much positive, hopeful energy as we could collect. Then she showed us with her sweet, laugh-out-loud spirit how to face scary things with a smile.
Steph shared this happy one-year testimonial with friends and family just a couple of weeks ago:
One year ago today I was diagnosed with Viral cardiomyopathy (a virus that attacks your heart) that day my life changed. Living in a storm and not knowing how close to death you are is scaring and reassuring at the same time. I have followed Doctors orders..No alcohol, low sodium diet (it sucks). In June I got a pacemaker/defibrillator luckily I haven’t been shocked!! Then I became a patient at the Integris heart failure clinic..I have had conversation about heart transplants and medical devises that I didn’t know existed. But I’m alive and learning to live my new life…dealing with fatigue, dizzy spells, and panic attaches to name a few issues. I looked forward to years to come. And I’m thankful for all the help from family and friends. Love you all
So heart health awareness began to hold special meaning for our kaleidoscope little group of women.
Then later in the year, thanks to Erica’s book choice, DCWRP read the memoir by Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess, who also happened to have pioneered a fun little project called the Travelling Red Dress. Have you heard of it? Her message is pretty simple. It’s a very straight forward encouragement for women to embrace whatever makes us feel vibrant and alive, indulged and happy, sexy, or even silly. It can be an excuse to wear that over-the-top red cocktail dress, for example, even if you have no special event to match it. It can be any red dress or any dress or article of clothing at all, so long as it helps you express your inner self and allows you to exude joy. It’s all about heart.
So that little red seed was planted, quietly and peripherally.
Then as Stephanie was enduring heart treatments and surgeries and growing in her knowledge of heart health, she started emailing us about her desire to participate in this Red Dress Project. It seemed perfect! She was also secretly plotting big ideas about starting a foundation to help other people in her position. Fresh in the thick of this new personal challenge, and she was already thinking of others. That is Love, folks. And it caught like wildfire.
So at an autumn DCWRP gathering we all chatted up the possibilities. Then, at the December cookie-decorating-Little Women-discussing party, we planned it. February, designated as the Heart Health Awareness month, would be our time.
We fished out from the group’s extended family a talented young professional photographer and set a date. Our site? The gorgeous Oklahoma State Capitol. It all felt like a magical intersection of energies and opportunities.
Which brings us back to present day, this past weekend…
Saturday morning, then, we all got dolled up and dressed in our personalized bits of red and met at the Oklahoma State Capitol. The group’s wardrobe choices ranged from shimmery knee-length cocktail numbers to a gorgeous floral kimono, a sharp red blazer, a pin-up style wrap dress, an adorable flouncy mini skirt, and my goofy altered vintage slip. We all took the advice aiming at personal expression and ran with it! I have to admit, I felt nervous at first, showing up in something I thought only I would like, but that nervousness quickly melted and was replaced by lots and lots of fun.
Be yourself, ladies, always.
Some of us carried Starbucks, some of us clutched to bulky coats to hide our tentative glamour, and some of us even brought “touch up” prettifying supplies. It felt almost like a pre-Prom gathering. It was quite chilly, and we were trembling. Although perhaps the trembling was more from high excitement than low temperatures. Everyone had a camera out or a phone or both, and for the next two hours there was not a dull moment.
So, truly, the next two hours were packed with activity. We all smiled and posed and cooperated as best as a large group can in an echo-y marble building.
We used a few props, circled around Stephanie in different configurations, and eventually grew bold or relaxed enough to take individual photos.
These are all my personal, unskilled, candid shots, folks. I admit to all flaws as a photographer. When the the professional images are shared I will share them, in turn, with you.
So this is some of the love between us in book club. For two years now we have grown big then squeezed closer, expanded and retreated, reading books and learning about each other and this wide, wonderful universe as friends. We have shared secrets and circled around those of us who hurt, as we did with Stephanie this past weekend. We have pushed beyond our comfort zones and found ways to take up mantles, in this case red ones. We have celebrated life and love.
Love is so powerful. It feeds us and grows us, breaks us and heals us again, and it brings to our lives a depth and a light that cannot be faked.
I hope you have Love like this near you. I hope you are a conduit for it, and I hope you are learning from it.
Steph, thank you once more for bringing us all together for this special event. We love you from the bottom of our paper-lined hearts, and we are all so excited to see what you’ll do this year to spread your loving energy!
“If you want to be successful, it is just this simple:
Know what you are doing.
Love what you are doing.
And believe in what you are doing.”