I started this post, sitting in an Alaska boardroom about to head back to Whitefish. Before this, I had a fly-by visit in Seattle to celebrate my sister Penny’s 60th birthday!
Penny’s official birthday was November 19, and there were a variety of celebrations that started on that day and continued through the Thanksgiving holiday. When I visited at the end of the week, I was told it was the culmination of the celebration and was going to include all I love about her family, the Reids.
Yes, there was going to be a party, and at some point the singing of the traditional birthday songs! But even more importantly, this evening marked the release of Penny’s first book, Bridging. Both Clarke and Carolina, my amazing niece and nephew, would be there too. Clarke planned to play music with a couple members of his current band, and Carolina was driving from Portland with my Mom. Rob, my brother-in-law, ensured me that the party would include awesome food. Plus, I had a bed to sleep in! Perfect!
Reflecting back, I have no regrets making the journey, even if I did miss Melissa, my other sister, who had made the trip for the official birthday date, and CrisMarie was just not able to fly over for just a 24-hour visit. (Someone had to take care of Rosie, right!)
Now sitting in the boardroom, I had an opportunity to read my sister’s book, Bridging; a book about one woman’s, my sister, journey to bridge two very different cultures while also dealing with a much more universal journey of living and dying. The book is touching, human and a great read.
It can be a bit of a scary proposition when a family member writes a book and you get one of the copies. Sure you want to be supportive, but what if you don’t like it! Plus, I opened the book while the Seahawks were playing on the big screen. I was not confident I would successfully stay focused.
But soon into the read, I was more deeply engaged in my sister’s journey than in the Seattle Seahawks!
It’s not that I haven’t known that my sister was a strong writer. She is. I have read various shorter pieces authored by her and know that she has a strong literary style. She has also been a strong supporter of my writing process. But I believed our writing was very different. She is much more poetic and literate in her style.
But as I dove into Bridging, I was engaged by the humble and real storyline of Penny’s efforts to become fluent in Spanish and emerge herself in a lifestyle so different than her own.
I loved reading the book. I read most of it on the plane and finished it the next day.
I enjoyed the team effort reflected in her decision to intersperse pieces written by others who were either family, friends or travelers like herself. I loved that the writing, mostly English with Spanish words and phrases weaved in, was able to reflect her own developing language ability. Toward the very end, there was much more Spanish. And yet even someone like myself was able to understand while also acquiring a taste of what it had been like for her.
I even enjoyed her references to religion, hope and faith even though I am on a much different path than her. I found myself connected and appreciative of the importance her faith and spiritual community is to her. I liked that she spoke about the challenge she faces as someone who works in education and values the importance of separating church and state.
But what was most surprising was what I interpreted as our deeply shared passion to not stay restricted and limited by our own story or narrative. It is so to easy live a lifetime thinking our story is the only story.
Her version of expanding her story was truly multi-cultural. It was literally about traveling beyond the border of America, listening to and appreciating the culture of others who have a completely different language, history and socio-economic experience. My focus is much closer to home. Yet, as I lived in the pages, I was touched by the similar deep desire to find a way to bridge beyond our differences.
I was also moved by the storyline that was not quite as obvious – her dealing with death and dying. I loved how the book weaved in my father’s process of dying, which for her had been such a profound journey. Then she closed with having to let go of Roxy, the family dog. Though Roxy did not have the same long-term storyline or heavy impact on her own making, Roxy clearly had a huge impact on Penny’s heart. Both connections for Penny, so profound, yet so different.
In the end, the weekend and the book, reminded me that our differences are both our greatest challenge AND our greatest opportunity.
I encourage you to go Amazon and get a copy.
I know I won’t likely be one who dives so deeply into a language or culture as Penny has done. But I get that her journey is not that far from my own.
I think we both long for the same possibility – a bridge that connects us through differences, and values the richness that comes from having the courage and faith to venture and explore both sides!