TGIF: The Risky Business of Changing the World

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On writing a better story, sisterhood and chipmunks on Red Bull.


So, last week I did something crazy.

Not “Supersize-my-fries-and-throw-some-gravy-over-it” crazy.

But something that “scares-the-brown-out-of-me” crazy. 

Let’s backtrack … shall we?

Early January, I read Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. The book wrestles with the question, “What makes a good story? More specifically: “What makes our lives a good story?” I started to reassess my life through the lens of a good story. When I found out that Miller was hosting a conference in Portland, I just knew that I had to be there.

In one sentence, my big juicy decadent takeaway from the Storyline Conference: I can write the story I want to live.

Let that sink in for a second. I know it doesn’t sound like much at first but it’s earth shattering. Read it again. I, as in me, myself, Tina can write the story I want to live? The key word being “I.”

Donald Miller says,“Good stories don’t happen by accident. They are planned.”

He also talks about how every great story has an “inciting incident.” An “inciting incident” is something that triggers or forces the character to step out into the uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s losing a loved one, a break-up, getting fired, etc. Or it could be self-imposed: signing up for a triathlon, taking diving lessons or teaching English in China. The common thread in all of the above is that it involves stepping out into the uncomfortable. The uncomfortable provides a premise for change, growth and transformation.

An inciting incident is what makes a story come alive. 

I’m totally guilty of sitting in the passenger seat of life thinking that one day I would magically fall into my story. Or, that my story/destiny would eventually find me. After all, 14-year-old girls get discovered in the shopping mall and become supermodels, right? Wrong. Supermodels are the exception, not the rule.

Here’s the good news for us vertically challenged humans: If life feels boring, meaningless, or predictable, we can write an inciting incident into our story! This would force us to step out into the uncomfortable and who knows what could happen next?

We don’t have to live vicariously through Lisa Ling, Susan Boyle or the “‘Real’ Housewives of Orange County.” We can climb Kilimanjaro, make that YouTube video, intern in Afghanistan or grow our own herb garden.

Ask yourself: “What would my character do next?” And then: DO IT.

Inciting Incident

It was at a Women’s conference last year where I first learned about the LRA rebel soldiers who terrorize northern Uganda. Women have had their lips, ears, noses and even genital parts severed from their bodies. Many of these women are HIV+, marginalized and ostracized from their own community and family because the scars are a constant reminder of their past.

Fakeleft for Watoto

My chest heaved as I tried to cry quietly. Sometimes you encounter a story that so deeply resonates with your purpose that every cell in your body is charged. I was so angry, that I was actually shaking. I kept looking over at my sister who was also crying, my eyes screaming, “Is this for real?!”

At the Storyline Conference, Donald Miller said: “Pay attention to what angers you, most likely it is brushing up against a core value.”

Even as I type this, I’m crying because my mind can’t process the sheer violence and injustice of having your body mutilated for no fault of your own.

Living Hope is a program that helps women who have been disfigured to undergo reconstructive surgery. These surgeries start at $2,500. The women are also trained with vocational skills and assisted in generating projects using micro-finance loans.

I heard story after story of amazing recoveries. Brave Ugandan women who dared to write a new story for their lives. I just knew in my gut I had to be part of the solution.

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Back to my moment of total-crazy …

So … I signed up for a half-marathon to raise money for Living Hope. Eeeeeek.

My plan: Run half-marathon + Raise $2,500 = one woman’s reconstructive surgery

Those who know me well, know that running is way out of my comfort zone. I have barely mastered walking without bumping into things. I come from the school of thought that the only sane reason adults should be running, is if they are being chased. Read about my ridiculous first attempt at running a 10K here.

I called my gf Idelette to tell her about signing up for the half-marathon and my big scary goal. She piped up, “I think it’s a fabulous idea! We should ask our SheLoves family if they would like to join you on the half-marathon.” I squealed with delight, “Yes, yes, please run with me. I’ll die out there on my own. Plus it will help meet the $2,500 target.”

She giggled and said: “If it’s okay with you, I was thinking we could get twenty women to sign up and we could raise $20,000 instead?”

My tonsils, pancreas and kidneys dropped into a mushy pile on the floor. I was chattering like a chipmunk who chugged a case of Red Bull. “$20,000? Seriously? What the freezies!!! Can we do that? Who would give us THAT much money? How are we going to find twenty girls to run a half-marathon with us? This is insane but … YES. Let’s do it!”


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OUR GOAL GOT BIGGER!
50 women in Vancouver + Half-Marathon= Raising $50,000 for Our Sisters in Uganda

Donate Online: HERE

Facebook Event Page: HERE
(You can mark yourself as a “Maybe” if you don’t want to run but want to be part of the conversation)
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Here is an Adele song that plays in my head every time I think I about the half-marathon.

“There’s a fire starting in my heart
Reaching a fever pitch,
And it’s bringing me out the dark”
– Adele

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I found this great image that summarizes exactly what I’ve been feeling lately. The inciting incident is the overlap of comfort zone and things that make life worthwhile.

So … my global SheLoves sisters:
– Is this an inciting incident in your life that you need to say yes to?
– Do you remember the last time your anger brushed up against a core value?

Dear Vancouver Bravehearts,
The half-marathon is in September. We have plenty of time to train! It is going to be life-changing …
– Would you say YES to running or walking the half-marathon with me?
– If you can’t run or walk, would you please help spread the word?
– Why does this cause speak to you? 🙂

If your heart is beating fast and you have butterflies in your stomach, leave me a comment saying “Yes” and I will send you more information about registering for the half-marathon!

Love you more than Banana and Nutella Cream Cheese Cake,(<- Recipe)
xoxo,
Teen

To read more TGIFs from Tina: Click here.

(Image: Anne Frank, Venn Diagram, Living Hope Women)
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Tina Francis
My name is Tina. Loved ones call me: Teen. Words are my chocolate. Music, my caramel. Photography, my bread. Girlfriends, my butter. Confession: Some girls dream about Manolo Blahniks or their next Hermes bag. Not me. I dream of freshly baked bread, perfectly barbecued meat & steaming bowls of Pho. My dream lover *cue Mariah Carey song* is someone who would read out a menu to me in Barry White’s baritone voice. I celebrate food, ask for help, interrupt conversations, laugh and cry hard, acknowledge the elephant in most rooms, fight for the underdog and believe in the power of storytelling. I was born and raised in Dubai and currently live in the beautiful city of Vancouver, known for some of the best sushi in the world.
Tina Francis
Tina Francis