Neither Pam Beasley nor Queen Latifah

I came to terms with the fact that I needed to hire an assistant. And that sentence still feels so strange in my head and at the tips of my fingers.

An assistant? What kind of assistant? Are we talking Pam Beasley from The Office? Or more like Queen Latifah from Stranger Than Fiction? And who am I to think I need an assistant?

Well, if you’ve been recently waiting for me to fulfill some seemingly small request, then you might be a person to wildly wave your arms and say, “I do. I do, Tricia. I am one to think you need an assistant.”

I realized that having an assistant isn’t a matter of pride, but rather a matter of humility. It isn’t about tossing around the words “have your people call my people” and making sure someone in the world knows how I like my coffee, at what temperature, time, and color.

No, it’s actually about coming to terms with the honest truth: this endeavor has become bigger than me. Administrative tasks and appointments, contacts and contracts, hotel reservations and airlines tickets – these and many of their cousins are piling up all around me.

This, in itself, is altogether awesome because there’s a strong admin streak in me that loves to make a list, cross things off, connect the dots, and make the details come together flawlessly.

(Please don’t laugh. It’s true. I used to make a living at this. Until I abandoned it all to teach America’s future how to read.)

The problem right now, though, is that administrative tasks are not my job – writing is my job. And I haven’t been able to do the things only I can do because I’ve been distracted and overloaded doing the things that I can hire someone else to do.

This morning, I interviewed my leading candidate, and while she and I talked shop at my dining table, Tucker offered himself as our (shirtless) barista, making Keurig coffee for each of us, serving cream on the side, muffins with forks, and randomly a jar of chocolate almonds. He called us “you girls.” As in, “Would you girls care for anything else this morning?”

I didn’t ask him to step into this role as server/barista/butler, but I have perhaps never found him more charming.

Ashley was charmed as well: I offered her the job, and she said y-e-s. And with those three letters, that one simple word, I’m already breathing easier. Someone else is thinking with me.

“Let me run these details past my assistant.”
“I’ll forward this email to my assistant.”
“My assistant knows all about that – she’s running that event.”

(I’m practicing.)

Because, my friends, Ashley is on. the. job.

The Night Donald Miller Changed My Life

Pour yourself some coffee, my friend. Or a mimosa. Whatever you need to settle in for one of the best moments of my life.  I’m probably about to plow through every word-count suggestion for blogs. But, when your life changes in one night, you should use as many words as you need.

So, remember how I told you I love the Storyline Conference? If you need a refresher course, click here to read a favorited post from the archives: Donald Miller is a Freaking Genius. Or click here, to read about the time I marched in a protest because I thought it was a parade, all inspired by Storyline.

This weekend was my second rendezvous with Storyline, and I have long awaited this trip. I registered months ago, and I’ve had a paper chain countdown going on. Such has been my anticipation.

Our weekend launched on Friday night with a dinner at a trendy club in Nashville. Donald Miller, the Storyline team, and 500 of his closest friends – with 500 more to arrive the next day. This place was filled with Storyline Groupies, and we were all thankful to have found one another. Storyliners get starry-eyed when you mention words like Inciting Incidents and Climactic Scenes and Redeeming the Negative Turns. We are like a Star Trek Convention, except instead of being compulsive science fiction junkies, we can’t quite get enough of the high of telling better stories with our lives.

Don came by to dismiss our table to the buffet line, and I said, “Could I just walk with you for a few minutes? I know you’re dismissing tables, but… well, I have something I need to tell you.”

He smiled and motioned for me to join him. “Sure, you bet. Talk to me,” said Don Miller, who is every bit author and every bit real person.

I said what I had hoped to say, in the moment I had prayed for, should I have the chance to have an honest-to-goodness conversation with DM. I didn’t want to be lost in a sea of adoring fans waiting for him to sign their arms. I wanted to have a legitimate conversation. Authentic. Real. No authographs necessary.

“Don, in 2012, I attended Storyline in Portland. I was sitting in the third row, and you asked for an example of an inciting incident, something someone could do to propel change in her life. I raised my hand; you called on me. I was a young widow. My husband had just died 15 months before.”

“Yes, yes. I remember you,” he said. I had his full attention.

“I told you that I was a single mom with two small boys, and I needed to inject some happiness into our lives. And you said, ‘Have you thought about writing a book about this?'”

He smiled. “I remember that.”

“And you said, ‘Let’s stay in touch. I want to see where this goes.’ Well, it’s been almost two years, and since I last saw you, I’ve written a book, I have an agent and a publisher, and my book will be released in February.”

Don Miller gives great hugs, and he swept me into one. The thing about telling him your dream has come true? You’re making his dream come true also. He’s the story guy. His story is to help us tell better stories.

“Tricia, that is fantastic. Would you be willing to share that story with everyone here tonight?”

“Absolutely. I would love to.”

(Sidenote: when I shared thie story with my Tuesdays later that night, one of the girls said, “Wait – I need to know what you were wearing.” I gave her the head to toe rundown, right down to the patent leather heels. She approved. “Okay. Go on.”)

After dinner, I joined Don at the front of the room, and he introduced me to the Storyline groupies. He said, “Here at Storyline, we collect stories. We love to hear what people are doing, the stories they are living, and tonight I heard a really great one. Tricia, tell them.”

1393116_10201624009629417_228989609_nHe handed me the mic, and I told them the story: the five-paragraph version of my life in the last three years. I finished, “…so in February of 2014, my book is coming out.”

They applauded and cheered, because we are groupies. (See above.)

And then – brace yourself, because this is H-U-G-E.

Don said, “We think there will be about 1800 people at our San Diego conference in February, and you need to come and be one of our keynote speakers. Are you in? And we’ll launch your book. New York Times and above. Let’s do it.”

The room roared.

I said, “Are you kidding me right now, Donald Miller?”

“I am absolutely not kidding you. In front of 500 people, I’m inviting you to be a keynote speaker in San Diego. This is what they call ‘an Inciting Incident.’ You in?”

And that’s how it happened, where I was standing, and what I was wearing, in the moment that my life changed. Because I’m pretty sure, there is something forever changed. Essentially, I won the writer’s version of American Idol.

There was applause. Photos. Cheering. And I couldn’t stop giggling. I said to Don, “You changed my life tonight. You know that, right?”

With classic, potent Donald Miller eye contact, he said, “Oh, we’re just getting started.”

As guests at the dinner, we were surprised with concert tickets to close out the evening, and the crowd of Storyliners streamed out of the ballroom and into the concert venue.

“Tricia! Are you coming?”

“Thank you so much, you guys, but I’m going to my hotel. I want to call my mom and dad.”

I came to my hotel room, set my purse on a chair, my room key on the desk, kicked off my heels, and I lay on the floor with my face to the carpet. And I was speechless before the God who has orchestrated this story. I have nothing, Jesus. I have nothing to give you. Oh, God. Thank you.

And please, could you tell Robb?

(My Tuesday said, “Wait. On the floor? The hotel floor? Tricia, that’s gross. Please go on, but promise me you won’t do that again. I get the whole falling-prostrate thing. But do it in your bed.”)

So, here’s some news: I belong to the Storyline Team. We’ll be in San Diego in February – with a book to launch.

February 27 – March 1, 2014.
Keynote speakers include Don Miller, Bob Goff, Anne Lamott,

and Tricia Lott Williford.

Two Boys and a Business Calendar

“Guys, I have such a great idea. I am starting to plan my calendar for the winter and spring, because sometimes I’ll be traveling to speak and teach and talk about the book. I was thinking… would you like to go with me on those trips?”

Their eyes lock with one another, sparkling with pictures of airplanes and suitcases and adventures. “Yes! Yes!”

“I’m thinking I will take one boy at a time, and you can each be my helper for the trip.”

“And I will go on the first trip with you,” says one who is still learning to put others first.

“Well, we will have to look at our calendars – school, gymnastics, football – all of those things, and decide when its best for each of you to slip away with me. So I’m not sure who will go first. But I am excited to plan with each of you.”

“I have an idea, Mommy. Why don’t you just send us?”

And there we have it, my friends. I’ll send my children and a meal plan. Done.