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Not Your Grandmother's Chutzpah: How Modern Women are Bringing Back 'Moxie'

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For all my days, I'll never get over the thrill of writing books for women. Every time I put my fingers on the keyboard to start the engine again, I have the same thought: I can't believe I get to do this. Books become our shared language, even if some of that language is entirely made up (see: "horsecrappery" in For the Love). We get to gather around stories and dreams and at the very core of it all, say to each other: Me too. Women are the absolute best and bravest and I am all the way here for them.

So with much love to the TODAY show team for partnering to exclusively share this fun bit of news, it is with great delight I announce my next book written with love and gusto and a touch of absurdity:

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Moxie: It is my tip top favorite word. In my opinion, it specifically and especially applies to women, and it is high time we brought it back. (Be sure to say sort of old-timey like Girl Friday: "She's got moxie, see...") I've written a book for all of us that is part mess, part moxie, and to make sense of that, I've included the entire introduction below. Of Mess and Moxie comes out August 8th, and without further ado, I give you the beginning of the story and hope you'll join me for the rest six months from today:

Of Mess and Moxie: An Intro

It has recently come to my attention that not everyone jammed to country music in the nineties. My lifespan that decade was from age sixteen to twenty-six, so those musicians literally sang me through high school, college, early marriage, and young motherhood. I entered the nineties as a junior in high school and left it married with two kids. I logged all those years in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, so country music was our state genre, our shared anthem. I thought this was ubiquitous until my adult friends chastised me for favoring Garth over Nirvana. I obviously have friends in low places.

My Pandora station of choice to this living day is Trisha Yearwood. Faith, Alison, Shania, Martina, Jo Dee, The Chicks, Reba—these girls, with their high-waisted jeans and belly shirts—sang me through new independence and the sharp thrill of young adulthood. I cannot locate a memory during those years that isn’t tied to their collective music.

One of my tip-top favorite artists was Martina McBride who later gave us an anthem for the ages: “This One’s for the Girls.”

What I want to do is insert the lyrics here, but I would basically need Martina to drive to my house, hold my hand, recite the Constitution, and sign off in her own blood (lyric permissions are harder to secure than a date to prom with Bradley Cooper). Girls, download the song, grab a glass of wine, and remember why being a woman among women is a gift and a treasure.

In her beautiful tribute to sisterhood, Martina dedicates each verse to women in varying stages in life, decade by decade, identifying with them in all their angst, hopes, and glory. I belt this song out on the back of Brandon’s motorcycle so passionately, he has to tap my leg lest I distract him with my performance.

In the tender spirit of Martina’s love song to women from middle school to great-grandmotherhood, I want to welcome you to this book, this space, this sisterhood.

This is for all you girls about twenty-three. You’re here, bursting into adulthood. We who are ahead of you are so glad you made it! We’ve been raising you, watching you, cheering you on. You are trying on this new grown-up suit, and it feels amazing and terrifying and thrilling and weird. You are in charge of you now. You’re trotting out dreams and ideas, and none of them feel as simple as you imagined four years ago. Life is grittier and a wee bit less hospitable than you envisioned when the world was your oyster, protecting your dreams from harsher conditions.

But here you are. You are young and beautiful, fresh and energetic. It’s your turn to begin a new story. You’ll slog through entry-level jobs and sticky relationships and rent and health insurance just like we all did, and you’ll make it, just like we all did. This one is for you. Listen to those of us twenty years ahead of you: this life is not a race or a contest, there is enough abundance to go around, your seat at the table is secure, and you have incredible gifts to offer. You are not in competition with your peers. Be a good sister. Be brave enough to take your place and humble enough to learn and share. We are so glad you are here. We believe in you, we love you, we are thrilled to welcome you to the tribe.

This is for all you girls around thirty-eight. You may be in the thick of the Family Years, and life is joyful and tedious and tender and bananas. You never knew you were capable of such juggling and feel like you get it right around 33 percent of the time. Marriage has worn a trusted groove, and also it is hard. You’ve relinquished young adult angst and narrowed in on your gifts, your preferences, the stuff that gets you out of bed in the morning and begs to be brought forth. But life is really crowded, so many need you, and sometimes the competing voices wear you out, wear you down. You have some really beautiful dreams; some of them are already realized, some are half-baked, some live privately in your secret stash of yearnings.

You’ve earned those laugh lines, those stretch marks, those pesky gray hairs. Your body has served you well; it has maybe even delivered whole human beings. But, in any case, it has carried you halfway through your life. This one is for you. I am your true sister, right here in the middle with you. I’ve watched you mother and sister and serve with such courage and loyalty, I can barely believe I get to claim this generation alongside you. You won’t find a bigger fan than me. I am convinced there is nothing we cannot tackle, solve, endure, or dream. You’re smart. Your work is meaningful, and it is mattering. I am proud of you, proud to belong to you. I believe in us.

This is for all you girls about fifty-nine. You’ve done it! You raised the kids, survived the crowded years, and five-plus decades of life look so good on you. Those of us coming up behind you are watching in awe. We see you with your beautiful faces and those hands that have accomplished so much. We are slow clapping, because you are our mentors and your example tells us that we, too, are going to make it. Your careers and achievements are heroic. You paved a lot of ground that we are now walking on confidently. You won battles that we no longer have to fight. You made a way for the women behind you. We honor you.

What is life after the next generation is raised and gone? I’m no psychic, but I’m guessing one big party. You’re grandmothering now maybe—all the fun and none of the responsibility. Maybe it feels a little disorienting? I imagine after living certain roles for two or three decades, it might seem confusing to write a new chapter later in the game. This one is for you. I believe we never outgrow fresh dreams and courage, and I assure you we still need your voice, your leadership, your presence—now more than ever. It’s never too late to become stronger. As long as we are breathing air, we have a role to play. Sisterhood is lifelong.

This is for all the girls. The ones who thought they’d be married by now but are still single, who thought they’d be mothers by now but aren’t, who said they didn’t want children and have four. The ones whose marriages didn’t work, the ones who found love a second time. This is for the girls who are passionate, bold, assertive; those who are gentle, quiet, impossibly dear. It’s for the decorated career slayer, the creative artist, the mom raising littles, the student in a dorm, the grandmother beginning a new venture. This is for the girls absolutely living their passions and those that want to desperately but feel stuck. This one is for church girls, party girls, good girls, wild girls (I am all four). This is for all of us.

We are spread out across geography, generations, and experiences, but we have two important things in common: mess and moxie. First, on mess: this word has gone a bit off the rails, I fear. When my last book, For the Love, came out, an older gal wrote a scathing, church-lady-finger-wagging article on it, calling me and my fellow sisthren “messy transparents,” and she wasn’t having it. Make of our reaction what you will, but the launch team and I howled! We messy transparents are just out mucking around in the pigpen of life apparently.

Messy, hard, disappointing, painful, shocking, exhausting, aggravating, boring. However you want to say it, life is messy. For all of us. I’m not making this up; I’m just saying it out loud. Your mess is normal, and it is okay to admit it. Pain is not exceptional or rare. If you’ve lived longer than five minutes, you already know this. Not because your particular brand of life is exceptionally punishing or you are doing everything exceptionally wrong, but because, as it turns out, this is how it is for everyone. This is the price of being a human being on this planet; we get the glorious and the grueling, and surprisingly, the second often leads to the first. Trust this messy transparent who loves you. We are in the same boat.

We will endure discouragement, heartbreak, failure, and suffering. All of us. And more than once. And in more than one category. And in more than one season. But we are the very same folks who can experience triumph, perseverance, joy, and rebirth. More than once. And in more than one category. And in more than one season.

And that? That is moxie. Isn’t that a delicious, dreamy word? Moxie. It is a throwback to women with pluck, with chutzpah, with a bit of razzle dazzle. It says: I got this…we got this together. It evokes a twinkle in the eye, a smidge of daring and stubbornness in the face of actual, hard, real, beautiful life. Moxie reaches for laughter, for courage, for the deep and important truth that women are capable of weathering the storm. We are not victims, we are not weak, we are not a sad, defeated group of sob sisters.

Yes, life is hard, but we are incredibly resilient. It is literally how God created us: He said, “Let there be moxie!” and it was good (paraphrased). We have what we need already. It is all inside, so waiting around for our circumstances to deliver our expected life is a waste of energy.

I’m convinced there is no such thing as Someday. You know the Someday I mean? The one where our dreams finally come true and life gets miraculously easier and we get off high center and all the things we imagined or envisioned or hoped for materialize? When that one critical piece is added or subtracted, when we are finally less busy, when a bunch of vague things come together and present us with the life we expected? I’ve learned that we don’t outrun our circumstances, nor do we simply outlast them; we just trade them for new issues, new struggles, new challenges.

Let’s not mourn the mess and forget our moxie.

Rather than waiting for the Someday life or, conversely, imagining our Someday life is in the rearview mirror and we’ll never reclaim it, what if we embraced it all right now: all the hope, all the thrill, all the growth, all the possibility. What if everything is available to us right here in the middle of ordinary, regular life?

We have been warned that ordinary is less than, a sign of inferiority, an indicator that so much more awaits if we could just get the mix right. But the truth is, most of life is pretty ordinary, so it is precisely inside the ordinary elements, the same ones found the world over—career, parenting, change, marriage, community, suffering, the rhythms of faith, disappointment, being a good neighbor, being a good human—that an extraordinary life exists.

Someday is right now, in the life you already have.

Which contains plenty of mess but even more moxie.

May you find courage and God in these pages. I sincerely hope you throw your head back and guffaw out loud in public at least a few times; I love to make you laugh and I don’t think humor is unimportant. I’ve tried to treat our tender spaces with great care, but if I barrel through or misspeak or leave out an important part of the story, the fault is mine and I beg your grace. Life is crazy gorgeous and crazy hard, and we don’t mean to fail each other but we do, which is why Anne Lamott calls earth Forgiveness School.

You belong here; that is the short version of the story. God has given me a deep love for this tribe. I think about you, I dream about you, I care about you, and my aim is to serve you until I die. If that feels dramatic, well, no one ever accused me of subtlety. Welcome. You are very loved here.

For the Girls,
Jen

(You can preorder Moxie here which ensures the lowest price between now and the release date and all the preorder goodies we'll roll out in the next few months.)


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