And Away She Goes…

Life is short. Buy the shoes.

So I was sitting in a professional development workshop the other day, learning about the Design Cycle from an incredible graphic artist, Leon Wang. Leon designed many of the signs used at recent social justice protests through his business, Firebird Design Lab. He is quiet, kind, and thoughtful—and a master of melding words and images into a force for social change.

What was brilliant about this experience is that Leon believes in doing design old school—cutting and pasting and getting it just right with your hands first before messing with it digitally.

We did an exercise where we had to brainstorm words that defined who we were at our very core—what we believed in. What we stood for. What screamed “us.”

This is what emerged for me: Muddy Ruby Slippers.

You might be saying, okay…that’s a waste of a good pair of iconic shoes.

But wait—I’m an English teacher. There’s a metaphor in there, don’t worry. I’ll get to it.

The point of this exercise was for us to play around with lettering—real lettering, not just fonts that we threw together on a Google Doc. We used lead pencils. On paper. And we couldn’t erase because you never know how you might be able to grow one design into another.

It was glorious.

I proudly worked up my design, and Leon came around and looked at my paper. He paused. “Muddy Ruby Slippers. It has meaning for me,” I said. He smiled and moved on to the next person.

No critique, no judgement, no wrinkled nose, no rolling eyes, no furrowing of the brow.

Leon was the ultimate gentle professional. He left me to my work, trusting that I was listening to the voice inside me that said, “You’re on to something, girlfriend. Keep going. Keep listening.”

Now, obviously, the ruby slippers are a Wizard of Oz reference. I am a Minnesota girl, so it’s not much of a stretch to say that I have always wanted a pair of those killer shoes. I even had a pair of red pumps with bows on them in high school in the 1980s. They were not covered in sequins, but they were totally awesome. (I’ll dig up a picture. You’ll see some fabulous mall bangs, too.)

If you haven’t seen the Wizard of Oz lately, there’s a great line at the end from Glinda the Good Witch. She tells Dorothy, “You always had the power. You just had to learn it for yourself.” Ah, yes, pull back the cosmic camera lens, and you will see that that is ridiculously appropriate for my life (and boy, have I had to learn a few things).

But mud? Seriously? Yep. You see, when I was a kid, there was nothing I loved more than putting my feet in mud in the spring. Feeling that dirt-frosting oozing between my toes was a tincture for my soul. It meant that winter was abating, and summer days of playing with my dog, sleeping in, and going on adventures to the lake were right around the corner.

Sometimes I’ve sparkled, and sometimes I’ve gotten muddy. Both extremes have taught me something. A lot of somethings. And while I can’t say that I have loved every experience in my life, I’ve loved what everything has taught me. And all this mud and sparkle makes me a paradox.

That’s what I’m going to get into on this grand adventure. I don’t know if anyone is going to even notice this drip in the sea of blogs that exists in 2018, but that doesn’t matter. I’m writing. And it tastes sweet.


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