A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

So I’m starting this Grand Adventure wondering just what is inside my brain that isIMG_1388
dying to introduce itself to the world. It’s kind of exciting, actually—like taking off on a roadtrip with some snacks and a bare bones idea of the direction in which you’re headed.

This sort of thing would make my husband and at least several of my friends absolutely CRAZY because they write in Sharpie while I write in pencil. Both methods have their benefits, don’t get me wrong. I am just perfectly comfortable with a measured amount of chaos around me. It doesn’t make me sweat.

I’ve been a writer for about forever. Teaching English for 25 years means that I have modeled a lot of writing for my kids. I’ve written pages and pages of curriculum. And for five years as a peer coach, I wrote copious amounts of notes and reports for the teacher evaluation process. None of that is how I want to be remembered as a writer, however, and over the last few years, I have found myself writing more personal pieces because they deserve life.

A couple of friends and I are writing a book right now, so summer 2018 has been all about that. I’m super proud of what we are creating—a collection of stories and strategies meant to empower Women in the Middle (like us) who are not in their twenties anymore but are anything but done. We have great plans for other books, articles, blog entries, and speeches, too. But in between, I still need to write. There’s more than I must say. I can feel it. So here I am.

I spent some time today thinking about what it’s going to be. It’s not a teacher blog. It’s not a cooking blog. It’s not a decorating blog. It’s not a business blog. It’s not a life hack blog. It’s not a blog dedicated to tricked-out street sweepers (there’s got to be one of those out there, right?). It’s something, all right…but the vision is still emerging. And I’m totally fine with that because I write in pencil.

What I decided to do, at least for now, is to make this purely a storytelling site, and I’m going to make a commitment to post at least 2-3 times a week. For each post, I’m going to attach at least one picture and tell the story that goes along with it. Some of the pictures will be from my past—the ones that are sitting in boxes in the closet of my office that I SWEAR are going to go into scrapbooks someday. (My mother was not organized with her photos, and neither am I. And now that she has passed, guess who has all of HER disorganized boxes? It’s a good thing I am comfortable with a half cup of chaos.) Some of the pictures I use will be my own that I take. I am going to do everything I can not to use any stock photos.

Sound good? Good! Off I go into my office closet to dig up some pictures to share with y’all! I think I’ll start with MY ruby slippers, circa 1989. 😉 Mall bangs, too.

P.S. The picture above was from my maiden voyage on my inflatable kayak on the Fourth of July. There will be a post about that—my family’s most sacred holiday—in the future. There are so many stories to share! 🙂


If This Paddle Could Talk

Here is the latest addition to the deck glamper (where I like to sit and write in the summer months)—my big brother Cedric’s canoe paddle.

I should explain to those of you who are new to my universe that Cedric died in 1987 when I was just 15 years old. I will write more about him as I go along, but what you need to know now is that he was like a father to me. He was also the kind of guy who strolled to the beat of a different drum.

My sister-niece Amy, who was the guardian of Cedric’s big, silver behemoth for a few years before it settled in at the lake, brought his paddles to my sister and me as a surprise last weekend.

They are old now—cracked and dry and worn. It was time to retire them, and she thought we might like to have them.

I was having an “off” day—I was getting a migraine, and my emotions were all over the place. I was feeling awkward and disconnected. I even wrote a poem on the beach about how I was my father’s daughter—I talk too much, and it’s all just nonsensical babble (sorry, Dad).

I typically don’t write poetry unless I’m really in a funk, so that should tell you something.

And then I got this.

I’ve driven around with it in my back seat for a week. I don’t know why I did that—maybe because it’s been a bit of a funky week, and I didn’t really pay attention to it until today—after an afternoon on the lake with some good friends.

Being on that boat helped me remember the healing power of the water, what it feels like to be in the present moment, and that I get to choose to be happy every day. It has to come from inside me. No one else gets a say.

This paddle powered Cedric all over Lake Vermilion. I know there were times when he felt awkward and disconnected, too. But he always centered himself by going on the water. And you know what? He talked a lot, too.

Thank you, Amy. I see now the tremendous gift you gave to us. I love you. ❤️

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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