When Yellow Blooms

“Yellow! You need yellow.” Relaxing with my friend, Astrid, in my new garden patio along with an intimate group of high-school girlfriends and their spouses, I had asked her “what other flowers should I plant?” As a novice gardener, I thought she could guide my horticultural efforts. Expecting a concrete answer about plant varieties or continuous blooming techniques, I was Continue reading When Yellow Blooms

Left-Handed in a Right Handed World

After writing signatures with our non-dominant hands, we agreed that the action was clumsy, unnatural, inefficient—and our signatures turned out distorted. I was taking a certification course to become a facilitator in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) with a group who primarily represented the helping professions (social work, education, counseling). One of my innate, left-brain preferences came vividly into focus during the week-long Continue reading Left-Handed in a Right Handed World

Grief Walk from New York to Wisconsin

George Asa Sprague felt numb as he turned his back on his home where he had lived with his wife, Lydia, and baby son, Oscar, on the shores of Lake Skaneateles near Syracuse, New York. It was the summer of 1854, and his young family had been destroyed a few months earlier when Lydia and Oscar had died of influenza only Continue reading Grief Walk from New York to Wisconsin

Big Meadow in Norway

As I set off for school with my older sister, Cindy, I heard the neighborhood kids shouting, “There’s Cindy Big Meadow!” and chanting, “Jean Big Meadow!” I shrunk away, confused and embarrassed, while Cindy went off to figure out what was up. She came back to explain that our neighbors’ Norwegian grandma was visiting, who had told them that “stör” Continue reading Big Meadow in Norway

Miracle on Lazy M

“Turn off the wind!” 4-year-old Jackson hollered as we paused a short way into our first run of our second family ski trip to Red Lodge, Montana. Everyone was excited to ski Lazy M again, a 2.5-mile cruising run with spectacular vistas. Abby, Jackson, and I were getting slapped by a howling wind as we waited for others to catch Continue reading Miracle on Lazy M

When You Want to Say “I Quit!”

Shivering by the side of the pool, my seven-year-old-self did not want to jump into the water. The pool overwhelmed my senses; it was located in the cavernous basement of a 55-year-old YMCA (built in 1909). Kids’ voices echoed off the walls and the damp, rank air assaulted my nose. My sisters were already in the water, laughing and splashing Continue reading When You Want to Say “I Quit!”

A Puzzling Family Gathering

With sub-zero temperatures predicted for the holiday weekend, we decided to order a jigsaw puzzle and chose a picture of Santa’s Workshopthat was supposed to glow in the dark. On Christmas Eve day, we set up the 1,000-piece puzzle on a portable table in the center of our gathering space. An hour into the project, it started to feel overwhelming. I Continue reading A Puzzling Family Gathering

Dark Side of Holiday Humor

After one of my storytelling workshops, a participant handed me his business card and invited me to call him because he wanted me to share his story. Anonymity is important to him, so let’s call him Mike.  Sixteen years earlier, Mike was a rising star as a design engineer. He was being groomed for advancement with high-profile assignments and access to Continue reading Dark Side of Holiday Humor

Cat on a Scooter Frightens Pre-Tween Son

Halloween Night of 2008, my 11-year-old son, Jackson, was the last of my kids to have friends over before trick-or-treating. His older sisters had moved on from the “childish” fantasies at our house to boy-girl parties and teenage antics. Jackson thought he and his friends should trick-or-treat alone, but his friends’ moms were not on board with that approach. I Continue reading Cat on a Scooter Frightens Pre-Tween Son

Special Teachers Are (Story) Gems

I vividly remember the day in third grade when a teacher touched my life. Done with my classwork and tired of staring out at the dreary landscape of late fall in Wisconsin, I wandered over to the bookshelves to browse the books. When Mrs. Athnos came over, I thought I was in trouble … for leaving my desk … for Continue reading Special Teachers Are (Story) Gems