The Perfect Folding Technique

Sister Agnes Marie greeted our class as we filed into the brand new Foods and Culture Lab. Perfect grey curls framed her face under her traditional habit. Her face was puffy with old age and her pasty lips looked like she ate a lot of Tums. A transfer student entering my sophomore year, I had never been around nuns before. Although Continue reading The Perfect Folding Technique

“Paper or Plastic?” Captured an Audience’s Attention

My attention was jolted out of my pre-speech-giving trance when the speaker ahead of me started to tell a story about taking her 86-year-old father to the grocery store. She had let him wander the aisles with his own cart because he was persnickety about his independence. After finishing her shopping, she got into the check-out line behind him and Continue reading “Paper or Plastic?” Captured an Audience’s Attention

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