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living a dream: prologue

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At the end of December, 1995, I left the snow-filled streets of Minneapolis with a backpack, $500 cash in the back pocket of my Levi’s, and a work visa, and boarded a plane to Australia. I was 23 years old.

I had never been out of the country, except for a stint in Mexico my senior year of high school, and I had just graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in journalism and no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  I had time on my hands and dreams in my heart. I wanted to see the world.  And learn how to surf.

I intended to travel for three months and ended up staying a year. I would have stayed longer, but the lady who worked at Qantas Airlines told me if I didn’t leave by December 30, 1996, my flight would expire.

As my plane departed New Zealand, through which I hitchhiked for a month at the tail end of my year in the Southern Hemisphere, I vowed that I would return to that magnificent country with my someday-family.

22 years later, on January 2, 2018, I boarded a plane to New Zealand with my family–my husband, our 12-year-old son, and our 10 year-old-daughter, and we spent six weeks rambling through the North and South Islands of New Zealand in a camper van.

This is the story of living a dream…(stay tuned)

 

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darkness

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I am in a dark place right now. A place rife with fear, regret, pain, sadness. I am living in it. And it sucks.

TMI? Why do I self-disclose? Because not enough people do. We live in this weird uncertain world where everyone acts like everything is great, like life isn’t hard.

Well, today I am acutely aware that life is hard. Relationships are hard. Vulnerability is hard. Putting yourself out there again and again and again is hard. Accepting our mistakes and failures? Hard.

This morning, while I was marinating in the weight of the many mistakes I’ve made in my life, I pulled out my jar filled with “angel cards.” These are cards with words printed on them like, “education,” or “clarity,” or “joy.” There are a whole handful of them.

Sometimes when I’m in a dark and depressed state, I sit with them and ask my guardian angels what I need to learn from this situation. Then I pull a card and contemplate its meaning for a while.

Today I pulled “Power.” Curious, considering I feel none.

But in a way, it makes perfect sense for my situation.

Because responsibility—owning up to our shit—is power. When we make mistakes, as we all do and will, we can only change ourselves by accepting the truth of what we have done and apologizing when we can.

Power is not perfection, but rather accepting responsibility for our actions and doing something about it.

For those of you who are sitting in your own states of darkness right now, I am sitting here in Minneapolis, feeling the same. I am right here with you.

And we are going to make it through to the light again.

I promise.

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writing monday: words as gifts

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A few weeks ago, in the heat of an argument, Paul said, “I see you write all the time. And you never write to me anymore!”

He was right. I used to write to him a lot more. But I fell out of the habit.  And since we are always together–cleaning, cooking, working, playing–living our daily lives right next to each other, I grew complacent and assumed he knows how I feel about him.

But when he (yelled) that at me, I realized that, like me, he just needed the words in front of him, needed to hold onto them.

So I spent some time honoring him, us, and the thousand moments we’ve shared since our journal started gathering dust, and wrote him a letter, letting him know how grateful I am for him and the life we’ve created together.

Then I wrote Oliver a letter because he has been feeling like Lucy gets all of the attention lately.

And last, I wrote a letter to a boy on our team who lost a friend two months ago.

Now I am a little behind on my work goals. But my heart feels bigger from simply taking time to give people words to let them know they are loved and valued.  The time was worth the giving.

Today, write a letter to someone to whom you want to express gratitude.  Address, stamp, and and send it, and know that your words and time are an act of giving light to this world.

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writing monday: who we were

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I was the girl with the bad Dorothy Hamil haircut, who wore hand-me-down clothes and liked to play “explorer” along the side of the creek. I was the goofball girl who talked too much in class. I was the girl who rolled up the right leg of her pants so it didn’t get snagged in the chain, the girl who had to be outside, riding her bike, no brakes, down the 57th street hill and through the stop sign below. I was the girl whose parents smoked and swore, the skinny girl who walked up to Don’s Superette each week and spent all of her allowance on candy….

When we were small, before the opinions of friends, family, and society crept into our heads about who and what we were supposed to be, we were fully ourselves. Fully and authentically ourselves.

Who were you?

If you observe a room of kindergarteners long enough, a spectrum of personalities begins to emerge: the outgoing boy, first to raise his hand, grunting at the teacher to call on him, and the introspective boy, reading a book quietly an a blue square because it’s his favorite color.  The creative girl, tangles in her hair and mismatched clothes, intensely drawing pictures for her friends during “choice time;” and the animal lover, poking her toy stethoscope into the teddy bear’s chest. 

If you observe a room full of kindergarteners, you see a glimpse of the essence and spirit of each child.

Who were you?

Writing Exercise: Beginning with the words, “I was the girl/boy who…” tell the story of who you were as a little girl/boy.

Our stories are powerful reminders of our own essence, spirit, and strength. When we remember who we were and what we dreamed and hoped for, we are better able to ground ourselves in who we are now. Use this prompt when you feel lost or are seeking direction in your life that will resonate with your truth and soul.

 

 

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thank you martin luther king jr.

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writing monday: follow what you love

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Happy Monday People! I want to meet you here, at the beginning of your week, to offer journaling ideas and inspiration to lift your spirit. My hope is to inspire reflection, power, and soul in your work and life through the art of longhand writing. 

I teach Personal Leadership at the University of Minnesota, and every semester, I get to spend time with a room full of students at the edge of their lives, along their rite of passage from dependence to independence. They are eager and they are anxious, each on an individual quest to figure out what they are going to do with their lives.

It is an exciting and profound time, full of possibilities, and I absolutely love to be a part of my students’ transformation.

However, instead of being a time during which young adults are free to explore and discover the world and what they want from life, they are instead sent into a four-year pressure-cooker to prepare themselves for what feels like their entire lives. In this light, epidemic anxiety and depression make complete sense to me–the weight of that expectation is too much for anyone to bear.

Standing in that room, I am mindful of the mythology that is perpetuated at universities and in our society in general, telling us that if we study hard, do our best, play on our strengths, and never let up, we will find that magic key that will open the door to lifetime happiness and success.

Meanwhile, the heart and soul within are devalued in the academic environment, cast aside for the illusion of certainty.

So I stand as buffer, gathering students around me to whisper the truth of life: Follow your heart. Follow what you love like your life depends on it.

Because it does.

This week, spend five minutes a day flash-writing (writing ahead of your self-consciousness, continually moving the hand across the page and your mind across your heart), beginning with the words, “I love…” 

Canvas your mind for everything you love.  For example: I love the first coffee in the morning, I love reading Flow in an epsom salt bath, I love the life Paul and I created for our family, I love Oliver and Lucy’s framed art all over our walls, I love writing, I love reading the “about the author” excerpt in books, I love walking in the woods with Dharma and Fergus…

That which we give attention to grows, whether negative or positive.  Therefore, shine the spotlight on the things in life you love, amplifying them in your mind, on and off the page.  When we dwell on the things that inspire our hearts, they grow resonance in our moments and days.

Don’t worry about what you are going to do with your life.  Rather, let your life resonate with the song of your heart. .

 

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