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Simple Advice From Last Picked for the Team

Hey guys, what about me? Pick me, please pick me, please…. Guys? This photo makes me smile as well as cringe too. Did you ever experience being the last one chosen for a team? Probably. This was a common and painful occurrence in my childhood that many of you can identify with. About the only time this didn’t happen was when your best friend was the one in charge of picking teams, right? Thank God for friends! However, it was usually one of the more athletic kids, or the popular ones, who were appointed as team leaders. Me— bookish, gangly, uncoordinated, a little bit shy and a whole lot awkward.

How about you?


Growing up memories like these play an important role in your life story. Mine the deep dark depths for the emotion. What parts of those life lessons did you take forward into adulthood?
Do you have a greater sense of compassion because of a painful experience? Describe the how and why.

Did you hone your comic skills out of self preservation or to cope? Many famous comedians have—you’d be in good company. The great comic Robin Williams (1951-2014) once said:

“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy. Because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anybody else to feel like that.”


In a blog post for Psychology Today the day after Robin died, author Mikhail Lyubansky, Ph.D wrote, “So, when you see someone putting on a good show, go ahead and laugh. Robin Williams wouldn’t have had it any other way; neither would the kids I’ve met. But don’t let the humor fool you.”



Are you a better parent, friend, employee because of your empathy? Or maybe you’re inclined to feel anger at injustice. This resiliency shows up in folks who lived through the depression and learned to make do. It shows up in the sense of justice and honor found among many veterans and others who have lived through circumstances much more serious than being picked for a team or not.


My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
Maya Angelou


Write about it. Talk to someone you admire and ask what helped them learn resiliency. Share your thoughts on resiliency and learning from the hard stuff with the next generation, they need to hear it!

Oh, the Adventures You’ve Had

We spent a couple months in New Zealand several years ago. One of the last things we did before heading back to the US was something called Blackwater Rafting. Not all of us remember this positively, but that’s their story. For me there were some pretty profound moments. Well, actually you might call it flat out fear—but you decide for yourself:




Monday 4/18/05

9:00 a.m. Blackwater Rafting. Struggle into thick wet-suits, then drive over to the river to get the inner tubes (flotation devices the guide calls them in her charming accent). We will use these during the adventure. In the southern hemisphere it’s fall and the river is quite low with a dark channel on one side and a deep pool with a white sandy bottom. Beautiful. The guides walk us out to the end of a dock where there are two platforms to jump from, one rising 10 feet above the current water line for use during high water and another at about four feet. It starts to feel like the gangplank scene in every pirate movie I’ve ever watched.


We had to jump off the dock backwards, holding the tubes onto our rumps. Shock of icy water, went all the way under like a bobber snagged by a giant fish. My first thought was a gasping, “I paid money for this?!!” However, the wet suit warms up pretty quickly and there was a fair bit of laughter among the spluttering as the rest of the group plunked over the side.


We are headed to a wild cave with this river running through it; it’s rough walking over the rocks to reach the entrance. And it’s chilly enough to see our breath. Our guides were two stunning, athletic young New Zealand women. In the first part of the cave we float almost flat on our backs and push along the ceiling just a few inches above our faces.


Note: Did you know that there is no suing in New Zealand? For example, if a tourist bungee jumps off the bridge and the rope breaks. Well—ta ta! You had fun going down!  As a result they have all these amazing adventures available, great fun but you take full responsibility for the risk. I think they might actually have a good idea, but that’s another soapbox.


Any rate, back to the river. Our little tour group of floating rubber sausages came to a spot where we were supposed to jump backward, again, but this time off a waterfall. In the dark cave. “Oh by the way, make sure you jump far out so you miss the rocks.” The guide, who by this time I was silently screaming unkind things about, had morphed into Amazon Warrior Woman in my mind. She stared down at my nice middle aged mom self from her six foot height and kept telling me to get closer to the edge. Backwards. “Are you ready?” “No.” “Are you ready now?” No, not yet.” Her, irritated, “I’m going to push you.” “Okay, okay, I’m going.” Actually I’m not sure I voiced anything out loud but there were sure a lot of panicked words going through my adrenaline rushed brain. And one ridiculous line from the movie “Muppet Christmas Carol” “God save my little broken body!”


Cold-cold-cold. Instant body part evaluation, intact, didn’t hit the rocks. Well, thank you, Jesus! Then we floated through caverns with stalactites of all sizes hanging down and glowworms all over the ceiling like gorgeous star constellations. It was surreal. We stopped and just floated below a “waitomo,” a natural window opening into the cave from the ground 60 meters above our heads.


It was worth it but wow, what an adventure. And I tell you, it all came back when I went to see Wonder Woman at the theater recently. I’m pretty sure Guide Girl had a role as an extra.


Now go capture some adventure memories–here’s your tips:

Grab a recorder, your phone or pencil and paper (yes, they still sell this). Find someone to talk to for 30 minutes.

Ask about their most memorable adventure.

How old were they?

Where did they go?

Who were they with?

What happened?

Was it what they expected?

How do they remember the event?—smiles, laughter, fear, embarrassment, anger?  Explore the emotions

Share your stories!

The Life and Times of Old Yeller

Yellow, two tone paint job where the rust spots had been primed and painted over with spray paint, nearly bald tires, oversized speakers crammed in the back window.



Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

Take your life memories surrounding your first car, bring in details, emotion, sounds and smells and let it take you back…


We drove Old Yeller cross country several times between home in New Mexico up to Wisconsin. Its story is linked with the early days of dating and a long marriage. Bought for $1 from my husband’s father; it was the gallant steed that took us across a wide country, away from home to adventure and independence.


We moved in January. Our first week in the north country, we stopped to fill up the gas tank and the man across the pump from us, leaned back, took a look at the license plate and kindly advised us to go home for the day. The temperature had stalled at about 0 degrees and he said it would be safer to explore on a warmer day, giving us a quick lesson in surviving bitter cold. It didn’t take long to learn the routine of dressing in layers, carrying cat litter in the trunk for traction in case you got stuck on the ice, packing a sleeping bag and water too in case of blizzards. We learned early the ease of pushing this little button of a car out of snow banks and we often took it out exploring.


After a couple years Old Yeller’s heater was stuck in the on position. So in summer, the driver’s left foot would nearly ignite under the blast furnace of the heater. But in winter the defrost didn’t work so driving required holding your breath and spraying the inside of the windshield with a jumbo can of de-icer while stopped at a red light. Memorable–and we don’t seem to have killed off too many brain cells.


One cross country trip we drove through an Oklahoma thunderstorm with water shooting up the through the cracks in the floor board. Blew a plug on another trip back to New Mexico and got stuck in the sooner state in a tiny town with “Jesus loves you and so do we” billboards. The garage repairman tried to fix the plug for free and offered for us to stay at his home. We were traveling with our cat and full of adventure so thanked him and opted to sleep in an alfalfa field outside town. Awakened by ominous, growling thunder and rising wind, we stuffed the cat into the front of my coat while my husband shouldered the backpack. By the time we got to town the runoff was hurtling knee high down the street.


This car carried us and our friends on many a camping trip, backpacks stuffed under the front hood that covers the trunk in a VW. I still have a cherished photo of a memorable flat tire incident we shared. Frozen lug nuts. We were eventually helped by an old school gentleman of a crusty rancher way out on that New Mexico back road. We look so young.



Yeller drove us around town on dates, cardboard box of pizza in the back seat, delivered us to glorious sunset picnics on the mesa, oldies station playing on the radio. Once a curious coyote pack yipped their way too close for comfort and we hopped back in the car. From back roads and camping trips to fancy dinners out and cross country moves, this faithful old car delivered.


Finally, the last year of college in Wisconsin, I got in the back seat so we could drive a friend somewhere and the battery fell through the floor out onto the parking lot. We sold Old Yeller for enough money to put side molding on a used truck. The new owner, another poor student, never registered it and it was abandoned and impounded.


I hope it eventually found a new life as some teenager’s hot rod. Thanks for the memories, Old Yeller.

Do You Have the Attention Span of a Goldfish?

Did you know that some studies say the average human’s attention span is 8.5 seconds? That’s less than a goldfish. No kidding. This “factoid” is dependent on the activity and who is conducting the study, however. As my old college professor explained,

“Statistics can be like a drunk holding up a lamppost.”

On that note—here’s a shout out to all those folks over 70 who “remember the time” and a hundred little details from when they were knee high to a grasshopper.


Memory tip for the weekend:

Set a timer for 5 minutes (you can spare 5 minutes, right?) and write down every summertime memory you can think of. Don’t worry about grammar and punctuation; just get the bare thoughts down. 

Here’s what I came up with:


Lying flat in tall alfalfa, staring at the clouds

Driving the hay truck

Horse sweat and sweet carrots

Playing in the sprinkler

Catching tadpoles

Shrieking at huge bullfrogs

Bareback riding in the cool morning

Sloppy watermelons

Hours long Monopoly games

Homemade peach ice cream on the back porch


Summer thunderstorms over the Organ Mountains

Puddle stomping

Swim classes

Scorching steam off vinyl car seats after swimming

Running across hot asphalt in bare feet

Too hot to sleep

Giggling sleepovers with school friends

Swimming in the well water in the ditch

Exploring the cool shade of the pecan orchard

Road trips to new places

Crawdad fishing

Tomato sandwiches

Selling garden veggies from the red flyer wagon


Burned hot dogs and marshmallows


Walking barefoot through the garden

Cold dew in the morning

Dodging toads during flashlight tag

Sparklers and the ouch of stray embers

Playing in the grass with the dog


Now that you’ve done your 5 minute memory list you have story starters for a whole set of memories you can expand on. You’re welcome! Have a wonderful summer weekend.


Confessions of a Devoted Story Hunter

I worked so hard recently to get an interview with an interesting local man. Sitting in the coffee shop, we exchanged friendly greetings but when he saw my pen and paper he determined that he really didn’t want to share his story with others. So I reluctantly put my tools away, knowing I’d never be able to recall and do his memories justice. We spent an enjoyable couple hours riding around in his pickup truck while he told great stories about the valley he’s lived in for 50 years and all the characters up and down the river. He’s a natural storyteller but was reluctant to share with others. While I loved the visit, I was saddened at not being able to share his wealth of experience and keen insight with a broader audience. I can only hope he at least relates these great stories to his family.


Not too long ago I regularly wandered the shops, streets and back roads of a small agricultural community near the larger town that I call home. My assignment was to write profiles for the local paper’s Meet Your Neighbor column. In this village of 644 people I spoke with–

teenagers working in the family chile or onion business, grandparents, unmarried young mothers determined to make a good life for their child, a poet working as a waitress at the local café, retirees sharing squash and tomato plants, an immigrant who had started her own business after supporting her young children by working in the fields, a well known musician and a pair of world class chefs running a bed and breakfast.


That’s a pretty big cross section of humanity.


Many, after hearing my request for an interview, said, “Oh, I’m boring; I don’t have anything to say.” A few settled right in and enjoyed talking about their lives and how they got to where they are. Sometimes folks tried to deflect to the interesting neighbor down the street or up the valley. These were fun opportunities that sometimes panned out when I could say,”Your friend at the library, post office, hardware store, sent me over and said you have some great stories to tell. Do you have time to visit?” One lovely elderly lady is the sole resident who remembers stories about the railway station and the old schoolhouse. She didn’t want to share those however and it’s a sad thing that they will probably die with her.

To that first group who claimed to be boring –I would smile and say,


“No such thing, give me 5 minutes, you would be surprised!”


Invariably they forgot all about the time, relaxed after a bit and just started sharing stories and “remembering the time.” There is a reason this business is called Remembering the Time—it is a universal expression human beings say that makes an immediate connection with others. It is one of the greatest privileges I know to draw those memories out and help people share their life experiences.


People have so many interesting stories and experiences but they are worried/shy that others might not find them interesting so they keep quiet. The world and those they know are missing out on the intriguing occurrences that helped shape that person into who they are. These experiences shape not just individuals but in turn shape the world around us. Your story is too important to keep to yourself.

Share your story!

In fact, can you share this post with your network of friends and family? Send me your stories and I will collect them into a book. Don’t worry if you’re not comfortable writing, just get the story down and I’ll edit it for readability. You can even just tell it to a friend or family member and have them record you or write it down for you. If your story makes it into the published collection I’ll send you a free copy of the book as thanks. You can reach me at

Thank you, from the bottom of my big story-loving heart.

Pick of the Month–Vintage Letter Books

What to do with that collection of old letters? I’m intrigued with creative ideas for preserving and displaying clients’ letters in ways that showcase their uniqueness. While searching for “memory arts” inspiration on Pinterest I found a pin of Sue Bleiweiss’ blog on Vintage Letter Books.

She graciously gave permission for me to share this with you. Turns out this is an old blog and as an award winning fiber artist she is currently creating a variety of other gorgeous  projects. Check out her website at


People are often unsure of what to do with their collection of family letters. Usually letters are stored in a box or bin and it’s difficult to enjoy them easily. I’ve scanned letters into digital format and created an electronic collection something like an e-book on CD. This is a great way to have a backup of hard copy letters for preservation’ sake.

However, the tactile satisfaction of holding an actual letter can’t be beat.

Why not take these one of a kind letters and create your own historical family art? Sue’s idea shows you how to create stunning hard bound books from letter collections. Start with an old hardbound book of your own to get the quality cover and hand sewn spine for a project foundation.  Don’t have an old book? Goodwill and thrift stores can score one for a dollar or two.


Read an excerpt from her blog where she describes several different ways she’s created these vintage letter books:

Letters to Mary…

I have become quite fond of working with vintage documents, letters and photos lately. Recently I had purchased a set of 13 old letters written to a young girl named Mary Helen Epler over the period of 1940 to 1946 and I decided to bind them into a book:

They are all in their original envelopes and looking through them is an interesting way to get a glimpse of what was going on in the world at that time. As I read through them I

learned that Mary’s birthday was July 14th and that she corresponded regularly with her grandpa who suffered a heart attack in 1942 and died shortly after. There’s a letter to her written just a couple of weeks before he died (in the photo below) in which he tells her that the Dr’s told him that spending three more weeks in bed would make him a new man. He was looking forward to listening to the Cardinals and Cubs game later that day and hoped that the Cardinals would win. Just a couple of weeks later she received a condolence letter about his death.

At the time it cost only 3 cents to mail a letter and the postmarks encourage buying war bonds. In a letter to Mary from her Aunt Elizabeth in July of 43 she asks Helen if she and her mother are doing any war work and talks about a gas shortage. There is no mention of Mary’s father in any of the letters.

I thought about these letters as I created the book that I bound them in and I couldn’t help wondering what became of Mary. Assuming that she was a teenager in 46 she could be in her 80’s now. I wonder where she is and what she’s doing and how her letters ended up in the hands of an Etsy seller who sold them to me.


What a beautiful and inspiring way to capture your family’s history. Think what a stunning gift this would make for your parents or grandparents. I’d love to collaborate on a project like this so get in touch if you have a letter collection you’d like to showcase.

5 Tested Themes for Terrific Life Stories

Carpe Diem

I hear over and over “Oh, my life is just ordinary.” Let me respectfully say, you suffer from a lack of vision. No life is just “ordinary.” It is a gift. Read on for five themes to help you take your life story from ordinary to extraordinary.

In the movie Dead Poets Society Robin Williams’ character John Keating challenges his students with a profound statement:

Carpe, carpe. Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.


 Life Lessons—character, honesty, ethics, how to survive an economic depression, how to survive a mental one. What is the most important thing you’ve learned? Now, think small, what are some “ordinary” life lessons that have shaped you? Need some inspiration? Read Robert Fulghum’s best seller:

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sand pile at Sunday School.

Robert Fulghum


People of Influence—parents, friends (enemies?), teachers, mentors, spiritual leaders. Describe your relationship, how you met, what they taught you. Remember, we learn from both positive and negative influences—both shape you. Think about it from both sides of the coin.

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world” Robin Williams’ character John Keating in Dead Poets Society—challenged a group of young men to rise above apathy and make a difference.

Who has challenged you to live intentionally?


Childhood Stories—what was yours like?, What made it unique? Typical? Experiences and people that stood out. Think about the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. While fiction, it takes a brief time period in a young girl’s life and expands, becoming something greater n the process that transcends all of life and continues to impact people to this day.


Travel Memoirs—travel grows us and changes our perspective, expands our world. Pull out photos and journals; think back on the places you’ve been and the people you’ve met. What have you learned? Think beyond international travel. Mark Twain was a master at gleaning great stories from travels and observations just within the United States. You can even micro-focus—adventures around your own state or a close-up look at a lifetime’sLife Direction experiences within your own city. Ramp up your sense of the curious and really study the people and events that have shaped who you are.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.

Marcel Proust


Life Letters—often illuminating. These can be letters you’ve written or those sent to you. Life details and emotions expressed in these letters are a snapshot of a different time, a different you, that although past, have shaped who you are now.

Your life has been full of unique experiences that have changed you, challenged you, given you the skills and tools you need to survive and thrive. Your voice is there—if you haven’t found it yet, begin now.

Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!  –Keating

Your life matters. Make a difference. Share what you’ve learned—pass it on!


Need some help finding the extraordinary in your own life? Contact me for a fresh perspective and coaching on how to communicate your story. or 575-323-1048