Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution (with Dancing Bear)

Would you open this box?

I have always been a rule follower.  Are you one , too?

Here’s a partial list of rules I’ve quietly and consistently placed on myself:

  • No junk food during the day (only while watching television, in the dark, when no one is watching (except your husband, lucky him)
  • No deep-fried foods eaten or ordered in public
  • No loaded baked potatoes – just plain, no butter with salt and pepper
  • No mayo on turkey sandwiches (“she likes her bird dry” a former boyfriend once remarked drolly to a deli clerk off some upstate New York parkway)
  • No farting in public (or in front of anyone for that matter)
  • No talking (writing) about private, ugly things that would embarrass or draw attention to or cause pain (shame) to someone I love.  Or to the town I live in.  Or to people who have suffered enough and do not deserve to have scabs re-opened.

Nice box I’ve built, huh?
Very predictable.  Very controlled.  Very safe.

So here comes  our second-to-last Quest 2016 prompt  – tromping down the lane carried in its pretty basket  and gifted to us by visionary Jen Louden (whom I adore):

“What is the story you most desire to bring to life in 2016?
Duh.  The one in the “Do Not Open until Mother’s Day 2016” box.

“What is the story your just-right clients most desire to bring to life in 2016?” Their own story (the one they hide from, shutter away, pretend isn’t there)

Where do your stories OVERLAP?
In that magic space where darkness meets light
And bears dance.

IMG_1524 (2)
Naughty Bear 

This afternoon, on an intuitive leap, in the midst of writing this reflection, I went into my daughter Katie’s room, and asked if I could please have her stuffed bear.

“I guess so,” she says, accompanied by her my-parents are so-weird teen look.

In 1996, this Bear entered my life  – “adopted”  from the Blue Lantern Inn at Dana Point Harbor, CA.  My  first husband Jay & I stayed there on a second honeymoon of sorts.   It was spring and such a sweet beginning time for us – before kids, and just after my leap from corporate america to the land of sole proprietorship (owning my own wedding consulting business).  Possibilities were endless and hope was as high as the moon.

There on the king-size bed, in the pretty suite overlooking the bluffs and the Pacific ocean, was this same stuffed bear.  First he was there, sitting all prim upon the shams, and then , after housekeeping’s turn-down service,  he was caught mid-cartwheel on the pillow.  Obviously, this bear was a mischievous one, one who liked to romp and play when no one was watching. I adored him!   And needed to have him.

So I purchased him at check-out (I didn’t buy “the new one, just-like-this one”bear, the desk clerk tried to sell me from the Inn gift shop, but the one who played and danced in our beautiful room with the view)

For the rest of the trip, I held onto this Bear and looked down at him closely  for many, many precipitous miles, heading south to San Diego along the western-most rim of California on Route 1 (yes, I was on the side closest to the cliffs.)  In years to come, this same Bear would accompany me to our hospital’s  labor & delivery room (twice) and be cuddled every now and then by both my children.

Guess it only makes sense for this same Bear to re-join me now – 20-years later – at the start of this grand adventure  – a kind of falling into the beginning of this StoryBox – with you.

[By the way – I’m calling him Dancing Bear now.   I think it suits him.]


Rounding out WEEK 4 of Quest 2016 on “Doing Your Best Work, Not Someone Else’s” is JEN LOUDEN.

Jen Louden helped launch the self-care movement with her first book The Woman’s Comfort Book (HarperOne 2005). She’s the author of 7 additional books on well-being and whole living, including her most recent book, A Year of Daily Joy (National Geographic 2014). She believes self-love + world-love = wholeness for all.

Work (what is it good for?)


Oh Quest 2016.

Not sure what this question (or this image!)  has to do with anything, but here you go.

Theme:  Prioritize your value
Visionary:  Sally Hogshead
Prompt:  Of these 3 options, which one is most important in your work right now:   (a) Quality of life (b) Quality of work (c)  Quality of compensation 

First thing I did was go to the on-line Merriam Webster dictionary to define the word “work”.   (I often approached college papers the same way – going deep, getting super clear on the topic, checking out its etymology)

noun \ˈwərk\
1:  activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something:  a:  sustained physical or mental effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result b:  the labor, task, or duty that is one’s accustomed means of livelihood  c:  a specific task, duty, function, or assignment often being a part or phase of some larger activity
Old English weorc, worc “something done, discreet act performed by someone, action (whether voluntary or required), proceeding, business;” also “military fortification,” from Proto-Germanic *werkan (cognates: Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Dutch werk, Old Norse verk, Middle Dutch warc, Old High German werah, German Werk, Gothic gawaurki), from PIE *werg-o-, from root *werg- “to do”


So next thing I know, that song “War” (good God) by Edwin Starr is in my head.  (If you don’t remember or know the song, here is a link to it.

Go ahead and click it.  Seriously.  It’s a great song.

And my brain (being so clever) is substituting the word “War” with “Work”

WORK , huh good God
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again . . .”
(Read more: Edwin Starr – War Lyrics | MetroLyrics)

Truth is, I work full-time in (big bad) Corporate America.  There are a lot of good reasons why, but the most important one is compensation.

So guess that’s my answer: Option (c.) Quality of Compensation


But then, my husband Mike walks in to my office (*just as I am writing this)

I say “Listen to this” And then I play this  Work song  (uh, good God) and let him read Sally Hogshead’s prompt.

“Quality of work” he says.  No hesitation.

I rally back “Quality of Compensation”

“Oh really?”  (he is smiling that amused Mike smile).   “So that’s your focus, huh?   That’s why you’re up here working so late?  For a better raise?”

I’m nodding to myself.  Oh yea.  He’s right again.

“Okay, so it’s Quality of Work for me, too”

How about you?


SALLY HOGSHEAD is well-versed in understanding and leveraging your value by the way you captivate and influence those around you.

Sally is a Hall of Fame speaker, best-selling author, and a leading expert on fascination. Her clients have included Intel, Cisco, Million Dollar Round Table, GE, and Intuit. Her recent book How the World Sees You (#2 NYT, #1 WSJ) applies her research in the science of fascination to leaders and change-makers who want to be more of their best.

Inside the lines

pure joy

snow sparks
the day’s brightness
hair, icy wet,
against cheek

we race
holding children
in circled arms
our too-small sleds spin out
toward each other


I wrote this poem in December 2013, but my heart remembered it today when walking the dogs with my husband Mike on the icy pavement, the morning after the first snow of the season.  There was sun, but it wasn’t warm (and certainly not melting anything!), and the morning sky was this bright Virgin-Mary blue against the silvery white of snow on all the branches – and  I could hear, but not see, the sound of children sledding in the school yard, which is near our home – their laughter and shouts like bells, heralding memory in sweet beautiful waves, of childhood and joy and hope – the sound, I have to believe,  the same for all time of children at play in a first snow.

[But then, Dear Reader. if I were to be even more honest with you, which I guess I am being – the seed of this poem hearkens back a million more years to a similar day, in our first family home on Julian Street, when all the kids were small and the idea of racing outside in the snowy cold, dragging sleds and snow-suited children, was not an entrancing idea to most adults.  But it was to me, this absolute need to be outside in it – to be en-wrapped in the magic and beauty of it.  And he, my best friend, but a man married to another, a similarly practical, more sedentary spouse, said “yes, let’s go!” and off we went towing the kids behind us – sledding down hills ourselves, laughing for the pure joy that it brought us and our kids.

It is a memory of love that my heart forever holds – this moment of reveling in life with another, of being truly alive in the world.  It was (and still is) a North Star moment for me.  Its the image my heart holds, reminding what it feels like to be true to myself, what it means to love, to journey with another, and what it means to truly be alive in the world.



Reader, Reader, what do you see?

Thank you, Eric Carle & Bill Martin, Jr.
Thank you, Eric Carle & Bill Martin, Jr.

Reader, Reader, what do you see?

I see a Writer looking at me.

Writer, Writer, what do you see?

I see a Reader looking at me.

With gratitude (and a wink) to Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle for creating the picture book Brown Bear, Brown Bear

In my memory, it is summer and there is still light in the sky and my child is small enough to curl into that soft safe space that is my bent arm and lap.  And I am rocking in that old white-wicker chair, with the milky breath of my child warm on my skin, talking low: 

Blue Horse, Blue Horse, what do you see?
I see a Purple Cat looking at me.
Purple Cat, Purple Cat, what do you see?
I see White Dog looking at me.
White Dog, White Dog, what do you see . . .

How wonderful it is that a story can exist inside us, while holding us, at the same time.

You have permission

Day 12 - Play today

What if we gave ourselves permission to play? To dabble and draw and paint?  What if it didn’t need to be perfect?

What if it was okay to climb a tree barefoot or stretch our toes to the sky on the school-yard swing?

What if we didn’t care what others thought? Or we laughed so hard we a snorted?  What if we built a castle of bright-blue kindergarten blocks and stomped across it like Godzilla? What if we risked looking silly?  What if we sang show tunes to the dog?  What if we skipped down the sidewalk?

What if we bought balloons or cotton candy? or Razzles or Fun Dip?  What if we sat in the front yard wishing on dandelions?  What if we ran through a sprinkler? or drank from a hose? or made paper mache?

What if we didn’t take ourselves so seriously?  What if we softened expectations?

What if we gave each other permission to play?

You have permission to play.

(I do, too.)

Offered with gratitude to fellow artist Suzi Banks Baum. and her Permission Slip project.  When I first met Suzi, what pulled me into her blog was the laundry line image.

I remember as a girl, standing being beside my mother, handing her clothespins, as she was hanging clean sheets on the line.  It was a special job, and made me feel loved and important – the memory of it is steeped in sun and has a clean, breezy smell to it.  The memory feels warm like skin in summer.  I remember wanting to be like my mom, and deciding to create my own clothesline, stretching my green plastic jump rope, up between trees.  I would hang my doll clothes there.

An older neighborhood boy, named Greg, spotted me one day and shouted nastily “Colleen Clothesline!  Colleen Clothesline!”  when he saw what I was doing.  He then shortened it to just  Clothesline  “How’s it going Clothesline?” he’d say every time he saw me, and this lasted for years.

When he said it, I just wanted just to disappear.  I was only  6 or maybe 7.

I never played with my laundry line again.

Permission to play.  It’s an idea worth considering.  Thanks, Suzi, for the inspiration today.

Not sure about the lipstick

Day 10 - Not sure about the lipstickSometimes I put lipstick on to walk the dogs.

Sometimes I put it on here at my desk (I work from home, by myself.)

Sometimes I put it on before my first mug of coffee (wearing my pink bathrobe, my hair not yet brushed)

I learned this “beauty trick” from my Shalimar-scented grandmother Gloria – the one who was an actress and dancer and popcorn lady at the Somerville movie theatre.

When I was a girl, I would sit at my grandmother’s  kitchen table, box of Kleenex next to me, to “mmmwah” lip-kiss marks on.  I’d try out her frosted pink shades, the waxy orange-apricot ones (yick), the dramatic glossy starlet-red ones.  Always, I’d land on some deep shade of berry pink, as my favorite.  My grandmother would agree with my choice, and let me wear the lipstick for as long a time as my visit with her.  (In those days, my mom allowed me only to wear clear gloss or Vaseline.  And yes, I’m seeing the parenting-pendulum swinging wide in the opposite direction )

Like me, my grandmother put lip stick on all the time, not just when leaving the house.

 “I’d look dead without it” I’m remembering her saying.

Lipstick stains on coffee cups and Carlton-brand cigarettes were my grandmother’s signatures, known to all who loved and knew her.  Lipstick added to her glamour, her mystery, her could-have-been-movie-star  aura, which she maintained even after her stroke, during the years she lived in a nursing homes, and the staff called her “Hollywood”.

I’m beginning to rethink lipstick.

On Sunday, reader & friend Dan D. watched my video diary of The New Blank Page Project, which was posted on Facebook.  His comment to me:

“Not sure about the lipstick”

After reading his comment, I re-watched the video.  I could see how my lips looked painted on and not painted well.  The color was uneven and looked silly, clown-like almost. Seeing myself  the way the world saw me, the way people who love and know me do, it made me wonder and question:  What do I want them to see when they look at me?

 Vibrancy. Human-ness.  Passion.
Genuineness. Trustworthy-ness.  Beauty.
Kindness.  Love.  Open-ness.  Understanding.

What does the world see when it looks at you?  What do you want it to see?

With gratitude to reader & friend Dan D. for inspiring this reflection.  Dan and I marched together in the Moorestown high school “standing band” – he played the drums while I played the clarinet.    I think we may have dated once (or at least considered it).  Dan lived on the same street I did, in a blue house with white trim (I think).  His house was closer to Strawbridge Lake than to downtown.  I sauntered by it pretty much everyday while walking the family dog, Annie, to the Lake after school.  Annie was a rescued black lab/wolf mix (according to my hyperbolic mom who loved her and “her spooky yellow eyes”).  Annie used to dumpster-dive at the WaWa (yes, that is really a store in New Jersey : “Mama, I love WaWa!“) during solo (escapee) walks in the opposite direction of Dan’s house. Their cellophane-wrapped bagels with cream cheese were favorites, eaten whole, of course, plastic and all. Annie was a street-smart wolf-dog with a stomach of steel, but that is another story . . ..