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Creative Life

The True Self is 11 Years Old

I’ve been thinking about my 11-year-old self a lot lately.

As I planned my 37th birthday party, as she always does, 11-year-old Rose piped up, “No boys allowed! No way!” (Not even my husband or son get invited— they are expected to lavish me with attention earlier in the day, secure in the knowledge that I will save them each a slice of cake).

When a friend texted, “Hey, my birthday is just a few days after yours— some time we should have a joint party!,” 11-year-old Rose laughed out loud. Besides the fact that I insist on having the party on my actual birthday, I assured my well-intentioned friend that, practical though it may be, 11-year-old Rose would definitely not be willing to share. What day besides your birthday gets to be truly, guiltlessly, indulgently about You?

At the party itself, over peach pie, chocolate mousse, and whiskey, someone said “This is so fun! No one ever has birthday parties anymore.”

Why ever not?

I’m pretty sure I’ve thrown myself a party almost every year since I turned 21, when I reserved a couple lanes at the Bryant Lake Bowl and bought a taco bar— surely not a small expense compared to my rent-to-income ratio at the time— and totally worth it.

And just a month after we’d moved to India with a toddler, when I was still getting used to a new culture, checking my child’s shoes for scorpions, and living at 7,000 feet of elevation, I asked the most extroverted person I’d met to organize a ladies-only dinner party. I felt pretty shy, I had no idea who would come, and I had to borrow cash from a motherly near-stranger before going out for the night because my bank card hadn’t arrived yet. But I was turning 29 and that warranted a celebration.

I know I’ve missed a few here and there, but the standard is: It’s my birthday and I’m having a party. There will be delicious desserts (which I will bake) and probably some lake-lounging time, and all my favorite ladies. (And I can invite more than three people because we don’t all have to fit in my mom’s van!)

 

It’s sort of a surprising thing, more than 25 years later, to see how much of my attention and energy goes toward resolving and/or delighting preteen desires. But it also makes total sense: 11 is the age of the true self, a foot in both worlds.

11 is a big transition time. It was the year before 7th grade for me: the era of intense girlfriend drama, my first boyfriend, and, in our little town, the start of high school with 7-12 all in one building.

At 11 I was not yet a teenager or an adult, but I was no longer a little kid. (Though it took another year of pleading with my Mom, and finally an outright boycott at age 13, I was old enough to stay home by myself after school without a babysitter, and even be responsible for my younger sisters.)

I knew at 11 I wanted to be an actress and a writer; and that’s what I’ve done ever since, for fun and for money. I still stand by my fashion sense from 1993 (one distinctive sweater dress comes to mind, and for my birthday this year I wore an extravagantly beaded and sequined top; I also recently bought a 12 color eyeshadow palette, because, why not?).

11 was a quick window between little kid-hood and the angst of crushes and social hierarchies and adult expectations. It was the beginning of being fabulous, the start of choosing to become the person I am today; 11-year-old Rose is the goal, the true north, the notes all ringing clear and in harmony with each other.

 

I wonder what your 11-year-old self has to say to you. What she loves, fears, longs for. Because the upside of being an adult is that it’s all possible. And the fears aren’t as scary as they used to seem: I’m the kid and the mom— I have kept another human alive for 9 whole years, after all; a really nice, thoughtful, funny, clever human, no less, who can cook really good scrambled eggs! I have only rarely fed him cereal for supper. I have faked bravery and held his hand when he got stitches. I have helped him do what interests him even when it doesn’t interest me (Legos, Snap Circuits, Dungeons & Dragons). Without a doubt, I can do that for my younger self, too.

I don’t need anyone else’s permission or money— though I do wish for a windfall now and then, I have saved up and replaced a house’s worth of windows, I have gotten cars repaired, I have paid rent and mortgages, I have researched how to fix a leaky toilet: I can definitely buy a nyckelharpa / get braces/travel to beautiful places / learn to sew my own clothes / get a stray cat fixed / whatever.

I also don’t have to be a Grown-Up about it all. I don’t have to be a 1950’s clock-in-at-9-cocktail-at-5-wax-my-car-on-weekends sort of creature.

Now that my son is out of the I-have-no-skills-to-stay-alive-on-my-own stage, I get to return to my younger self, I get to be playful, I don’t have to focus on survival— my own, as a kid in a grown-ups’ world, or his.

When we move beyond survival, we can thrive, and it turns out I really like the ideas 11-year-old Rose had. She had no mobility, no money, no autonomy other than in her imagination; now I get to have all the resources of adulthood and her wise instincts and dreams.

I hope you do too— I hope all of us return to those younger, wiser, magical selves and bring all the grown-up skills and resources to not only be safe, but to live in delight.

 

Every year at my party I hand out index cards and instruct the guests to write my fortune for the coming year. No one ever writes “Your stocks will go up,” or “Your bathroom will be spotlessly clean.”

Every prediction, every magic wish is one of which 11-year-old Rose would heartily approve.

sparkly birthday selfie

Anniversary

Twelve years ago on October 12th, I finished my show as Pippi Longstocking at the Norsk Høstfest and walked around to say hello to the wood workers.

There was a cute guy in suspenders and a plaid cap, carving a timberframe trestle. I stayed in character… And stopped by again later.

We went to the Ground Round for supper (along with my mom and some of the North House ‘old guys’). We spent the next 4 days of the festival together, making plans for trips to Prague and India. (Charlie the birch bark guy said “don’t go getting married tonight!”)

A week later I visited Grand Marais for the first time. We kayaked Lake Superior (and got soaked), slept in a yurt, looked at stars on the Bridge of the Master, and I kissed him on Fishhook Island.

In January we got engaged.

In August we got married.

Since then we’ve lived in the Twin Cities in an old farmhouse, at a canoe camp at the edge of the Boundary Waters, in the Indian Himalayas, in a yurt at a CSA, and now at the B&B.

I know weddings are a big deal, but the day we first met always seems like the most magical anniversary to me. ❤

Pie Class

I taught my first pie workshop at North House Folk School to a group of 8th graders from the Virgin Islands!

 

I grew up in Braham, the Homemade Pie Capital of Minnesota. (Really– it’s official. We have a document from the governor).  Our Pie Day festival is the first Friday in August, and some 600+ fruit pies are made by volunteers each year. Plus, there’s a pie baking contest, a pie eating contest, and maybe a little pie-ing in the face.

some of the Pie Day volunteers. (photo source: facebook page)

I grew up baking pies with my grandma. There’s something deeply comforting in the twist of the pastry cutter through lard and flour, the clack of the rolling pin, and of course, the rich flavor of berry filling in a tender crust.

I approached North House Folk School with a bunch of ideas for baking classes (brunch, coffee cakes, Scandinavian pastries), and they loved the idea of a pie class.

Before my first class I called my mom up; I needed another experienced baker to be my sounding board. Was estimating half a pie per person too much? Was five pies in three hours totally crazy, especially with 12-year-olds?

Getting serious with a flow chart.

I’m happy to report that the class went wonderfully! The kids were great; they were creative with spices, and even did all the dishes!

We made

  • apple-cranberry galette
  • blueberry with a lattice top
  • whiskey-ginger-peach
  • mixed berry pocket pies
  • and cheater cherry pie (canned filling and homemade whipped cream)

Teaching pie baking revealed how much I know without knowing I know it. (For example, I had never noticed that I tap pie crusts to test they’re doneness).

I was also delighted to discover I wasn’t an uptight teacher. I always prefer baking solo, and I was a little worried they hyper-critical introvert cook in me might not enjoy this. But it was lovely. To be able to bake a pie feels like proof that you can survive in this world– not just on bread and water and potatoes, but that you can turn very simple things — flour, fat, water, salt, fruit– into something elegant, beautiful, and deeply satisfying.

I also realized that though the kids didn’t make stock photo-worthy pie crusts (an impossible first-time feat), even a messy pie is a beautiful pie. Brush a little egg wash on and the crust shines golden yellow. Didn’t pinch the crusts together properly? Oozing blueberry filling makes a pie look alive, real, made by a human being.

So, all in all, a VERY gratifying experience: delicious pies were made, kids were creative, and I even did some drawing that has me scheming about a hand lettered mini recipe book.

If you’d like to schedule a class, see the brochure or contact North House.

Add a Little Circus to Your Author Talk

I performed stories from The Marvelous Imagination of Katie Addams over the weekend. I’m still not sure what to call it– but I knew that “author talk” was not going to turn a lot of heads.

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So I put on my storytelling hat (or in this case, sparkly skirt) to add some oomph to the event. I wanted to stand out– for it to be obvious right away that this was going to be FUN. (And I’ve always found costumes liberating; No point in being shy if you’re already wearing a square-dance-worthy crinoline and stripy tights, right?)

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I listed potential stories; stand-alone bits that I could tell without giving away the overall plot, but which would have all the satisfaction of a good folk tale. (Click here for a free download of five of my favorites)

Though I didn’t refer to the cards, I brought them along; there’s nothing worse than drawing a blank on what story you planned to tell next!

I told “The Hot Air Balloon Race,” “The Pharaoh’s Tomb,” and “Godfather Death,” plus some nice little transitions about my cousins’ farm (of which the Johnson farm in the book is pretty much a complete copy). I answered a few questions, and then closed with “Letter From Antarctica.”

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It was a wonderful event! The stories flowed. I didn’t get stuck on specific words– a real concern since I never wrote down my oral stories but always worked them up aloud. It was fun to see where embellishments came in that don’t exist in the book.

Three times as many people showed up as the library expected, including a guy I’ve seen there many times but have never spoken to. He turned out to be a Pillar Listener– his face lit up, he was so engaged and, unlike my dear Midwesterners, he showed it! Whenever I was wondering if people were really with me, if my crazy outfit was too over-the-top, I panned over to him and got an infusion of creative affirmation.

Afterward, my friend Jeff Niesen gave me this! The slightly Tim Burtonish version of me (!!) and some of the characters from the stories.

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“Absolutely wonderful new juvenile book at the library.” -Grand Marais Public Library

“Terrific book reading Rose… such a gifted writer AND performer!” -Mica

One librarian told me ‘I wouldn’t just say this– I read a LOT of books– But I just LOVED it!’ As someone who has loved libraries forever (and regarded them as magical places), this is high praise where it counts. (And it’s pretty cool to see my book on the shelves– even cooler to find out there’s a waiting list for it. I love my community!)

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Click your heels. Make your wishes. Try something new. Tell stories you love.

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Wishing you some sparkle and color in your day!

What Feeds the Soul

My own art, other people’s art– it’s all part of being an advocate for Joy.

When we all experience life as being Magical and Good, then we don’t have anything to be afraid of.

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Ennis made some gorgeous watercolor art in school. I must be biased– how magical to see a person I “made” go on and make something– but irrespective of his parentage, I love the way he draws, the asymmetry and the way the paint bleeds.

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Don’t know if Per (pronounced “pear,” the Swedish way) is equally impressed, or what her personal philosophy on the Easter Bunny might be.

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Friends (and soon-to-be Grand Maraisans) were up over the weekend. Thank goodness their kitchen was out of commission and they came to our house to dye eggs– otherwise I would have missed it.

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More Ennis Art: “Monster and Tree Monster.” I’d like to screen print a t-shirt with the fellow on the left…

 

 

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I came across a new book! I’m typically anti-series; it so often feels like the story was drawn out for marketing reasons rather than to best tell the Story– but this was fun and I’ll read the rest of the trilogy. I love doorways and portals to other worlds!

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The fabulously talented Jeff Niesen came to my book performance at the library. I saw him sketching as I told stories from “The Marvelous Imagination of Katie Addams.” Lucky me– afterward he GAVE this to me! Here I am along with some of the characters from the stories.

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Sharing art, doing what’s easy for you and passing it on– that’s the best magic of all. I love that I told stories (pretty easy for me after 14 years), and Jeff just doodled this.

Wishing you much mutual inspiration and generosity!

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How Marketing Can Be Fun

Seth Godin talks about ‘New Marketing’ in his book Meatball Sundae.

In  short, he says that Old Marketing (inundating an unsuspecting but captive mass audience with your product in hopes that some of them would buy it) only worked when people had no choice or control.

Now we can skip commercials via Tivo or online streaming, tailor our ads; we never have to watch a commercial.

Now the winning approach is based not on HOW MANY but WHO.

It’s about finding your tribe and sharing your story (and services) with them.

There’s no one to convince or Stun into submission– it’s all connection.

Instead of trying to make you believe you want what I’ve got, marketing is about finding the people who already want it.

And that’s more of an adventure, a treasure hunt.

That’s being an explorer.

That’s how marketing actually sounds fun.

Honesty and Trust, Patreon and Amanda Palmer

I think the idea of Patreon is fascinating: the freedom and space to make your art for free (for everyone), and the gift of your community providing for you.

Amanda Palmer inspires me.

She models a life of trust.

Trust is essential, the whole context in which art is created.

(I trust in the Source enough to write down this story, to step onstage, to paint the unseeable).

She takes it to a greater level of trusting as a way of LIFE– not just a way of ART.

And with Patreon there’s no ‘selling,’ no convincing anyone your art has value.

It’s all voluntary.

It’s all a gift.

This feels much more honest to me, how it already really is, this Abundance.

The Tweet-Sized Essay

The Copy Cure (Marie Forleo and Laura Roeder) said you can write a blog post with a tweet– that no one ever opened an email and said, “Man, that was too short!”

When I started thinking about life in facebook posts, (as in, “Oh, I’ll say…”) I felt a little worried.

It’s gross to always be broadcasting.

For a w hile I decided if I wanted to post a status, I actually had enough to say in a blog post– and I did.

Now I’ve been cutting way back on online time again– ‘Living Locally’– and I feel the shift happening again: I want to write.

To people.

But I want to write a letter, pass a note– sign your yearbook– not shout in a megaphone.

It feels beautiful to write out compact thoughts, to explore and give value and time to snippets.

And it’s true:  There’s a whole blog post or poem or letter in a tiny tweet.

Evidence: This one is written on two sides of a recipe card.

Take Comfort in What I’m Telling You

Dear Younger Rose,

By the time I write this to you, things that seem impossible to you have already been done a dozen times.

Publishing books is easy.

Connecting with readers is easy.

And making a good living writing, channeling, sharing creativity and being SEEN is easy. It’s LIFE now.

I believe you that it feels hard and impossible. It happens anyway. You can’t stop it, it’s just how our life goes. Isn’t that a comfort? So try not to kick and fight so much along the way. Certainly don’t berate yourself. It all turns out. I know because I live it now.

My life is good now because of all the things you’ve been doing, even the things that at the moment seem like nothing. Starting to write a few short blog posts has led to books on creativity and support, and professional speaking tours that open people up to themselves and their Muse.

Lizzie’s story as a trilogy is complete and wonderful! It’s widely read and well-loved. It has changed people’s lives. It’s beautiful writing and it has been pivotal in the story of women, identity and worth.

And yeah, I’ve met Philip Pullman and Neil Gaiman. (And once you get a letter from Older-Older Rose you’re going to find out and have to accept that we’ve been given an Astrid Lindgren award. Pretty cool, huh?)

But the most amazing and wonderful thing is that you’ve kept writing. I’ve kept writing. We write every day. I live a life I love because of you, because of all the shit and tangled stuff you’re stumbling through. It really has made a huge difference. Thank you for doing that, especially when it just feels like wasted energy, like spinning your wheels. It’s not, I promise.

I have a 401k and a retirement account. I have full health care. Yes, I finally got braces. It was easier and quicker than you think it will be.

And Ennis turns out amazing, like you always knew he would. He’s still my best teacher and the most beautiful person I’ve ever met.

And things are good with Jay, too. I know that’s been a sore subject for a while and you don’t really want to open up and hear it, but all that messy, painful stuff wasn’t such a big deal. It works out, really, and it’s not just tolerable. We really do understand each other better. Again, all that messy shit you’ve been going through that feels so pointless and painful is what has made all this possible. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The house got painted.

The laundry got folded.

The addition got finished.

The savings account filled up.

The credit cards went to zero.

The cat lived along and happy life.

You got a dog who was wonderful.

Your mom moved to Grand Marais.

You forgave yourself for not being able to save your parents’ marriage.

You started writing letters again and now I get to open the p.o. box to a rainbow of lovely words from around the world.

You biked around Britain with your family.

You learned how to do acupuncture and energy healing.

You got back into exercising (and you dropped off and got back on again, but you accepted the cycle).

You acted in so many plays! So many great plays!

And you opened up to people you love.

You gathered your tribe around you, and now I am wise and grounded and I get to be free with them– I get to share and love freely and fearlessly, and I’m so happy.

That weight on your chest is gone.

You DO get enough sleep.

You DO have a healthy life. It really just was the young-child-years that felt to busy and exhausting. Don’t worry, you don’t go back to them.

I know you’re aching for all of this now. I feel the waves of your deep longing across time. Take comfort in what I’m telling you: that it all comes to good. This life comes to good! Every moment of imperfection is not to be seen as evidence of failure– they become so unremarkable with time! In the golden light of where I am now. The edges soften and things make so much sense.

I know you don’t want to waste anything.

I know you want to be enough.

I know you want to rest.

Be enough.

Rest.

Let go of everything and nothing is wasted.

Every good thing? You deserve it.

I give it to you as a gift because I adore you, no other reason.

Take it easily and do whatever you want with it– there are no strings attached.

If you would like to send me a present, my favorite thing in the world is your joy. Your light. What I want most is for you to live easily, to feel the space around you, to know that you are exactly enough, exactly right, exactly the only way I could ever possibly want you to be. I don’t mean be kind to yourself in a lie. I mean be alive and joyful and free in the truth that there is nothing wrong with you; there is nothing wrong here. Nothing wrong at all.

You are exactly right.

I love you completely.

Goodnight.

-R.

I Took a Solo Retreat

I took a 5 day solo retreat in early August.

I was scared– so much time, what would I do?

Just me and myself– what would we talk about?

I sensed I shouldn’t make it a “production” retreat.

I needed to recharge.

I would do my standard amount of fiction writing for Friday and Monday to stay on track– that was it.

I journaled.

I read two YA novels.

I sat by the lake and did nothing– was blank, like the stones I sat on.

I swam often because it was hot.

I paddled my kayak to the Palisades, one of my favorite Boundary Waters spots.

I listened to loons.

I listened to my own strange circuitous, critical, whimsical loop of thoughts.

I slept about 12 hours a day.

I loved it.

I ate blueberries, half-crouched and grazing like a bear (in a pink bikini).

I talked (aloud) to myself.

I lived without pressure, hurry or expectation.

It reset me.

It brought me back to myself:

Home.