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Actively Nurturing  Positivity

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

A Facebook friend got helper fatigue and posted about her need to rest. She had started seeing only the troubles in the world and felt deep despair.

I’m not blind to injustice and pain. In fact I have an over-functional “empathy gene” that I’m sure my father shared. I can’t go to movies or watch TV. I can’t tolerate music with a lot of dissonance or minor chords.

Because of this, I need to work hard to keep positive. I can’t function when I allow a fearful feeling in my gut.

Here is what I shared with my Facebook friend. I do hope it helps her… and I hope sharing it here may help you, too. (We all face rough days.)

How I Stay Up
(Where I focus) There are SO MANY good people in the world, I meet new ones every day. I look for them.

I had a friend lose her wallet after dark on the riverwalk trail here a month or so ago. Got it back. I’ve had phones and keys and wallets returned. Even had a cabby come back to give me my camera… In VEGAS! And a public bus driver stopped his route to bring me my big bag on my honeymoon in Madison Wisconsin.

In ’75 a friend left her SUITCASE on the subway in Toronto and got it back. I left a handspun shawl on a train from Toronto to Montreal only 3 summers ago, and got it back.

NONE OF THESE MADE THE NEWS. Only exceptions make it in. We are fed the dramatic exceptions in service of advertising, at least on any of the services we get for “free” (excepting public TV and radio.) this includes Facebook and the like. 

Ears take in everything. Make sure you don’t listen to any news at all. Let music be your drug and listen to select pieces to bring you up. Here is a “Stand Tall” optimistic playlist I put together for a friend going through a divorce, on YouTube:

Find a toddler or puppy and drink in their enthusiasm for life. Treat yourself to swinging on the swings at a park, or a favorite coffee, tea, or cheese. Find a farm market and give your money to a farmer who grew your food and thank them.

Go on a long walk or sit on a porch with earphones feeding you peaceful sounds. I often choose Ladysmith Black Mambazo or James Taylor, you may prefer Michael Buble or Frank Sinatra or madrigal singing. No minor keys or dissonance…

It’s time for extreme measures to get yourself noticing the good people again. They are everywhere.

Photo: a 5-year-old child I love, gathering violets out of my side yard. Time with youngsters really heals my anxiety. 

Choosing Ease over Ceaseless Striving

Monday, June 1st, 2015

The New York times published an article called The Small Happy Life. I found it  a thoughtful essay. I relate.

After daddy died (I was 14), besides holding relationship more dear, I was a “Live! Live! Live!” Grrrl. I felt I needed to be/do/think big. (The inner frenzy now reminds me of the Peter Gabriel song, Big Time.)

Now I have a wonderful, contented life. We have a modest home in a modest city instead of the condo in Chicago with a view of Lake Michigan that I nearly bought. We sing at nursing homes and make folks light up and sing along, instead of me singing solo on a big stage or in a movie s I dreamed as a child. I have no unsecured debt, and at present no car or house payment… Instead of the expensive hair, clothes, shoes, and credit card/car payments I had when I was trying to impress others and myself. 

Ironically, I have more friends and more ease than I ever imagined… and I love being an adult. Life is full and joyful. I have never laughed so much!

I once truly had a job with a key to city hall. It paid well and someone’s else sorted my mail for me. I had another job where the secretary supported my needs (after I had been the secretary myself for years). Now I work more hours for less pay, but fewer expenses… and am content. 

And my husband lights up when I walk into the room. Who needs designer clothes? This is the life.  

Big Time by Peter Gabriel

World-Shaking News for Our Friend

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

…the sun keeps shining through the driving rain
And I know that we can turn it around.
— Workingman’s Hymn, Josh Davis

I just broke down and bawled.  Our friend Josh Davis wrote a song called “The Workingman’s Hymn” and he recorded it last night for NBC’s The Voice.
At noon today, The Workingman’s Hymn was number 9 on the iTunes singles chart! This is not just a song Josh performed, this is a song he WROTE.

I talked to my brother this morning. He is out of work again, a computer professional with current certifications who is highly regarded, but also over 50. (Most computer work is contract now.) 

My brother said when he heard The Workingman’s Hymn last night, it gave him goosebumps. He is living the story in that song right now. 

When I got off the phone, I went to YouTube and watched the video for the song. And sobbed gut-wrenching tears… for the hope in the song, for the future of Michigan, and for Josh. 

As an artist and musician, I have watched this show as a peer. I have learned about performing, staging, costuming… and that truly even the glamor job of musician is a “workingman’s” hard job. You can’t afford an off day on that stage (and all the hours preparing for it). 

Please go watch this video. It will surely improve your outlook even if you don’t know Josh. 

Watch The Voice tonight, Tuesday May 19, 8-9pm Eastern (followed by a 2-hour special which promises a huge roster of amazing singers… The top 20 from this season and a roster of well-established professionals.  

PS  Josh’s other solo single, Hallelujah, was #12. Nice job, friend. 

Kindness Heals the Heart

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

throw kindness around like confetti!-Kid President
I started the day discouraged. Nobody can function when they are down like that. I needed a change.

Just as music can be a drug and determine your mood for the day, so can other things such as videos and reading material.

be the reason somebody dances this week!-Kid President
I needed a better mood. I needed to change my direction. Fortunately, Kid President came to mind. Just the thing!
Watch this. Giggle. Go on recharged. It only takes 3 minutes, less time than getting up for a drink of water.

DO it! Click!

 Kid President screengrab 

Friend Josh Davis, on The Voice, needs you!!!

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Joshua Davis on The VoiceLongtime readers here know that I sing with my husband Brian, as The Fabulous Heftones. One of the amazing things about singing professionally is that I get to meet and jam with other musicians who are top notch. It’s a joy!

One band we’ve known for about 15 years is Steppin’ in It. They played weekly (for years) at the Green Door, a music venue on the Eastside… my favorite part of town!

#DavisNation @JoshuaDavis77About Joshua Davis
Josh Davis is the front man for Steppin’ in It, and writes many of their songs. Lately he’s been doing more solo work (they all have). Josh got a surprise call from NBC’s show The Voice, and is on the current Season 8.

I don’t watch TV… we literally have no way to watch at home. I’d never heard of The Voice. But with my friend on it, I’ve been finding ways to watch.

The Voice is a Class Act
I’m really impressed at the respect the contestants receive from the celebrity coaches, and the way they are set up to cooperate and learn to feel connected to each other in spite of the competition. Very refreshing!

Please Support Josh: Vote before Noon Tuesday!
Josh is now in the final 12 people. At this point, the celebrity coaches can not impact if he moves on or not. It’s all up to us, the public. If he is in the top vote-getters, he can complete the competition. If not, he goes home. Please consider helping him out. (There are videos below to show you why he is worthy of your votes.)

Each fan can vote up to 41 votes.

To help, you must vote by noon, Tuesday 4/14!!!

Here are instruction pages on how to do it:

How to Vote for Joshua Davis on The Voice from Earthwork

The Lansing State Journal: How to vote for Josh Davis by Anne Erickson

Listen to Joshua Sing
Here is a video of the song he sang Monday 4/13. (America by Simon & Garfunkel, a wonderful song.) If you download it from iTunes before noon ($1.29) it will count as one vote and you can listen to Josh serenade you whenever you want!

And besides… Josh’s voice singing Simon and Garfunkel? I must confess I cried.

Here he is singing “Budapest,” a song that was a hit in Europe. I didn’t know it, but I think it’s my new favorite recording.

Thanks for your support and your consideration. Hugs from Michigan’s music heartland.

Above the Daisies!

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Just being alive is enough.colored daisies

I get confused about priorities, I get distracted constantly, I mismanage my time, I make choices that later I think might have been best made a different way.

However, I have people who love me and work I am excellent at doing, and a community, and a great family (by birth, marriage, and choice) and I am ALIVE.

As mom says, I am “above the daisies.” I really can’t want for anything else.

Be Mean! (Don’t live afraid.)

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015


My father, Verling C. “Pete” Troldahl, died in 1973, at age 40. I was 16. Today would be his birthday… I think he’d be 82, maybe 81 if I counted wrong.

An Odd Motto
As a kid, when we would leave the house, Mom would say “Be Careful!” Dad would chime in “Be Mean!”

He knew we were good kids. He didn’t mean it literally… he just didn’t want us to live scared. I have never forgotten that lesson.

Daddy died at 40. He’d be 82 today, I think. I miss him nearly every day.

My Wish for You
Today could be your last day. Let that knowledge give you the strength and determination to live without fear, or at least know you can’t make yourself safe anyway. Act as if today were your last.

Go forth, and be Mean!!!

(Photo of me in 3rd Grade, Daddio in 12th Grade.)

My Birthday Gift to You

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

legwarmersview1tapFish-200x300NOTE: Sale extended to December 31!

On Friday, I turned 56 years old and this blog turned 12. I’m celebrating, in part, by going on a trip down memory lane. You belong in this story… join me if you will.

I gave myself ColorJoy (the blog… “Art as an everyday attitude”) as a birthday present in 2002, after wanting one for a long time. You know, my family owned small-town newspapers and both my Grandma Ruthie and Uncle OT wrote columns for those papers. My Gramma Illa wrote a column for a several-state-wide farming magazine, too. It just felt natural that I would write one also.

Six Baby Chippy SocksWordPress says that this is my 3,250th post! There would be no point in posting if nobody was out there listening. Since the very beginning, I’ve enjoyed getting to know you. Several folks have been with me since the very beginning.

As a community-focused person, I value you and your input here. Life is much better with you in it.

Patterns for this Community

When I first started knitting again, I made things up on the needles. That’s just how it made sense to me. I was a computer trainer, and an after-hours artist. Right away you started asking me for patterns. And thus this new life started.

Road-Tested Noro LegwarmersOn Ravelry.com, I now have 38 patterns available as downloads in my PDF pattern store. I’ve written more which were published by others (Knitty.com, Willow Yarns, the book Joy of Sox and more). Adding those in, I show 59 designs on Ravelry. Whew! And you have been with me every step of the way… test knitting, encouraging me, keeping me grounded.

A Thank You Sale (not on Black Friday)

Though my Blogiversary was on Friday, I could not stand to offer you a thank you sale on that day which is full of other you-don’t-need-this sales at malls and big box stores. Ugh. I waited until the frenzy had slowed down a bit.

So… to thank you for being on this lovely journey to creativity and colorful knitting, I’m offering a sale now.

One-Day NeckwarmerUntil December 7 31, buy 3 of my single patterns (regularly $6) and get one more free! Just choose 4 patterns, put them all in your shopping cart; when you check out, you will see the discount in your total.

That is only $18 for four of my designs, written by me, in language you know you understand. This is less than dinner with a friend, and it will give you hours of enjoyment.

I test and proofread (with help from this community) before I release patterns. If you have any hiccups while working through the pattern I am here to make sure you succeed.

(You don’t need a Ravelry account or a Paypal account to participate in this offer. I use these companies to deliver your order.  No signing up required (though Paypal makes that option a little hard to find).

Your Favorites

But which ones might you choose? Here are some hints. Of course, there are more to choose from when you go directly to my Ravelry online store.

Colorama Crescent Shawl in 4 sizesShown here are some of your favorite patterns over the years. The Road-Tested Legwarmers outsell all my other Ravelry patterns by leaps and bounds. Let’s face it, lots of us get chilly and winter coats are often not long enough for comfort. These can be for dance, for fun, for staying warm in a drafty home, or for fashion. They include knit to fit instructions for any legs and any yarn gauge.  Here I show them knit in purple solid Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted and Noro Kureyon.

Also shown are my Chippy Socks for Kids (thus named because I couldn’t stop at knitting just one pair). These are perennial baby shower gifts.

twistedcoloramaBThe Keys and Coins Hat can be made with or without ear flaps. My friend Bonnie has made close to two dozen of these, and has the pattern memorized now. They are pretty quick knits and very impressive as a gift.

Colorama Crescent Shawl comes in 4 sizes and can be knit in zigzag stripes or in one yarn (which shows off beautiful feather-like stitchwork as seen in the final photo… that one is knit in handpainted yarn from my friend Meg at Twisted Fiber Art). It is a very pleasant knit with a nice rhythm to it. There are only 3 places where you need to pay close attention. The rest is knitting that can be done while chatting with friends. And it’s very wearable! Small versions can scrunch up like a scarf and I wear my Goddess size wrapped around me like Stevie Nicks in 1978.

What else? The holiday-gift favorite One-Day Neckwarmer, which made the Patternfish Top-Ten Cowls… distinction. It really does knit up in part of a day. It takes less than 50 grams of light worsted weight yarn in two colors, so two 50 gram balls gets you two gifts. I have one in merino and angora that I wear in our house when I get chilly.

Is it Too Mushy…

LynnH…too mushy to say I appreciate you… that I am so deeply grateful that I’m in this place in life that I can write to you here? That we have this community together?

It’s way better than a newspaper column. You can comment back and we can chat.

I hope you enjoy my Blogiversary as much as I do! Hugs from Lansing, Michigan, USA!

This brought me to tears.

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

A Gut Reaction

I could talk about how I was an insecure young person… and think I’m talking about my unique characteristics. For the record, I have never looked insecure on the outside because I talk a lot, which looks like confidence.

Yet a few years ago I got clear that even people who look like they have always belonged… even those people can feel like they don’t fit in. A friend who lives a house she likes, a neighborhood or two from where she grew up, who in her 50’s does the work she trained to do in her teens, who married her high school sweetheart and is still happily married? She commented to me once about “those of us who are creative” (implying that we don’t fit in the norm).

Jonathan Fields of Good Life Project (his podcast is wonderful… check it out) says that in the midst of people we often feel alone and lonely. It can be so very true!

It’s a sad truth that we humans need to belong and yet we feel like we don’t belong more often than not. And when we feel insecure, the first thing we tend do fuss with is our appearance. We worry about our weight, our skin/zits, our weight, our hair cuts, our clothing, where we live, what we drive… and more.

Where We Least Expect It

Even in an environment of general support we can feel off center at times. Once I complained that a group of women in my dance troupe were all expected to wear the same type of costume for a dance.

My intent was to support those who would feel/look more beautiful in a different silhouette. The look on one dancer’s face told me that what she heard was that I thought she wasn’t beautiful enough in the chosen costume. My opinion that another costume would be better means that I didn’t think they looked good in the required costume. Ouch. (I’m still squirming about that misstep.)

I picked up a copy of O magazine (by Oprah Winfrey’s organization) last spring. There was an article on decluttering which interested me. I love some of her regular columnists including Brené Brown. Yet the front cover of that magazine had an article titled “Diet or Exercise: The real key to weight loss, once and for all.” And inside? Advertising all over selling products to slow down or eliminate aging, or cover flaws. Flaws?

My Obvious Flaw that Some Don’t Notice

I tell you what… Once I made friends with a lovely 5-year old on a day-long train ride to Montreal When we said goodbye she asked… “do you have a pink tooth?” I said yes, that it was an “owie” a long time ago but it doesn’t hurt now.

yarnbomblynn192x191I have a damaged front tooth because of an ill-fitting orthodontic retainer when I was about 16 years old. It shows up on photographs. I figure that some day I’ll get the veneer that would make it less noticeable in photos. I almost did it ten years ago and decided against it for a number of reasons.

However, I smile a full-tooth smile every day. I laugh every day. And the people I’m close to don’t even notice that tooth until I mention it. They see the real me, which comes through very strongly above how my tooth looks.

That tooth is a reminder that things went permanently wrong when I obeyed blindly even when things didn’t feel right (“don’t take off the retainer no matter what…” and thus even when it hurt unmercifully I didn’t take it off and it killed a nerve). So the flaw, if there is any, is in my teen self being a good girl and following orders even when my gut told me that something was wrong.

My Story: Young Adult Insecurity

When I was younger, my tendency to worry about being accepted came out in an  impulse to buy things that would make me feel more acceptable. If I was being interviewed for a job, I bought a whole new fancy suit and raincoat rather than perhaps standing tall in something I already owned or that was less pricey but that was just fine. If I was having company over, I would buy new towels and throw pillows and serving dishes, as well as buying food that was more pricey than really fit into my cash flow.

I spent much of my entertainment hours reading catalogs planning to shop, or meeting friends at a mall for a full day of shopping. The debt wasn’t the core issue. What I bought wasn’t even the issue. The issue was feeling that I wasn’t OK and maybe that one next purchase might make me more acceptable.

I got into unmanageable debt (the numbers mean less than whether I could manage the debt at the time). In 1990 I finally gave up unsecured debt… credit cards, professional services received but not paid immediately, and personal/ signature loans (there were no payday loans back then and I’m grateful).

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about that younger me. I call her Cookie, which was a nickname that never stuck but that I liked.  She had many of my current good attributes, including loyalty and valuing loved ones. She wore black most of the time to feel sophisticated(yes, really… there are folks in my life now who can vouch for that). The black was a good background for her (important-looking) artsy jewelry. She bought stuff hoping that it would make her belong.

The Song which Brought Me to Tears

I was driving the other day, changing radio stations as I drove. This practice exposes me to musical styles I would not otherwise hear. I heard this song… which has a repeating line “you don’t have to change a single thing.” And I cried. I cried for that young me. For Cookie who felt unacceptable even though her energy attracted friends who appreciated that energy.

Please listen. It may not be your normal style, but it’s worth listening to as a poem of encouragement set to music. One voice and a lean musical accompaniment.

For the record, while looking for the video I found an angry column in ChicagoNow which focuses on the makeup-wearing message in the song (while I responded to “…max your credit card… buy it all, so they like you…“). And the columnist points out that sometimes women choose to wear makeup within the constraints of a real world which expects them to look a certain way. But then she says:

Am I the world’s greatest beauty? Of course not, but I have commandeered survival of the fittest. Brains over brawn. I figured out the rules of society and used them to my advantage…

…What of this lyric, “you don’t have to try” which is possibly even more problematic? Suuuuuure we don’t have to try. This irritates me because it places the blame on women for living inside society’s norms instead of on the media and current attitudes that put that norm in place. Just love yourself! …You know what the truth is? The more standard a lady looks and the more forgettable her looks are, the easier her life is. There are exceptions for daunting beauties, but the rest of us are just trying to get by….

…It seems girls will be shamed no matter what. If you rock your natural skin and hair, you get called a lesbian/chubby/weird. If you learn the unspoken rules of society and conform to them to give yourself the best advantage in life, you’re just a superficial, poser fake-face who shouldn’t “try so hard”. Only true natural beauties deserve any attention, okay?…

Strong feelings, there. And she’s seeing totally different parts of the song. And her filter through which she’s viewing the lyrics is very different than mine. I’ll be fascinated to hear how it lands on you.

In an article I read about the video on Today.com, I found a link to a place more in sync with my take on things… RAW Beauty Talks. On their page they say:

In my view, if anyone male or female wants to wear makeup as personal expression or self-decorating I’m behind it 100%. If someone wears makeup on stage or on camera because the lights obscure their features, that is logical. If they choose to dress/present themselves in a certain way to belong to a specific environment… well, cool.

I just hope that you don’t feel you *need* makeup on your days off or with your friends. Once I watched an Oprah show where there were 3 women on a challenge to live without makeup for a week. One of the women’s husbands had never seen her without makeup. When she was pregnant, she’d put on makeup before bed in case she had to go to the hospital quickly.

Then again, decorative things can feel like luxuries at times. You and some friends might go get a manicure together to feel pampered. One of my best friends can’t wear makeup or dress up at work so she rocks the girly stuff on her days off for fun. That all fits in a self-acceptance place.

You Belong! Yes. You belong.

The song says “…when you’re all alone, do you like you?” I like where she’s going with that. I wonder, though, why it’s so lonely finding our way getting to that point.

Why do we all feel alone next to each other? Why do we feel that freckles are awful on us and cute on someone else? Why does everyone like everyone else’s hair but not their own? Why do we think that a blemish makes our heart less whole? Why is it so universal to feel this way and go through such an insecure time?

I’m empathizing with those who are twisting themselves into something they don’t like in order to fit with people they don’t really want to fit with. If you feel (as young Cookie/Lynn did) you need to buy stuff to be accepted/ avoid criticism… to protect yourself against feeling unacceptable to others? Well, that sad insecurity I lived with is what this song touches in me. Because, as I discovered, even people who look comfortable from the outside looking in, on the inside don’t always feel like they belong.

And with that, I’ll quote the song.

You don’t have to change a single thing…

…’cause I like you.

Do you feel pressure to live BIG?

Monday, October 27th, 2014

A friend asked on Facebook…

Do you feel pressure to play it big?

My Reply

Here is what I wrote to that friend’s prompt:

Nope, not now. I want to be kind, be a good friend, and help my right people feel more confident about whatever it is that I’m teaching.

Family Portrait, Circa 1972My daddy died at 40. I was 14. My 20’s were a whirlwind, trying-to-fit-a-whole-life-into-a-short-decade. In my 30’s I went through profound inner change involving more than can fit in this post.

When I hit 40, I figured “the rest of my life is gravy.” Daddy influenced many others in his short life and I was given more time than he.

So I focus on being real, honest, kind (not nice/wimpy like “good girl” often means), truly helpful and authentic.

Community is My Everything

I can’t go out in my city or at a fiber-arts/knitting event or ukulele festival without being recognized. Last night attending a concert, a woman stopped to thank me for an excellent socknitting class years ago.

Last week at Walgreens a young woman stopped me. I taught her to knit in her elementary school years. She’s 21 now and a mother. She thanked me. She still knits regularly. Here she is at right,  many years ago, having knit a frog from a kit one of my ColorJoy readers sent. It was really heartwarming to see her again.

Youngster Showing Frog she Knit HerselfWhat would a huge income do for me? I wish to have a tombstone that says “She was a good friend.” Some people have fame and respect but nobody wants to hug them, or be their friend who can take a call at 4 o’clock. Later for that sort of “big.” I’ll take small and gentle any day.

Surprise, Surprise!

I’ll keep striving, in part because nobody really expected me to have a good, happy life. (They’d say “you have so much potential.”) I worked my emotional butt off to get here. As long as I can teach and encourage, I am content. It’s OK for people to pay me for the encouragement… But I fortunately prefer serving groups rather than individuals. I can price a group experience so that more people can take advantage of the offering.

It was a deep question. Excuse the long answer. Fewer words would not answer properly.


Beyond My Initial Take, if I Want to be Honest

The truth is, I do want some parts of my life to be BIG. I want a big heart, I want to help others make their lives more content.

No matter what I’ve done professionally, I’ve always been the “explainer” of the office. I was the unofficial trainer and the problem-solver long before I ever had an official teaching position. If I understand it, I can teach it. It’s a joy and a gift to see someone’s face light up in understanding!

slow and steady

If I thought my calling was “teaching” I might end up a full-time schoolteacher like so many people in my family. If I thought my calling was “art” I might try to sit in a studio alone cranking out product to sell at the next art fair. If I thought my calling was “encouragement” I might be a coach or a therapist. All of those things are part of what matters to me, but the intersection of them brings me to life and makes me the best I can offer to the world.

(Side note… I used to work in a finance department. I used to be a legal secretary. I used to be a purchasing officer. I used to teach DOS batch programming and other computer skills. I used to be a data entry operator. I used to be a Y2K consultant. I did all of those well enough to make a living. Some were even fun, and a few were life changing.)

Slow is the Way to Go

The longer I live, the more I find that real progress happens when I do small things consistently over time. If I choose to walk around the block every morning as water boils for tea, I will become “someone who walks daily” and I’m more likely to go on a longer bone-strengthening walk, more often.

Autumn Colors in my Neighborhood

If I choose to first eat a piece of fresh fruit (and make sure there is some in the house) when I crave sugary treats, then I may find I don’t want more… or that a smaller portion of the treat will satisfy me later. If I decide that my keys MUST go in my purse and the purse goes near the door, then I will have less chaos every day. Small stuff adds up.

Where Does this Hit You Right Now?

So… what about you? What are the true treasures and gifts in your life? What matters most of all? Do you feel like YOU need to play it big? Are you OK with small steps? I sure would have answered this differently a few decades ago… I’d love to hear your input.

Maybe That’s not Love

Friday, October 10th, 2014

This video has been making the rounds of the internet, and maybe you have already seen it. However, it echos my earlier posts on body acceptance and standing tall. It’s not long, and her attitude is fun and even silly, not preachy.

“People have always said they cannot get my songs out of their heads. I heard that so often, I took responsibility for what I wanted to put in there! The answer is joy. The answer is love. The answer is worthiness and celebration. That’s what I want for myself and everyone on this planet.”

–Donna Lou Stevens

“I was a butterfly all along and thought I was a worm. I believe everybody has wings and most everyone has just forgotten like I did. My job as a performer and musician is to remind people of that fact.”

–Donna Lou Stevens

Problem Solving = Creativity = Good Party

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014


Wow! Mom’s party was such a great experience! She had such fun seeing friends from so many parts of her life and her past. She’s a lovely person, and her friends are excellent company.

I am painfully inexperienced at planning parties/gatherings. This special occasion was the perfect time to just dive in and learn. If creativity is problem solving (I believe it is), I got an excellent lesson in creativity while putting this together.

The Perfect Cake

My dear friend April loves to bake and decorate cakes. It’s her primary visual artform. She volunteered to bake the cake for Mom’s party.

Just look at how beautiful that cake is! The flower decorations and her plate look so perfect together. April thought of Mom the whole time she made it. Even the frosting was custom for her. It was moist and tasty, too. We got nice comments on it all day.Cake80th450

I fond those curlicue candles somewhere, years ago. They were just waiting for this event, don’t you think?


A few times during the party, Mom asked Brian and I to sing. Many of her friends had never heard us sing before! It was a joy and an honor to do that for her. After all, she paid for uncountable voice lessons for me over many years… decades, even.

Heftones80thFireplace450Minor Freakout

Thursday I found myself at the food co-op trying to figure out how much to buy. I had a moment of thinking “why did I think I could figure this out?” After all, our family includes me and Brian, Mom and Fred, and brother Eric and his wife Diana. We six people are  the entire roster of all of our relatives in the entire state of Michigan.

I realized that although I’ve had parties before, they were always potluck. When guests bring food, you end up with enough to go around. I was puzzled and a little freaked out standing there at the store.

I called one of Brian’s sisters who entertains often and well. When she didn’t answer, I called Diana. She helped me figure out how much I might need. I ended up with a 7-pound bag of carrots, a few bunches of celery, and two gallons of organic apple juice (to be mixed with unsweetened soda water).

In the end, we had more food than necessary. This is a high class problem! Food80th450We’re still eating carrot sticks 3 days after the party, and that is after we gave some away. I’ll return some of the unopened items as well.

Planning Challenges

Decorating rooms is not one of my skills. I’m not a big fan of decorations that get thrown away. Candles please me, but they didn’t seem right for this event.

Finally the answers came to me… balloons for the table decorations would be perfect. Facebook friends directed me to a place nearby that would be open in the morning when I needed to pick them up.

The Corsage Dilemma

Mom doesn’t love the disposable nature of flowers, and also often has an allergic reaction to them. I wanted her to have a corsage.

I figured out that maybe a ribbon of some sort might make a good corsage. I have a lot of satin ribbon here at the house, but not in the colors I wanted to use.

Finally it hit me that the curlicue ribbons available for wrapping packages might work well. The balloon store also had ribbons of that sort. I bought two and stuck them together to get colors which suit Mom. Yay! She loved it.

GuestBook80th450Very Special Guest Book

It occurred to me that Mom would value a guest book for this occasion. First I asked her if she had one of her own. She did not.

After thinking about options, I remembered that I had a beautiful handmade paper/hand-sewn book. It was made by Susan Hensel, an artist friend who used to live in town but now lives in Minneapolis. The book was perfect for the event, with a dark blue cover and pale turquoise and white pages. Yay!

A Mistake

The one thing that went wrong was minor. I used Mom’s ring molds to make 2 ice rings for the punch bowl. I found some organic green grapes which might look nice frozen with juice. I figured the grapes might thaw more slowly than a liquid.

I had purchased one lime, intending to slice it thin and float the slices in the apple juice/soda water punch. At the last minute I had a doubt that the ice ring would look festive enough. (Note that this happened well after midnight, not a great time for changing plans.)

I sliced the lime and added it to the ring, put it in the freezer, and went to bed. The next morning, it was not frozen.

It may be that our 2nd freezer is not as cold as the first. However, the consensus was that citrus takes a lot longer to freeze than water.

Live and learn! I was freaked out for a few minutes. Then I realized that the party’s success was not dependent on ice.

I’m glad I was able to get to that thought rather quickly. There was a time I would have obsessed over the one imperfection instead of enjoying the many successes of the day.


You may know that my favorite color is turquoise. Take a look at these photos, and notice that I came to that preference  honestly!


An Amazing Woman turns 80

Thursday, August 14th, 2014


A Tough Cookie
Today is my mother’s 80th birthday. Born 1 hour north of Duluth by modern measures, she was premature… only 3-1/2 lb. That year, babies of her status had about a 2% chance of survival.

Many things conspired in her favor, and somehow she made it. She still is tough. It also helped a lot that her mother was a Public Health pioneer who was raised by a midwife. Grandma’s father had also been a preemie, and she grew up with family stories of how they had helped him thrive when he was first born.

A Reading Teacher/ Author/ Illustrator
Mom’s parents were both educators. She followed in their footsteps.

As a child she struggled to read and spell, while her younger sister was County Spelling Bee champion. We now understand her struggles as dyslexia. This challenge, in the end, made her a patient teacher of reading. She taught 30 years, most of them in 1st Grade.

IMG_1909.JPGMom taught hundreds of children to read. While looking for ways to help strugglers, she developed a series of 4 very-beginning reader books. She both wrote and illustrated these charming stories. A few years ago i helped her make those books available to the world via Lulu.com

A Dancer/ Athlete
Mom has always loved dancing. She and Fred dance at least once a week. I remember her ironing to dance music on the turntable in the 60’s. (She won the State of Minnesota Mary Proctor Better Ironing Award as a youth. Yes, that was a thing.)

Mom and her partner Fred win multiple dancing medals each year in the Polk County Senior Games. Mom also started running the 50-yd and 100-yd dashes after she kicked cancer 18 years ago.

This last February, she won the trophy-award for the top athlete in the games, for females in her age group. Look at these awards!!!

A Celebration
Mom’s kids & spouses are throwing her a party this weekend. A bit of cake, fruit, punch and a lot of hugs should make a lovely event.

Please join me in celebrating the birthday of the tough, feisty, amazing Liz Troldahl. As she always says, “Any day above the daisies is a good day!”

Would you consider leaving Mom a birthday greeting in the comments today? I know it would touch her heart to hear from you. Thanks.


The Feelings of Mothers’ Day

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

I wish to share with you an excellent post from writer Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) about motherhood, non-motherhood and loving where we are on the spectrum. As a woman with no biological children and none in my home, I have no regrets where I am as self-appointed “fairy godmother” to many.

20140510-143507.jpgLove to all on this mother-celebrating weekend. I have the fortune of a good relationship right now with my gutsy mom, and will enjoy that. We did not always feel this ease together. (Photo is my mom, age 79, who can out-run her 55-year-old daughter… literally… in a foot race.)

If you are one of those who have pain from a sad relationship (or non-relationship) with your own mother, I send you love, empathy and acceptance. May you have time with (or memories of) someone who does love you and see you as wonderful, just the way you are.

(The post I am linking here is on Facebook. It seems to work even for the public who choose not to have an account there, or members who are not logged in. Let me know if it does not work for you.)

Three Sorts of Women, by Elizabeth Gilbert