Guest Writers

June 29, 2012

6 Lessons From A Lemonade Stand: A Guest Post by Diana Sabloff

Nothing screams summer like an end-of-the-driveway lemonade stand. And there are plenty of lessons to learn at a lemonade stand….

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June 22, 2012

For The Slow Readers Out There: A #LessonLearned by Christine Wolf

Christine Wolf’s 7th grade Language Arts teacher looked just like Carol Brady, and she taught her a great lesson, too….

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June 15, 2012

Calculated Chances: A #LessonLearned by Darlene Steelman

Darlene Steelman writes about the importance of taking calculated risks….

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June 8, 2012

Falling Down: a #LessonLearned by Katie Sluiter

Today I have Katie Sluiter at my place, you guys! You have no idea how long I’ve been following, KT! I’ve been…

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June 1, 2012

Leaving My Safety Net: A #LessonLearned by Shannon Pruitt

Shannon Pruitt writes about a difficult time when she realized it was time to break up with a man she loved….

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May 30, 2012

Below My Husband’s Belt

My husband might divorce me. Because I wrote about his man-biscuits. Yup, I wrote about my husband’s balls. And you can read…

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May 25, 2012

Lessons From A Disney Princess: A #LessonLearned by Ellie Ann Soderstrom

Ellie Ann Soderstrom is positively magical. Besides being madly in love with her husband and three children, she writes fairy tales, tall…

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May 18, 2012

Failure IS an Option: a #LessonLearned by Iris Zimmermann

Failure is the new “F word”. The more I step into the life of coaching, the more I realize that failure has become something more feared than Snooki in a bathing suit….

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May 11, 2012

Motorhome Mayhem: A #LessonLearned by David N. Walker

David N. Walker is here to tell you about the time he didn’t read a very important sign….

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Click on the teacher lady’s pointer to see other writers who have posted in this series.

Amy Young has made her home in China for more than 15 years and has not let the distance impede her passion for the Denver Broncos or the Kansas Jayhawks. She’s a consultant, trainer and writer and currently teaches junior school students on Friday mornings in Beijing. She blogs at The Messy Middle and tweets as @amyinbj.

• • •

Taste My Enthusiam

In high school I worked at Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers. Oh the thrill at age 16 of learning to use the fryers and put the topping in the right order (white, red, green, white, red, green, yellow. I still remember after all these years). Discovering the mysteries of stocking the salad bar, running the cash register, and cleaning the whole place after we closed.

Wendy's
Wendy’s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d come home and gush about this aspect of working at Wendy’s or that particular customer, or my co-workers, or the walk-in fridge or the break room. The topics were endless. How could I not share with my parents and sisters? Yes, as my sisters pointed out, I smelled like fast food when I came home, but even that was a badge of honor from the magical land.

Over dinner as I waxed poetic, my sisters – age 14 and 15 at the time—rolled their eyes and mocked my enthusiasm. While I didn’t shut down completely, I certainly learned to curb my enthusiasm. Part of maturing is reading situations, so toning down wasn’t all bad. But I also got the message that me being me was a bit much, and I needed to kick it down a notch or seven.

Jumping to the present, I have a friend who encouraged me (her words)/badgered me (my take) to start a blog. Last October I was ready to take the plunge and after she helped me set up The Messy Middle, I was off and running.

It turns out blogging is the perfect combo of three of my great loves: words, ideas and numbers. Posting, commenting and tracking stats – to quote one of the most enthusiastic people I know: OH. MY. COW.

The friend who got me started down this path has more than once shaken her head and muttered, “I didn’t know what I was unleashing.” When I told my sister that my friend was experiencing the enthusiasm of Wendy’s, she chuckled a laugh of solidarity. She knows the taste of my enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm is precious. It is to be safeguarded, even fed. People will have a variety of responses to your enthusiasm, but if you look to others to maintain your enthusiasm, it most likely will die. It is yours to guard, protect and nurture.

Fads come and go, but true enthusiasm can be the glue that helps us stick things out for the long haul. Even though there will be occasional rolling of eyes, sighing and humoring head-tilts from those in relationship with me, I can’t help but bring you along for the ride!

What are you enthusiastic about these days?

Click here to see the main schedule!

This piece is special because it is written by my cousin, Diana Sabloff. If you ask me, nothing screams summer like an end-of-the-driveway lemonade stand. In fact, we have an unspoken rule in our family that we must never drive past a homemade lemonade stand that is 100% maintained by kids. If parents are there, we can ease on down the road, but if I see kids out there in the world, with banners and pitchers, wearing grins on their faces and hearts on their sleeves… well, if you ask me, it’s positively un-American to zoom by. Even if the lemonade is crappy, the idea is awesome: gotta love those little entrepreneurs.

And Diana’s hot day at the garage sale/lemonade stand gleaned many lessons. Thanks, Diana, for being a great guest blogger!

• • •

Lessons From a Lemonade Stand

I was selfish. I wanted my garage back. Or at least a path through it. It had been packed from the cement floor to the ceiling rafters with boxes-o-stuff for a long time, but when I couldn’t get to the tools and my kids couldn’t get to their toy box, I knew the time had come.

Moving the boxes from out of the garage and onto the driveway was like transferring Mount Everest one pebble at a time.

By 8 am, I was filthy and sweaty.

Like really sweaty.

And hot.

And not just a little hot.

We live in the northeast, so I had worried about rain. It had never occurred to me that the day of our yard sale would turn out to be a triple-digit record breaker. Truly, it was a most awful trifecta: hazy, hot and humid.

My stepson suggested the kids set up a lemonade stand, and we all thought that was a brilliant idea.

• Lemonade mixed? Check.
• Plastic cups? Check.
• Sign made? Check.
• Table set up? Check.

image from Yellow Sky Photography from flickr.com

And then the people started coming.

Who knew our collective junk was treasure in disguise?

And then, right as I was trying to sell a green leathery-vinyl recliner, my 6-year old daughter came marching up the driveway.

I quit! she yelled.

I smiled at the potential buyer who was ready to shell out $5 bucks for the recliner and asked my daughter what was wrong. She said that her father and brother weren’t being fair; they wanted to raise the price of the lemonade from 25-cents to 50-cents, and she didn’t want to.

I quickly sealed the deal for the chair and, feeling pretty proud of myself, I figured I could negotiate a truce between the munchkins.

I went down to talk to Boy Munchkin, who informed me that 25-cents was too cheap and he could make twice as much money selling it for 50-cents. (When did he become Alex P Keaton?). My husband had agreed and already put up the new sign. My daughter insisted that was too much, and held up the bag of money they had already made.

I suddenly felt very inadequate with my $5 sale.

I said 25-cents seemed fair. My daughter beamed while my son spun on his heel and said he was quitting.

Realizing a truce was futile, I went in the house, got a second pitcher of lemonade, a second poster board, and a second table.

I announced that the partnership was being dissolved, and they each were responsible for selling their own lemonade, and the profits up until that point would be split 50-50, unless someone walked away, in which case the person who kept working would keep all the money.

Lesson #1: Go into business with family members at your own risk.

Boy Munchkin displayed remarkable business sense for an 8-year old: “What price is she selling at?”

Girl Munchkin was pleased with the new arrangement. She put on her biggest smile and shouted: “GETCHER LEMONADE HERE: 25-CENTS!”

Boy Munchkin shouted, “That’s not fair! No one will buy from me if they can get it from her for 25-cents!”

He stormed off after I helpfully tried to explain the workings of a free market.

Lesson #2: Be aware of your price point — and your competitor’s.

The woman who bought the chair offered to buy a cup of lemonade from Munchkinette – for 50-cents. How nice, I thought. Because the lemonade pitcher was heavy, I helped my daughter to pour.

“Mom!” my daughter shrieked, “That’s too much! Stop! You should only fill it half-way!”

Baffled, I asked, “Why should the cup only be filled half-way? Especially when this nice lady is hot and paying double for your lemonade?”

Munchkinette replied, “Because half is all she needs!”

The nice lady gave me the “Oh-I’m-really-sorry-and-I–really-need-to-leave” look. She drank her ½ cup and threw her empty into the garbage can. Munchkinette looked up at me defiantly and said, “See, I told you. Half is all they need.”

Lesson #3: Find your differentiation strategy, and make it work.

As high noon approached, deals were being made in every corner of our yard. The kids went inside for a break, leaving their older brother and his girlfriend in charge of the lemonade stands.

During this time, not one glass of lemonade was sold.

Not. One. Drop.

Lesson #4: Be careful whom you trust to run your business so they don’t run it into the ground.

After lunch, Munchkin decided to employ a new tactic for selling lemonade. He offered delivery for an extra 50-cents. His older brother asked for a cup to be delivered to the front lawn. After 10 minutes, the lemonade never arrived, so my older son bought from Munchkinette.

Lesson #5: Check your distribution channel to make sure deliveries come on time. Or else you’ll lose business to your competitors.

Undeterred, Munchkin modified his tactics and employed his older brother to deliver the lemonade to shoppers up and down the driveway and to the front lawn. This lasted under 10 minutes, as my stepson got a bite on some of his items and that were for sale and disappeared. Munchkin pulled a Trump and fired his brother for failure to perform the requisite duties as an employee.

Lesson #6: It’s hard to find good help.

At 4 pm, we packed it in. Leftover items were bagged and ready for donation.

We tallied the profits and admired the beautiful, empty space in the garage!

Amazingly, the kids’ lemonade stand netted $40, one quarter at a time!

Munchkinette looked over at her brother who was still upset about forfeiting all the partnership proceeds when he had stopped working earlier in the day and immediately decided to give him all their partnership money, saying she just wanted to keep what she made on her own.

Munchkin hugged his sister, and they both walked away — together, happily — with about $20 in coins.

Priceless.

What’s the best item you ever found (or unloaded) at a garage sale? What have you learned from garage sales? And what are your policies about lemonade stands?

Christine Wolf is a big time blogger. I cannot believe she is even here today. Her blog, Riding The Waves, follows the life of a woman embracing life’s transitions: changing careers, helping children to grow up, keeping a 20-year marriage alive — all while enduring Chicago’s ever-changing weather patterns.

Christine has written a middle-aged novel for readers 8-12 years old called My Life Afloat, about a 12-year-old girl from the affluent suburb of Illinois whose parents both lose their jobs in the economic crisis. After their home is sold to avoid foreclosure, they must live on a sailboat in Chicago’s Monroe Harbor. She hopes to see her book published in 2013.

It probably will happen.

And here’s why.

Not too long ago, Christine was 1 of 5 Americans to interview President Obama live during the first streaming Google+ Hangout from The White House on January 30, 2012. She asked the President how we, as a country, should speak to children about the current economic situation. The President provided some interesting answers and, at the end of the interview, he asked for a copy of her book. You know, when it comes out. How cool is that? Here’s the interview.

(Christine appears at minutes 2:15, 17:15 and 48:40):

Christine writes a weekly opinion column about happenings in Evanston, Illinois for AOL Huffpost Media’s Patch.com and you can check out her awesome website! You can LIKE her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter @tinywolf1

Click on the teacher lady’s stick to see other folks who posted in this series!

• • •

For The Slow Readers Out There

My 7th grade Language Arts teacher, Carolyn Leece will forever be my all-time favorite teacher. It helped that she looked just like Carol Brady without the flippity-do-dah shoulder curls from those later Brady Bunch episodes, but Mrs. Leece’s most notable contribution to my overall development was teaching me how it is acceptable to be a slow reader.

I must have always read slowly, but in the 1970s, it never really mattered how fast the kids read in elementary school. For God’s sake, no one timed us or tracked Reading Recovery logs on us. The educational highlights of my elementary school years were mastering the Dewey Decimal system, making a mobile of the planets (including Pluto), and winning first place in the Multiplication Competition for the number eight.  Before junior high, I read all my Nancy Drew books at my own pace, lingered on every article in Seventeen Magazine (wasn’t my mom so cool to let me read that?), and lovingly absorbed my Judy Blume books without a glance at a clock.

Once I hit junior high, though, it came to light that a) I used way more Love’s Baby Soft Musky Jasmine Scent than human lungs could filter and b) my silent reading was soooooo much slower than that of my peers.

Instead of reading in small groups as we’d always done in elementary school, our 7th grade Language Arts classroom was set up in a much more “mature” fashion with orderly rows of desks facing the front of the room. A grown-up classroom for grown-up kids! In my head, I pretended I was a college girl, and I loved it.

Look how cute she is when she isn’t freaking out about talking to the President of the USA!

That is, until the day I realized how different I was from everyone else.

Mrs. Leece had pulled down the white, overhead projection screen, covering her perfectly looped, chalky script on the blackboard. “Today,” she said, smoothing her platinum bangs to the side, “we’ll be discussing the elements of the front page of a newspaper.” She laid a clear transparency over the projector’s light, displaying a smudgy image of The Chicago Tribune. Every feature was slowly circled and labeled with overhead markers in a splash of colors: The Masthead – blue. The Ears – red. Headlines – green. Bylines – black.

Then, Mrs. Leece asked us all to silently read the first five paragraphs of the first article, then raise our hands once we’d finished

When I raised my hand, I realized I was the last one to do so…by far. Kids around me rolled their eyes and snickered. Who knows how long I’d been staring, slack-jawed, at the black letters on the white screen.

As my face burned and panic rose, Mrs. Leece put her pen on the transparency.

She looked directly at me and switched off the projector’s light (leaving the fan on, of course).  Everyone was riveted. And then she said, directly to me, in front of the entire class, “You know what? I’m just like you.”

I stared.

“I savor every word.”

I blinked.

“We both appreciate lingering on words, don’t we?”

I remembered to breathe.

“Good for you,” she concluded, then went back to the lesson.

One week later, Mrs. Leece asked me if I’d like to babysit for her son.

I was stunned. If the Language Arts teacher thought enough of me to leave me in charge of her own child, she’d probably meant what she’d said. She didn’t just use words to boost my self-esteem; she reinforced her message from an entirely different angle. Her multidimensional approach didn’t have modern-day monikers like Whole Language or Multiple Intelligence Theory, but she left a lasting impression on me. She gave me the message in 1980 that it’s okay to be who you are, and I’ve been sharing that message ever since with anyone who, like me, does things just a little bit differently.

Have you ever had a panicky moment that was quickly and magically transformed?

Darlene Steelman grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: a misunderstood kid with a crazy mind. Finally, at the age of 38, she decided to put that crazy mind to good use and write. When she’s not stopping her car in the middle of the road to protect crossing ducks, she passes time with an office job, writing on her lunch hour, and singing off-key in the car.

By night she works on her first novel. (She also plays me at Words with Friends.)

Darlene’s blog is called Living Sober – Life at Full Throttle. You can also find her on Facebook and stalk her on Twitter at @DarleneSteelman.

Click on the teacher lady's nose to see other folks who have shared their lessons.

• • •

Calculated Chances

As I push 40, there are many things I have learned over the course of those years.  Always say please and thank you; hold the door for old people and be very sure to take the trash outside if it has raw onions in it.

But are any of these really lessons? Maybe the last one.  Maybe.

As a kid I (like most kids) did really dumb things. I once roller skated down my grandmother’s driveway straight into the garage knowing I would fall flat onto my face when I didn’t lift my feet over the lip to get into the garage.

I knew this.  But I wanted to know what would happen.  So I kept my skates on the ground.  Those skates stopped propelling forward when they hit that cement lip. I hurled forward, but not onto my face (thankfully!).  I landed on both knees.  My knees screamed in a bloody fashion as I cried for my grandmother.

My grandmother (who grew up a poor, coal miner’s daughter) called me a horse’s ass and said, “Darlene, get up. Stop crying.  You’ll be fine.”

I was an eight year old in shock at that point.

“Get up?” “Stop crying?” Fine?!”

Turns out my grandmother’s refusal to coddle and baby me worked to my advantage as the years passed.

Well, most of the time.  I still have that “ooh I wonder what will happen if I do this?” mentality.

When I was somewhere between eight and eleven years old, I was in the bathroom at my parents’ house and brushing my teeth with Crest toothpaste or something. My parents used Pepsodent, which is the equivalent of brushing your teeth with gasoline.

Pepsodent toothpaste
Pepsodent toothpaste (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My mind started going as my eyes drifted over to the Pepsodent.  Pepsodent.  Hmm.  This stuff is pretty strong.  I wonder what would happen if I put it on my eyelids, like eye shadow?

Yes.  That is a thought process I actually had when I was a little girl.

And to keep you from suspense any longer, I did put the toothpaste made with real gasoline on my eyelids.  It burned like hell.  Yet, there was a cool mentholated feeling.

I really think there was potential there to permanently blind myself.

The next three minutes in the bathroom went something like:

“Owwwww!” as I frantically searched around for a towel or something to wipe the damn gasoline off of my eyes.  It was piercing the lids as it seeped into my eyeballs. As I write this I am laughing because I can see myself with flailing arms (much like Jodi Foster in the dark room in Silence of the Lambs) trying to find a wash rag or towel or something in the bathroom to wipe off my eyelids.

Nope. Nothing.  Had I prepared I would have remembered there was never a towel in the bathroom at my parents.  Never.

“Oh my God, I am gonna go blind!” I whispered to myself as I refused to cry.  I could not cry.  Only sissies cried.  I was no sissy.  Gram would not tolerate me crying.

I managed to get myself out of the bathroom and into my bedroom (which thankfully was right next to the bathroom) and get the toothpaste off of my eyelids.  I was able to see clearly about an hour later.

The lesson I learned was this: take chances!  Unless it involves putting chemicals in a creamy mentholated form on your body, then be sure to read the fine print first.

Calculated chances are important.  They build our character and sometimes we learn that the one thing we feared became that thing we loved the most.

When is the last time you really took a chance at something? Did you succeed or fail? Or did you burn your eyelids?

Today I have Katie Sluiter at my place, you guys! You have no idea how long I’ve been following, KT! I’ve been reading Sluiter Nation like… forever. And as soon as I learned what Twitter was I found Katie at @ksluiter. I fell in love with Katie because she was a teacher. And then I learned she struggled with postpartum depression, which I am pretty sure I had after Tech was born. I just didn’t ever get a formal diagnosis. Way back at the end of last year, Katie asked me to write something for her — which was super exciting, especially because Katie is a Big Blogger. (Even if she denies it.) Oh, if you prefer, you can follow her on Facebook.

Click on the teacher lady’s butt to read posts by other people who have written in this series.
• • •
Falling Down
• • •

As a little kid, my dad was the one who taught me how to do a lot of things: ride my bike, change a car tire, fish.

Katie learned a lot from falling down.

He also taught me to ice skate.

I remember being out on our frozen pond, bundled up in my winter coat and snow pants with my scarf covering my entire mouth so that when I talked…or breathed…it became moist and warm.

My dad had helped me lace up my mom’s old skates, took my mittened hand, and pulled me out to the open ice.

I don’t remember much of the logistics of the lesson, but I do remember falling down.

A lot.

Finally I got frustrated and whined that I was no good at skating and I didn’t want to do it anymore.

My dad pulled me up and said, “But every time you fall, you are learning. Just think of how much more you know now than you did when we started.”

I gave him the hairy eyeball, assuming he meant I knew a lot more now because I had fallen so many zillions of times.

“No, really,” he continued. “Every time you fall, you learn what not to do next time. Or at least you should.”

This lesson comes back to me every single time I “fall” in life.

But not until I pout a lot and whine about how I want to quit.

I have tripped, stumbled, and flat-out fallen as a mom. Especially when I was a new, first-time mom.

But it’s something I can’t quit. I can’t just say, “Man, I suck at this. I am done.”

Don’t think I didn’t try.

My older son, Eddie, was a difficult baby.

Ok, actually, “difficult” is putting it mildly.

He was a colicky, digestive mess.

This is Eddie being a colicky mess.

It was totally him. Not his fault, but it was him.

But I didn’t know that. Not at the time.

At the time, it was me. I was stumbling…not able to soothe him, not able to provide him with food that wouldn’t upset his tummy, not able to know what his cries meant.

I was sliding all over that iced pond not knowing what to do to keep myself off my ass and skating straight.

Every time he cried, I wanted to figure out what was wrong and fix it.

I didn’t know that sometimes? Babies just cry.

So I fell down over and over.

And I beat myself up for it. Which really, was another mistake. Another stumble.

This became a pattern with my son.

He is now almost three, and I have fallen down millions of times in my education on becoming a mother.

He has not always been the most patient teacher, but he is very forgiving.

Sometimes, my mistakes…my stumbles…are hard enough that we both fall. We both sit and cry and tend to our bruised bottoms.

But we are learning.

We are making it through.

I had no idea how awesome of a teacher he was until my second son was born in March.

Suddenly all those things that caused me to trip and fall–the crying, the spit up, the time management, the anxiety and depression–they were easier. In fact, some of them were non-existent. I skated right through them.

In fact, I am still up on my skates.

Oh, I have tripped here and there, but I have pretty much mastered the basics.

Now I am able to move on to learning fancier moves: taking both kids to Target, bringing them both to birthday parties, showering daily.
Two kids? I think I can.

(What? That was difficult the first time around!)

I still fall down from time to time.

But that’s okay.

I’m in this for the long haul.

I’m a life-long learner.

What are you still figuring out? What are some of the best lessons you have learned as a parent that you wish you had known earlier?

• • •

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson & @ksluiter

Shannon & her kiddies

I “met” Shannon Pruitt from MyNewFavoriteDay at a Super Secret Underground Facebook Society. I still can’t even believe she noticed me. I mean Shannon is a machine. She has this super huge Facebook presence with sixty-four bajillion followers, but we started chatting and she asked to interview me for her blog. Whaaaat? Interview me?

But that’s how Shannon is. She makes everyone feel noticed. Special. Recognized. Affirmed. Her goal is to have people recognize the most precious moments in their lives so that time doesn’t pass us by. She wants us to appreciate all we have in each day. And she succeeds.

Like the sound of that? Read her blog and follow Shannon on Twitter at @newfavoriteday.

{Oh, and if you want to read the interview Shannon did with me at her place, click HERE after you read her fabulous, nostalgic post.}

Click on the teacher lady’s elbow to see other folks who have posted in this series!

• • •

Leaving My Safety Net

I remember Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” was playing through the computer speakers when J came to sit down behind me.

A look of concern had been the constant mask glued to his face as of late. I knew he knew something was wrong, how could he not know?

He shifted my hair across my back and put his hands on my shoulders.  I stared at the screen in front of me, scared to move, scared to speak.

The words were there on the tip of my tongue.

I have always been impetuous in some ways. When I spontaneously changed my major to Japanese my Sophomore year in college because I thought it would give me an advantage over all the other business majors, I didn’t think through the ramifications:

1) I would have to stay in school an extra year,

2) I would then need to spend some time in Japan to make it all worth it, and oh yeah

3) You had to be in class 5 days a week, and I was already paying for school and working full-time.

It would seem my impulsive nature was code for “not thinking things through.”

J quietly shifted in the chair and said, “What’s wrong?”

I choked on the lump building in my throat.

“It’s us. We are what’s wrong.” I whispered.

His hands fell next to his side.

“I’m not happy.  We’re like roommates, best friends but roommates. We’ve only been married four years. I don’t want to be just roommates.”

The words tumbled out of my mouth and I knew in my head and, in my heart, I wouldn’t turn back now.

J was my safety net, a sense of home, a rock in what had always felt like a tumultuous sea of self-preservation.  He stepped in, became a real love, a love that I could call home. When he asked me to marry him I was 23 years old, and we’d only been together for 6 months.

I said yes.

He moved to Japan to be with me and we stayed there for another 18 months. When we came (to where) so I could go to graduate school, he went back to manage the restaurant where we had met.

And I started to sprout wings.

Little by little, year-by-year, my little bird-wings strengthened. And, with each year I flew slightly further from the nest, from home, from him. I was full of passion and excitement about life.  J loved me so much, he would do whatever I wanted, go wherever I went, and love me no matter what.

But I longed for life and experience.  I wanted to fight with him sometimes. I wanted him to fight with me. I wanted him to fight for me.  To tell me No! I couldn’t leave. Nothing was wrong with “us.”  It was me.  I could be happy with him, we just had to try harder.  He did not say these things.

He let me cry. He cried too.  He let me leave.  He let me walk away.  I walked.  Had I not, I wouldn’t have the wonderful life I have to today with my husband and children.  In that moment, had he fought, perhaps the impetuous me could have been tamed for a little while, and the lesson could have been a different kind of growth.

Instead, I reached out eagerly to a new experience 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles.

Some days, I still miss the nest. But I am glad I followed my heart; for had I not, I would have missed all of this life.

Have you ever had to leave someone you love to find freedom?

Tweet this twit @rasjacobson

My husband might divorce me.

Because I wrote about his man-biscuits.

Yup, I wrote about my husband’s balls.

And you can read all about them too — at Aiming Low.

Because obviously, I aimed below the belt.

Click HERE to read “How My Husband’s Vasectomy Almost Killed Me.”

Note: This is my first post at Aiming Low and I really want to impress, so I’d love it if you would leave a comment over there.

But please come back and offer me a creative PG-rated suggestion regarding what I might do make things up to the Spouse.

Tweet This Twit @rasjacobson

Ellie Ann Soderstrom is positively magical. Besides being madly in love with her husband and three children, she writes fairy tales, tall tales, and is interested in transmedia storytelling. Her content is consistently fabulous. I recommend subscribing to her blog, Ellie Ann Navigates the Week. Follow her on Twitter at @elliesoderstrom and LIKE her Facebook page: Ellie Soderstrom.

Thanks for being here today, EA. {You know I adore your Tall Tale Tuesdays.}

Click on the teacher lady’s bottom to read other posts in this series.

I’m thrilled to be here to talk about MY FAVORITE PRINCESS EVER: POCAHONTAS. Because I’ve learned everything there is to know about life about her. (Slight exaggeration. She didn’t teach me not to wash new red sweaters with new white sweaters). I’ve watched her movie countless times, rapt with awe at her grace and oneness with nature. She’s my favorite Disney princess by far, Jasmine ain’t got nothin’ on her. No one can do a swan dive like she can except Captain Jack Sparrow, and even that is up for debate.

But I’m not here to talk about swan dives  — although they were helpful for my pirating career. I’m here to talk about the most important song of Pocahontas’ career: Colors of the Wind.

First of all, the unspoken lesson to be learned from this song is if you see the colors of the wind, or especially if they’re thick enough to paint with, you should probably run.

This is, I assume, why Pocahontas runs so much in the music video.

photo by Lydia White

Second of all, she says:

“You think I’m an ignorant savage. And you’ve been so many places, I guess it might be so.”

Let me tell ya, these words have saved me a laundry load of vanity and sorrow. I’m an ignoramus. Every time I think I know something about the solar system, Galileo goes and tells me the earth revolves around the sun! That’s my allegorical way of saying that I can spout all the important words that I want to with conviction, but if they aren’t said in humility then it’ll all be in vain the day someone comes along and tears down my pretty little soapbox I’ve been standing on.

So now, thanks to Pocahontas’ viewpoint, I accept that others might think I’m ignorant. I’ll cling to the few beliefs I hold fast to about God and Man and the Universe, but the rest . . . I’ll try to speak humbly with a big dose of humor because just when you teach that dinosaurs are extinct JURASSIC PARK II happens and you have a Tyrannosaurus Rex in New York.

Pocahontas speaks of walking two moons. “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins,” as the old Irish saying goes. (At least, I think it’s Irish). As John Smith raises his gun to shoot a grizzly, Pocahontas stops him and sings:

“You think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you. But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger; you’ll learn things you never knew you never knewwwww!”

And then they get to cuddle a bear cub.

So the lesson is: don’t shoot grizzlies! Be kind to grizzlies, even if they are hairy and smelly and smell weird, even if they want to eat all your honey, and even if they growl when you approach. As long as you are kind and cuddle with their children they will love you! That is my metaphorical example of being kind to people even if they’re ugly or weird or look scary. (Seriously though, you can’t take that advice literally! Do you know what would happen if you tried to cuddle a cub? Mama Bear Death Claw Attack!)

Charging Bears

But walking, feeling, living someone else’s life is a noble way to live.

Sometimes when I’m peeved at a woman who cuts in line, or a friend says something rude, or a family member cancels unexpectedly, or a car takes forever to turn left, I’ll try to think about what they might be going through. Sometimes it helps me calm down. Sometimes it just helps me come up with stories. But it always ensures I don’t take out a rifle like John Smith did.

That’s the way I want to live. By trying to walk, feel, and live in other people’s shoes. (Not literally, I am no shoe thief). Also, to walk with humility and grace . . . not willing to fight and hurt people for what I “think” is right. It’s not a lesson I’ve learned. It’s a lesson I’m learning. And maybe by the time I’m eighty I’ll have the lesson learned. And then perhaps my swan dive will be as perfect as Pocahontas’.

Have you learned any life lessons from a favorite Disney princess?

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After our son tried (and rejected) what seemed like every sport invented, my husband and I were tearing out our hair. Athletic adults who recognize the value of competition, we wanted our son to be involved in something physical… anything, but we were running out of options.

At some point, we heard about the Rochester Fencing Club and from the moment our son held saber, he has loved the sport that fits his personality.

I am fortunate today to have Iris Zimmermann, Olympian and Co-Owner of the Rochester Fencing Club as my guest blogger. Iris holds the distinction of being the first U.S. fencer in history to win a world championship in any weapon or any age category. In 1995, she won the World Under-17 Championships at her first major international event. Four years later Iris became the first US fencer to medal in the Senior World Championships, earning the bronze medal in women’s foil.

Iris has an amazing teaching ethos and runs a terrific program. Of course, she wants students to have fun, but she is all about personal responsibility, good sportsmanship, hard work and patience. You might think a Champion competitor would be all about winning, right? Well, here’s what Iris has to say on that topic. Follow Iris on Twitter @rocfencing.

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Failure Is an Option

Failure is the new “F word”. The more I step into the life of coaching, the more I realize that failure has become something more feared than Snooki in a bathing suit. (If you don’t know who Snooki is, good for you). It’s not just the kids that fear the black cloud of failure, but the parents who put all their hopes into the athletic endeavors of their 6-12 year olds who can’t stand to see little Timmy “fail.” I think this is why so many school and athletic programs have adopted the “everyone wins” strategy.

I’m sorry Timmy, but everyone does not win in this world. Rather than go on a diatribe about the downfall of Darwinism and the culture of healthy competition, let’s start talking about what failure can do for you.

In order to do this, you will need to accompany me on a short trip down memory lane. While training for the 2000 Olympics (yes, I am type A), there was this United States team fencer who had a tattoo on his arm that read: “Victory or Death.” I joked with him about it and said, “Nice tattoo. You must win everything. What’s your secret?” The fencer, who could count height as one of his strengths, looked down at me and glared.

Let’s get this straight. No one is that good. Michael Jordan — “The Greatest Basketball Player of All Time” according to the NBA website — knows this. He said:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

Well said, Mr. Nike Air. Let’s take an academic step forward and do some modern research. What does Wikipedia say about failure?

Failure refers to the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, and may be viewed as the opposite of success.

Interesting thing – “may be viewed as the opposite of success.” The Wikipedia community is, in general, back and forth on the scale of accuracy of definitions and explanations. However, in this case I would say they hit the nail on the head with the definition.

She

Failure is only a view or perception of the opposite of success. The problem with failure is that fear of this perception can keep well-meaning people from becoming great. So, if failure is just a perception, is it possible that if you altered your understanding of this perception you could make failure a valuable tool? For those of you like me that are to the point. Failure is merely a state of mind.

First of all, a person has to get it through one’s thick head that he or she must fail in order to succeed.

When I competed, I think my most powerful tool was that I wasn’t afraid to lose. I somehow knew that within every “failure” there existed an opportunity to learn about any weak points in my game. Having made peace with losing, there was nothing to be afraid of — which made me a very effective fencer at a very young age.

At age 14, I was the youngest to win a Cadet (under 17) World Championship medal and until recently, the youngest at age 16 to win a Senior National Championship title. I owe much of that success to losing competitions because if I was afraid, I would never have tried some very risky actions that ultimately helped me to win important competitions.

What separates the “good” from the “great” is the state of mind they chose to be in when they come up against a hurdle, a loss, or a failure. Unlike many people who are paralyzed by the thought of failure, the successful people are the ones who learn and move on. If you don’t believe me, take it from Michael Jordan.

How has “failing” helped you accomplish your goals? Anything you want to ask a World Champion?

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Click on the teacher lady’s bum to see other folks who have written in the #LessonLearned series
Hi David!

David N. Walker’s blog Where The Heart Is is a tribute to the things he holds dear: his family and his faith. David is the supreme patriarch; a warm father and grandfather, he gushes about his children and grandchildren.

In Texas, they have that saying: “Go Big Or Go Home.” In the piece below, you will see David was trying to Go Big and Go Home.

I’m happy to have David here today as he shows a bit of his humorous side. You can follow him on Twitter at @davidnwalkertx.

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Motor Home Mayhem

Everyone knows it’s important to read and pay attention to signs giving directions when driving. I mean, that’s too obvious even to comment on, right? Uh, not so fast there, Kimosabe.

My wife Sharon and I had spent the night in a Jellystone Park Camp-Resort that was convenient to Niagara Falls. After a delightful time at the falls and surrounding attractions, we got back to the motor home early to get ready for bed. We wanted to get an early start the next morning to get past Buffalo’s traffic rush before it started.

As soon as we got on the Queen Elizabeth Way headed for the border, we realized we weren’t the only ones who thought about beating the traffic. I don’t know what this artery looks like between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m., but it was plenty crowded even at 5:00.

Borders mean gated stops, right? We expected that, but we were amazed at how much traffic was backed up trying to get across. Glancing at the length of the lines in front of the various gates, I picked the next to farthest one to the right—a fortunate choice as it turned out. The only one farther to the right had several trucks in it, so I figured I’d get through quicker in this one.

Little by little I inched forward, one car-length at a time. When it was my turn to pull up to the attendant, I suddenly realized my motor home wasn’t going through that gate. Apparently I had missed a sign directing all  motor homes, as well as truck, to the right-hand gate, which was wider than the others.

What now? You don’t just throw a motor home in reverse when you’re pulling a car. No way the car will back straight. Besides, there was traffic behind us and in both lanes beside us.

Stuck!

As I pondered what to do, the Border Patrol agent came out of his booth and walked back to my window to tell me I was in the wrong lane. DUH!! Such useful information! I wanted to tell him I already had a wife to point out the obvious, but I decided not to antagonize him any further than I already had.

He told me I’d have to back up and move over into the right lane. I told him I couldn’t back up because of the tow car.

Have I mentioned there was traffic? About 10,000 unhappy drivers around and behind me. The nicest ones were just laughing at my predicament. Others were honking, and I’m sure there were a few single-digit waves.

I finally told the Border Patrol guy—who was being extremely nice, considering the circumstances—that I needed him to direct enough traffic out from behind me to allow me to back up. Meanwhile, Sharon would get in the car and steer it to keep it straight.

After a bit of organizing, we finally got ready to deal with all this. Mercifully, there was a lull in the truck traffic, and I was able to pull into the wide lane without further messing up anyone’s morning. The Border Patrol guy actually waved and smiled as I freed his lane to move once more.

Lesson Learned: READ THE SIGNS! They’re probably there for a reason.

Have you ever found yourself in trouble because you didn’t pay attention to the signs?

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