A Parenting Dilemma: Trust, Safety, and Respect

By Angela Noel

June 8, 2017

I called up the stairs. No answer. I walked up the twelve steps and knocked on the door, calling his name. No answer. I tried the door. Locked. I banged on the wood with my knuckles. “Jackson, you open this door right now!” I shouted. No answer. Panic. Blind panic made me rattle the door in its frame shouting, “Open this door!”
Continue reading “A Parenting Dilemma: Trust, Safety, and Respect”

Play, Create, Explore: What My Dad Taught Me

By Angela Noel

June 29, 2017

Some dads teach their kids how to fish, or how to play backgammon. Other dads teach baseball or carpentry or cooking. Since a peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwich served as my father’s specialty–it’s safe to say his skills weren’t in the kitchen. Also an excellent handyman, he tackled work around the house as one would a science project. He’d carefully form a hypothesis of what needed to happen, then experiment until he found just the right way to fix whatever needed fixing. But I didn’t learn much from him on that front either.

My dad taught me skills of a different sort, like how to play, to explore, and to create. I remember few of the many nuggets of advice he offered, his words passed over my younger-self like water. Yet my quest to understand the world in new ways, my curiosity, all stem from the lessons of my youth. Who he is, rather than anything he said, shaped me. Continue reading “Play, Create, Explore: What My Dad Taught Me”

The Secret Life of Trees and What It Means for Humans

By Angela Noel

June 8, 2017

When we first moved into our house I sat in my backyard gazing up at the canopy of tree branches overhead. Two trees, their trunks big enough around that two adults with arms outstretched couldn’t encircle them, blotted the sun. For reasons I cannot explain two names popped into my brain: Erin and Bertie. I told my husband and son the trees had names. Not that I had given them names, but that they already had them–like they’d accepted me into their community as one of their own. (Weird, I know.)

Among the oaks and cottonwoods that dot the rest of my little wooded lot, Erin and Bertie are special. A fact, Suzanne Simard, noted forest ecologist, professor, and TED speaker would find not-at-all surprising. Her work, and those of other researches around the globe, has opened up a greater understanding of the complex and beautiful world of tree interdependence. How trees communicate and contribute to the common good of the ecosystem in which they live has a lot to tell us not only about nature, but about ourselves as well. Continue reading “The Secret Life of Trees and What It Means for Humans”

Strength and Dignity: The Power of Choice

By Angela Noel

May 25, 2017

Charlie, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, unwraps only the tiniest morsel of chocolate each birthday, hoping to make the treat last as long as possible. He nibbles off just a corner—just a taste—each day. Joi Campbell isn’t a fictional English boy living in a shack with four bedridden grandparents. But she’s as careful with her story as Charlie is with his chocolate. And her story has hidden depths, flavors, textures, meaning, and significance just as important to the world as Charlie’s birthday treat was to him.

Joi revealed her life to me in small pieces, inching closer to a deeper truth about who she is and what made her into an extraordinary, resilient, and delightful human being. Some of what she said made me uncomfortable. Because truth can, and sometimes should, hurt. I wanted to feature Joi because her smile lights a room. She always has a kind word, and she’s exceptionally good at truth-telling with both empathy and grit. But now I know better: Joi’s all those things, yet so much more. Continue reading “Strength and Dignity: The Power of Choice”

What Matters More: Numbers or Relationships?

By Angela Noel

May 18, 2017

Almost a year ago now, I sat agonizing over my first blog post. I’d convinced two or three brave souls to let me profile them. Each had placed tremendous trust in me, but I worried. Would the words I put on the page both honor my subjects and connect with readers?

As a few people read that first post, then a few more, I felt the rush. My heart pounded in anticipation every time I checked the stats. Ten people. Then twenty. A hundred. Matt French, the subject of my first post, liked it. His friends and family liked it. That’s what mattered most, right?

But the more I read other blogs, and the more research I did to understand what “success” for a new blog should look like, the ickier I felt. A few months in, after I’d faithfully posted each week, I remember reading a piece from another blogger. She lamented she had only a “small” following–10,000 views a month. I felt shame. If she was disappointed with 10,000 what did it mean that 1/10th of that number visited mine? Clearly, something was wrong. Continue reading “What Matters More: Numbers or Relationships?”

Amish Friendship Bread: More Than Just Delicious

By Angela Noel

April 27, 2017

My mother-in-law, Karry, makes a bread that tastes like the intersection of pound cake, cinnamon sugar donuts, and the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life. It’s so good, my son wanted me to save some so he could invite his friends over for a slice, and my husband and I had an uncomfortable stand-off over who should eat the last piece. (He won—but only because I didn’t tell him I wanted it. I just stared at him while he popped the crumbly, chocolate chip-studded morsel into his mouth.)

This evanescent bread, a variant of Amish Friendship Bread, has a mission beyond being delicious.

Surprising no one, I hungered (pun intended) for more. Continue reading “Amish Friendship Bread: More Than Just Delicious”

How One Connects to Many: An Only Child’s Story

By Angela Noel

April 6, 2017

“How’s your son? How’s Jackson?” Danny asks me, almost every time we meet. Danny and Jackson have something in common. They’re both “only” children. Often I’ve wished for a better way to describe my son’s lack of siblings. Being an only child has cultural baggage for both child and parent. Even the way we describe only children, as if they are by turns selfish and lonely, feels messed up to me. Particularly because my experience with the sibling-challenged has universally been positive. Several friends of mine grew up without a sibling. Each of them are among the most independent, generous, outgoing, thoughtful people I know. Danny is no exception. Continue reading “How One Connects to Many: An Only Child’s Story”

Creating Community by Reaching Out

By Angela Noel

April 13, 2017

I practice hot, sweaty yoga. I love the quiet, dark room filled with other people. We start and end each session in savasana, or corpse pose. The yogi leading the practice provides an intention, the only voice in the room, as we begin. He or she might share a quote, a song lyric, a poem, or a riddle. I’ve both giggled, and allowed tears to flow. There’s something about yoga that opens up possibilities in me.

No competition. No expectations.

Akin to a spiritual revival, the bunch of us sweat together, breathe together, slurp quantities of water after six sets of chaturanga dandasana (four-limbed staff pose) together. But this feeling of community doesn’t happen by accident. Continue reading “Creating Community by Reaching Out”

Speaking and Listening: The Power of Truth

By Angela Noel

April 6, 2017

“You know,” my dad said from his living room in California, “for that You are Awesome thingy you do . . . maybe you could ask people about speaking truth to power.”

“Tell me more.” I held my phone to my ear, enjoying a peek of springtime sun three-thousand miles away.

“Well, in my career (he’s retired) I never really gave much thought to whether I should say something, I just said it. And it got me in trouble, even fired. But, it’s really important. Especially now. So, I want to know how people do it, and do it well.”

Separated both by geography and sometimes ideology, my dad and I do agree on many things. We both, for example, believe societies big and small–families, workplaces, neighborhoods, countries–need healthy, well-informed debate by people that care. We believe respectful discourse among equals brings clarity, if not agreement.

But, there’s that whole power thing that mucks things up.

Continue reading “Speaking and Listening: The Power of Truth”

A Creative Career in Four Acts . . . and Counting

Guest Post by Pamela Asbury-Smith

March 30, 2017

Act One: Motherhood to Quantico

High school and jobs, college and career choices. Perhaps it’s the era into which I was born but I wasn’t expected to go to college. In fact, I was told I wouldn’t need it because I’d just get married and have children, whereas my brother would need a college degree to support the family he would one day have. I did get my MRS degree–I also got a divorce after two children and had to go to work.

My brother never married, never had children. Irony of ironies.

Without any marketable skills aside from typing and ambition, I was able to land an exciting job as a clerk-matron in a small police department. My sagging ego needed that infusion of power. Continue reading “A Creative Career in Four Acts . . . and Counting”