Story Skeleton: She Who Laughs at Grammy

By Angela Noel

August 3, 2017

“She who laughs at Grammy cries at the reading of the will,” says my grandmother, draped in curlers and a silken turquoise robe.

Lugged from some hidden corner, she plunks a mutant plastic Easter egg on the kitchen counter. She opens the domed contraption, extending its long neck. Settling herself in her barstool, she flips a switch on the device. Whirring, then a huff like a deep sustained sigh, begins. Beneath the dome, her head, to the lips, disappears. Continue reading “Story Skeleton: She Who Laughs at Grammy”

The Failure of Words is the Beginning of Truth

By Angela Noel

July 27, 2017

I saw four-hundred-year-old ice fall into the sea. A crack like thunder preceded the calving. Then shards of ice cascaded down the face of the glacier and crashed into Disenchantment Bay, Alaska.

The largest calving glacier in North America, Hubbard is advancing into the ocean. This slow march into the water didn’t seem particularly spectacular to me until I saw it. Now, I understand. Continue reading “The Failure of Words is the Beginning of Truth”

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”

Mechanics of Art and Poetry of Work

By Angela Noel

June 1, 2017

The man works on a car–fixes its engine, buffs the exterior–long hours of loving pains.

Maybe he smokes a cigar. Maybe he drinks a light beer. Or maybe it’s Pellegrino.

Maybe he has a family–a son, a wife. Or maybe a daughter, the apple of his eye.

Maybe he writes sonnets that touch the infinite in a journal hidden among the tools in his garage. Or maybe he listens to mixed tapes of Madonna and Beethoven on an old, grease-stained boombox.

Every day . . . every hour . . . he loves the car more. Each bead of salty sweat escaping his brow is a tear dropping. Continue reading “Mechanics of Art and Poetry of Work”

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?”

Come Play With Me: A Writer’s Wish

By Angela Noel

May 11, 2017

Words, Come Play With Me

Sun-warmed pine reminds me of home and mountain vacations. I want to write like evergreen smells.

My husband’s heart beats steady and strong when I lay my head on his chest, ear pressed against skin. I want to write like his heart sounds.

My son sighs when he snuggles into the crook of my arm for bedtime. His contentment and mine fuse like a warm blanket. I want to write like these moments feel.

Clean water rushing over my hot toes cools and tickles. I want to write like the water flows.

The petals of wildflowers on tender stems weave and nod when bees visit or wind blows. I want to write like these flowers play.

After three hours of errands, a tired glance at the mirror reveals inside-out pants. The snorts of my laughter scare the dog. I want to write like life is laughing with me. 

Creators weave unique tapestries with universal threads. We mine the diamonds of memory to touch the divine.

Your turn: What are your favorite things? What diamonds have you found?

Write a Love Letter: How You Can and Why you Should

By Angela Noel

May 4, 2017

To feel love and to express it boldly without expectation of return requires tremendous courage. The word courage originates from the Latin word for heart. Not the organ itself, but what it represents–the living room for our feelings. In my original I Want Your Love Letters post I ask readers of my blog to pen a letter to anyone he or she loves or admires–friend, teacher, lover, mentor, parent, bus driver, coach, sibling–anyone. Each writer of a love letter demonstrates the essence of heart. Every one of the letters makes me smile and fills me with a kind of quiet inspiration. And I want more.

For this post, I’ve gathered these letters together to celebrate the writers and their loved ones. I also want to invite others, like you, to contribute your love letters to the collection.

Write a love letter and I’ll publish it on the You are Awesome blog. It’s as simple as that. Continue reading “Write a Love Letter: How You Can and Why you Should”